Is this the best hotel in London?
One of the best things about London’s top hotels is that they are posh in a very old-school British way. But that can be a little intimidating, because unless you’re dressed like a country squire or city banker, you can feel like the staff are just figuring out whether you’ll cause a fuss when they politely ask you to leave.
This makes the Corinthia somewhat unique. Although gloriously opulent the atmosphere isn’t stuffy and neither are the guests or the dress codes. That guy in shabby jeans and a tee-shirt might be a famous author so the doormen clearly figure it’s best to be nice to everyone.
It’s also a bit more like a Dubai hotel in that the lobby area, bars and restaurants are bustling with outside guests at all times of day and night. There’s a lively mix of tourists, leisure travellers, suits, and arty folk meeting for drinks (in fact the hotel has an artist in residence) or using the lobby as a venue for meetings.
The other things you’ll notice about the lobby are the gigantic chandeliers, modern art works, huge bunches of fresh flowers and the mini-branch of Harrods. This attention to luxury is in keeping with its history: it began life in 1885 as the 600-room Hôtel Métropole, before being taken over by the Ministry of Defence for much of the 20th century and the restoration in 2011 has taken it back to those opulent roots.
Another reason why there’s always a buzz about the property is the restaurants, which have quickly become destinations in their own right. The Northall serves British cuisine and does some tremendous lunchtime fish dishes, with the menu showing the provenance of the seafood. Massimo is a large, Art Deco inspired room, where high quality Italian food is the speciality. Finally, Bassoon bar offers up cocktails in replicas of Queen Victoria’s glassware, accompanied by live jazz.
If you’re more into wellbeing, or just shaking off jet lag, there’s a gigantic four-floor spa that features 17 treatment rooms, a private spa suite, swimming pool, vitality pool, amphitheatre sauna, ice fountain, marble heated loungers and the somewhat futuristic sounding, private sleep pod.
But really it is the seven penthouses that make this a destination for the Middle East crowd. They’re huge for starters, ranging from 100m2 to 465m2 making them ideal for families – or after parties of P-Diddy proportions. These aren’t just posh apartments, however. Each one is themed – in a good way – around acting, music, explorers and art. For example, the Musician’s Penthouse has a Steinway grand piano and other instruments dotted about the rooms, a vinyl turntable and a very well curated record collection. Spread over two floors, there are also steps up to a rooftop terrace that has views across London and the nearby River Thames.
Of course you get what you pay for so the penthouses aren’t cheap: the price runs well into thousands per night, but you do get your own butler who’ll unpack your case and arrange your socks neatly in the accessories drawer, and who can put a price on that?
Corinthia Hotel, Embankment, London, corinthia.com