Andy Mossack sets out to see if The Londoner Hotel fits its billing as the World’s first super boutique hotel.
London’s famous Leicester Square is undergoing something of a well overdue makeover. Once the home of A-lister red carpet film premieres and theatre impresarios, it’s true to say the Hollywood stardust had faded somewhat, perhaps a victim of encroaching fast food joints and tacky currency exchanges.
Well here’s the good news. Leicester Square has a smile on her face once again. Thanks in no small part to visionary developers who clearly understand just what this iconic part of London can deliver with proper love and attention.
The renaissance is off and running, kickstarted by the construction and recent opening of two huge hotel properties facing off on either side of her like prizefighters. On one corner, the new W sits somewhat grumpily perched above an M&M store, whilst across on the other corner The Londoner stands imposingly at sixteen storeys, extraordinarily, six of them hidden below ground in newly excavated space.
Designed from the bottom up as the ‘World’s first super boutique hotel’ the list of ‘at a glance’ facilities are staggering; 350 guestrooms and suites, six concept eateries, an urban spa and wellness retreat, a ballroom big enough to hold 850 guests, two private cinemas and acres of curated art. All this and still managing to attain a gold standard sustainability assessment. It’s an impressive list of credentials but as always for me, it’s the human element in hospitality that can so often be the difference between a good or a bad experience.
I sensed the difference the minute I was warmly greeted by the doorman, who opened a portal into a parallel universe. It was an immense space, and I stood still holding my breath for a full minute processing it all. A Guest Services member sensing I had stopped breathing, brought me back to life. “Checking in sir? please follow me.” I followed her onto a comfy couch in The Stage, The Londoner’s elegant Champagne bar and café celebrating Leicester Square’s theatre legacy and completed my check-in over a relaxing Americano. A glance and a few swipes on her tablet revealed I had landed a corner suite. “May I give you a short tour of the hotel before I show you to your room Mr Mossack?”
Duly toured, I ended up at my corner suite to find my luggage already there with a welcome bottle of wine. Now that, was an impressive way to check in a guest and my new benchmark for future hotel stays.
The suite was in a beautiful pastel coloured minimalist loft space high up on the penultimate floor and, as the name suggested, sweeping corner views across London’s West End on one side and The City on the other through enormous floor to ceiling windows. The king bed was appropriately adorned with 400 thread count Irish linen and feathered-down pillows and the intelligent lighting system could be controlled through the TV if I couldn’t summon the energy to turn to the bedside table and press a digital button. Speaking of technology, I was delighted to find plenty of power sockets and USB ports. Tucked away in a wardrobe I found two pairs of fluffy slippers that said ‘take me home’ on the wrapper (I did), a kettle with tea by the East India Company, marmalade biscuits and a Nespresso coffee machine.
Another couple of surprises in the turquoise-tiled bathroom. A theatrical vanity mirror complete with a light bulb surround (another nod to London’s theatre district) and a Japanese Toto toilet with a heated seat, jet cleanser and sensor-activated lid.
There are all kinds of creativity waiting for you to discover in The Londoner. Just labelling them ‘curated art’ doesn’t do them justice. For example, the elevators have numerous peepholes in the panels where you’ll find pieces of art hiding. And along the guest corridors, abstract pictures hide famous actors and celebrities.
Reluctantly leaving my room, I went for a swim and a sweat down in the Retreat. It is hard to imagine this enormous wellness centre lies six floors below ground such is the scale and genius of the design. There’s a huge gym, a barber, a hairdresser, and a nail bar. The pool area is surrounded by mini cabanas where a cool glass of minted water waits as you return from swimming. I lay for a while like a Roman emperor sipping minted water before sweating it out in the sauna and steam room.
This is a wellness centre of course, so plenty of opportunities to balance your various yins and yangs with therapist treatments and try a healthy nutritious menu in the Refuel café – detox smoothies and Ayurvedic morning ritual bowls should you feel the need. I didn’t as I wanted to spend some quiet time before dinner in The Residence, a private 24-hour club area available only to guests.
Throwing away the rule book by offering lounge access to all guests regardless of room category, The Residence has the Y bar and Drawing Room for a la carte dining, while The Whisky Room has something of a speakeasy feel about it, a small parlour but a haven for whisky lovers. Complimentary antipasti and soft drinks and beverages are also on offer all day in the Drawing Room, so I found a comfy couch and chilled and nibbled, sipping a spicy tomato juice before dinner.
The Londoner offers two main fine dining options. There’s 8 at The Londoner, a rooftop izakaya restaurant, which is essentially Japanese small plates not unlike tapas but much more refined, and just off the lobby is Whitcomb’s, my dinner destination for the evening.
It had an informal vibe in a quite gorgeous room that perhaps echoed a brasserie in Nice with fine French Mediterranean cuisine front and centre. The ceiling had a strange network of black piping all around it that I found puzzling. It turned out to be yet another artistic surprise. Seen through the lens of a camera pointing towards the ceiling, it became two ladies wearing hats!
The food was outstanding. Drawing on a sharing plates concept that seems to be the thing right now, we kicked off with two memorable starters. Fromage au four (£14) was a sizzling pan of baked Gruyère and Emmental with Cognac, crispy pancetta, and Dijon mustard. It came with warm crusty French bread to dip in. and devour. Continuing the cheese theme, Salade de lentilles et brie (£10) was a warm lentil salad with Brie de Meaux and a sweet apple and basil mustard vinaigrette.
After such a majestic support act, the main event had to be special, and it was. Filet de sole (£45) A huge, pan-fried Dover sole in a citrus garlic butter that was an absolute triumph. Filet mignon (£34) Seared beef filet mignon with an exceptional chanterelle and aged Parmesan crème jus. Two very generous main courses that were a total joy to eat.
Owned and tun by Edwardian Hotels, The Londoner opened in September 2021, and after just a few months has reset the bar on London’s luxury hotels. Its design is sumptuously spectacular, its service delivery exemplary. With Preferred Hotels & Resorts it is a Legend status property, the highest rating they offer.
Not bad for a boutique property. The first super boutique hotel in the World? No argument from me. I think Leicester Square just might give a nod of appreciation too.
Main hotel images (C) Andrew Beasley Room and food (C) Andy Mossack
Tell Me More about The Londoner Hotel
The Londoner Hotel, 38 Leicester Square, London, WC2H 7DX, United Kingdom
Rates at The Londoner, a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, start from £400 per room per night including breakfast.