Andy Mossack stays at the brand-new Guardsman Hotel just a few metres from Buckingham Palace.
It’s rather ironic to learn that Ken Livingstone’s former Mayoral office has now been reborn as a five-star hotel, but it seems timing is everything. “We’ve just got our five-star status confirmed” was the excited welcome from General Manager Eva Mount, as I arrived for my stay at the newly opened Guardsman on the corner of Buckingham Gate.
It’s an affirmation of a lot of careful planning, love and attention for a project years in the making. It’s also a bold move by Shiva Hotels, the private hotel group owned by financier Rishi Sachdev, as The Guardsman really is quite different from the pomp and ceremony of most of London’s luxury hotels. Even Shiva’s other central London hotel Middle Eight. It’s primarily a boutique luxury hotel; 53 very elegant guestrooms and 6 residences where an inordinate amount of care and attention has gone into making them feel a little bit special to the people who stay in them. “Essentially we want the hotel to feel like a private members club” Eva explained, “informal, relaxed and personalised.”
Well, I got a sense of exactly that as I was checked-in, enveloped in a deep sofa in the very impressive art deco Drawing Room, sipping a gin and tonic, accompanied by parquet flooring, velvety armchairs, and curated contemporary works of art. All very personable and informal, just the way I like it. Just off to the side was the Library, another cosy place with couches and armchairs for meeting people or just quietly sitting reading.
Upstairs in my Guardsman room (one of the more spacious rooms in the hotel), I found my luggage bag neatly stowed away in a drawer under the end of the bed. Loved that. What the room lacks in square metres (it is a boutique hotel) it makes up for in features, amenities and genius use of available space. The freestanding bathtub can be accessed via bi-fold doors rather than walk around into the bathroom. Which by the way, is a study in contemporary chic; underfloor heating, proper fluffy towels, copper piping and Noble Isle toiletries.
The room has digital entry so you can use your smartphone instead of a card. The TV has Chromecast so you can stream your own entertainment, all the furnishing is custom-made, and the bed and linens are welcomingly luxurious.
I had another pleasant surprise when I returned after dinner. The turndown service had left me a silk eye mask and a lavender-scented pillow spray for a restful night.
But it’s not just the front of house that makes The Guardsman such a pocket rocket. Behind the scenes lies Shiva’s impressive commitment to sustainability and support against modern slavery. This is no token nod just to tick boxes. Right from the project outset, suppliers were all vetted, which in many cases finding ideal partners proved to be particularly challenging. Solar panels on the roof provide power and 100% renewable energy makes up any shortfall. The hotel also uses Tersano water, which turns tap water into a hospital-grade cleaner and sanitiser, so no toxic chemicals to be seen anywhere. It’s a policy that’s been so successful they are sharing this wisdom with other hotels.
I managed to have a sneak peek at some of the residences which take up the top three floors. Each is named after a notable local resident, and the three-bedroom Astor Residence, named after Britain’s first female MP, is the grandest of all, across the entire top floor. Residence guests get extra pampering of course; plenty of space, outdoor terraces, twice a day servicing, the use of a private chef and a Westminster address for the length of their stay. Now that’s a Pied-à-Terre to be proud of.
Back in the Drawing Room once more, I took the golden spiral stairs down to the Dining Room where I was greeted by Jana holding a Queen Bee welcome cocktail of gin, honey, and lime juice. It’s another Guardsman treat, as was the sheer pleasure of booking a table for dinner at whatever time I chose. The restaurant is currently only available to hotel residents and their guests, so there’s no pressure to fit in with anyone else’s timetable except your own.
It’s more sumptuous contemporary art deco, with an impressive bar and a mix of couchette and chair seating in a space that once again fits the members’ club feel. Cosy and relaxed. Once again, with sustainability front and centre, the menu is British ingredients, locally sourced.
The really tasty pea and mint soup (£7) and the chef’s signature dish of Norfolk asparagus, crispy duck with toasted cashews, watermelon, beansprouts and ginger (£14.50) proved an excellent way to kick off our meal. For our mains, we debated endlessly on cod fillet, Camden Hall beer-battered haddock or roasted corn-fed chicken breast, but in the end, rejected them all. Instead, choosing Angus rib-eye for me with King oyster mushrooms and (couldn’t resist) the beef dripping hand-cut fries (£34). Mrs M defied tradition and picked the Norfolk asparagus and spring vegetable risotto (£11.50). Make no mistake, these were generous plates of food, cooked exactly as requested with no fuss, just quietly efficient service that was delightfully unobtrusive.
The Guardsman is undeniably looking to be a home from home, and in my view succeeds with honours. It’s perfectly placed just minutes from Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament. It will welcome you in with open five-star arms.
I think red Ken would be green with envy.
Food images (c) Andy Mossack
Tell me more about The Guardsman, Buckingham Gate
The Guardsman Hotel, 1 Vandon Street, Westminster, London SW1H 0AH
T: 044 (0) 207 3099200
Rooms from £250 per night including breakfast. Residences from £750 per night.
Nearest station is St. James (underground) Victoria (mainline)