Andy Mossack stays at Andaz London Liverpool Street just after re-opening and revels in feeling COVID safe.
I don’t normally believe in coincidences. But on this occasion, it seemed perfectly apt. Here I was reviewing Andaz London Liverpool Street on the day Terence Conran passed away and finding out this was the first hotel he ever owned.
Back then it was called the Great Eastern Hotel and from the heady days of her grand opening in 1886 as the London flagship of GERs clutch of stately hotels along its rail network, she sadly slipped into decline and closed in 1996. Sir Terence came to her rescue opening her back up with a £70m redesign and after selling her on to Hyatt in 2006 they changed nothing except her name.
Andaz is Hindi for “personal style” and the story goes that Hyatt couldn’t find a brand suitable enough for it within its portfolio, so they created one from scratch to match Conran’s extraordinary design work. And personally, I couldn’t find a better way to describe it.
This is a five-star hotel that is as personal as style can get. It is a quite remarkable marriage of 19th-century grandeur and contemporary edgy-chic with quirky design gems hidden everywhere.
The cavernous lobby lounge for example. A stunningly huge space which revels in the hotel’s railway heritage. On one hand, it suggests a Victorian first-class carriage with floor to ceiling red drapes, plush velvet seats and lobby desks striped with riveted metal banding. On the other, it’s a space celebrating current graffiti murals and east-end wall art amid a six-story Guggenheim-inspired rotunda. Tucked away in a corner I discovered my first hidden gem; a stack of posh vintage trunks doubling as a DJ stand. Genius.
Other public areas showcase what a magnificent old building this is. A stunning marble staircase, a bar bedecked with stained glass windows, huge marble pillars and velvety love couches. It’s a Victorian parlour but not perhaps as we know it. The restaurants – Rakes Café Bar and Lady Abercorn’s Pub & Kitchen (there are three more: Miyoko, 1901 Wine Bar and Eastway Brasserie but these are still in the process of re-opening) are positively seeping character; ornate gold embossed ceilings and giant swathes of mahogany wood.
And up on the first floor, I found another surprise hidden for years behind a fake wall discovered during the refurbishment. A jaw-dropping Masonic Temple dating back to 1912 complete with all the trimmings – four Grand Master thrones, (Lady Gaga once sat on one for a photoshoot) a Zodiac – themed domed ceiling and a quite remarkable Italian marble chequerboard floor inlaid with mystical Masonic symbols. All a little creepy perhaps but no doubting the glorious craftsmanship.
Upstairs there are 267 guestrooms including fifteen suites. My generous fifth-floor suite was an exceptional space. Super funky grey and burgundy tones with a matching pinstriped carpet (well it is the City), a Hollywood-style studio spotlight stood on a tripod in the corner, and above the king bed, a butter-soft tan leather headboard. I loved the collection of east end memorabilia adorning the shelves; books and snapshots, by artist Martin Usborne, of everyday people celebrating the artisans of London’s east end. Let’s not forget Columbia Road Flower Market and historic Spitalfields are just a few minutes’ walk away. The adjoining lounge area sported a mini-bar (healthy snacks and non-alcoholic drinks free in all guestrooms and restocked every day together with Nespresso tea and coffee) and a rather fetching burgundy couch where a bottle of red patiently stood on a side table pleading to be opened.
The bathroom was a study of butcher-shop white and black tiling. Fast-fill big bath (finally, a hotel bath to fit all shapes and sizes) and a walk-in shower, soft Yakata robes and toiletries from luxury British skincare brand REN.
After sampling the needy bottle of red, which didn’t disappoint, I was back downstairs for dinner in Rakes Café Bar, the only restaurant currently open on a Saturday night. (At the time of writing all the other outlets are due to be open by the end of September).
Under the Covid circumstances, it was a delightful experience given the lack of Andaz London’s usual choice of fancier outlets. Informal, welcoming, and socially distance aware, although I did feel for the serving team who had masks and gloves on all evening.
The online menu was mainly small sharing plates and we indulged ourselves with the signature sriracha sesame cauliflower wings with peanut ranch (£9.50) Spanish ham and potato croquettes with chipotle mayo (£8.50), calamari and shrimp with crispy semolina coating, saffron aioli & chilli gremolata (£11.50) and a finale of Rake’s Caprese with burrata, heritage tomato, basil cress salad, Modena balsamic & focaccia bread (£10.50). Washing it all down with a delightful rioja and a couple of signature cocktails more than did the trick to end a memorable day.
The next morning, I was back in Rake’s Café for breakfast with no available buffet of course, but fresh juices, power smoothies and great tea and coffee delivered to the table was a great start. After a bircher muesli and berry opener, my reloaded toast with sourdough, smoked salmon, crushed avocado, poached egg, topped with radish, beetroot, sumac, tomatoes & olive oil (£13.5) pressed all the right buttons for me.
Andaz London Liverpool Street has brought this grand old lady back to life bringing five-star luxury and local artistic chic to London’s square mile and east end. I think Sir Terence would be very proud indeed.
Andaz Covid Clean Protocols
Having only just re-opened its doors, I needed to check on how this extraordinary hotel was dealing with the threat of Covid. Could it maintain the high standards it aspires to under such strict but necessary health protocols?
Behind the Plexiglas covered reception, bookended by a pair of hand sanitizers, I was checked in with a temperature check on one hand and a complimentary glass of Prosecco in the other. Not a bad combination it has to be said, and I noted the wine was poured from a freshly opened bottle, so another tick.
There was also a heartfelt apology.
“I’m sorry but our residents’ free wine and canape hour is suspended for the time being. However, you can enjoy a free glass of wine, a bottled beer or soft drinks in one of our bars and restaurants.” Not quite the same, but a small price to pay for my well-being.
I had heard Hyatt had gone full-court press on its “welcome back” hygiene protocol and was invited to read the entire plan online, which of course, I did. Sufficed to say, the highlights included GBAC STAR Facility Accreditation and Hotel Covid -19 Protect Certification from Clifton Environmental Services. Therefore, hospital-grade disinfectant on all high touch surfaces in guestrooms and public spaces, plenty of sanitizer stations and social distance guidance. All team members are temperature checked every day before work and are required to wear relevant PPE, and room service is ‘knock and go’. Face masks must be worn in all public areas.
All good so far then.
Card keys in hand (although contactless was available) I wandered over to the elevators guarded by a two persons only notice. Indeed, inside the cars, below more sanitizers, two polite happy feet stickers denoted a safe two-metre distance.
Up in my guestroom, the door was sealed off with a dated sticker by housekeeping and on a table, beside a small sealed box of delicious chocolates lay a pack of anti-bac wipes and a tube of hand gel.
In the restaurant, every table was sanitized after use and menus were available online. All team members were masked and gloved throughout the service and were more than obliging in making sure I felt comfortable and safe. Even the small things were clearly considered such as salt and pepper grinders which were only available on request and wiped before and after use.
This was my first Covid clean hotel experience and it proved to me that guests can feel perfectly safe when safety protocols are taken as serious as this. Well done Hyatt and the Andaz London team for setting the bar high and showing how it should be done.
Images (C) Andy Mossack and Hyatt.
Tell me more about Andaz London Liverpool Street
Andaz London Liverpool Street, 40 Liverpool Street, London EC2M 7QN
T: +44 (0) 207 961 1234 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lead-in Room Rate: £169 for one night in a Queen Room.
Staycation Offer: Guests staying two nights receive £100 of hotel credit to use in restaurants, bars or room service.