The Year of London
BY Matthew Breen
May 18 2012 8:00 AM ET
The Corinthia Hotel London
The Radisson Edwardian Mercer Street hotel (RadissonEdwardian.com) is a beautiful new boutique hotel with an entrance that faces the Seven Dials plaza. The hotel is a short walk from the Covent Garden tube station, and its lushly purple Dial restaurant faces Monmouth Street, which is chockablock with vintage stores, cafés, hair salons, and boutiques, including limited edition shops. The Seven Dials (SevenDials.co.uk) neighborhood, which residents proclaim is the only “village” in Covent Garden, is the definition of cozy, with endless theater and dining options along streets that extend like wheel spokes from the eponymous monument.
The four-star hotel, which rivals more expensive hotels in the area, is ideal as a tourist’s introduction to the city due to its exceptional location. And though the street below can be quite busy on Friday and Saturday evenings, the Mercer Street hotel is the picture of calm and quiet, with modern, individually designed, soundproofed rooms that offer flat-screen TVs with USB inputs that allow guests to play music from their iPods. The corner suites have remarkable views of the monument and rooftops, and the manager, Dawn, is accessible, gracious, and a font of information; she may recommend an early morning walk in the area to catch a glimpse of the village before the shops open.
The extravagant Corinthia Hotel London (Corinthia.com) at Embankment is something of an obsession here. It’s elegant, regal, and impressive in scale, due to a half-billon-dollar renovation. A former Ministry of Defence office building, and a stately 19th-century Hôtel Métropole before that, the Victorian structure has an entrance likely to be lined by armored cars that hint at the well-heeled clientele. International guests come for the grand atmosphere. Up a few steps from the lobby entrance is a salon where Qatari sheiks or the Duchess of Cambridge would feel pampered taking tea under the grand focal point, the “Full Moon,” a chandelier of 1,001 Baccarat globes designed by Chafik Gasmi.
The cathedral-scale Northall restaurant by Michelin star chef Garry Hollihead serves British artisanal foods, and Massimo Restaurant and Oyster Bar by Italian chef Massimo Riccioli is the hotel’s specialty seafood restaurant. Between the two is the in-house florist who creates the remarkably scented arrangements for common areas and guest rooms, and the only Harrods shop in any hotel. The opulent and dark hotel spa, ESPA Life at Corinthia, is monumental, taking up four floors. It’s the largest spa in London. Black marble is everywhere, and the attitude is sumptuous, private, and exclusive.
Speaking of marble, the Calcutta slabs that make up most every surface in the palatial bathrooms were marked with specific room numbers at the quarry site by the designer so that the grain was consistent in each of the 294 rooms. Many of the spacious, oak timber–framed guest rooms, designed with grand English homes in mind, include a dressing room. Some have French doors that overlook the outdoor courtyard with fireplace. The seven grand suites are individually designed with the finest materials, and if you can talk a staff member into a peek into an unoccupied suite, you’re in for a sensory treat. Corinthia is profound luxury.