We’re going to be honest, we didn’t hold out much hope. Yes, it was from Edwardian Hotels, the group that owns The May Fair, which is a whole load of fun, from its lobby sweet trolley to its giant screening room. But this is Leicester Square. And this hotel is immense. How wrong we were! How wrong, my friend.
You’ll remember the cinema that used to be on the south-western corner of said Leicester Square. The one that charged the same extortionate prices as the other Leicester Square cinemas but without any of the big-screen loveliness… or any loveliness at all come to that. Well, that’s where The Londoner is. Good riddance Odeon West End, hello gorgeous!
But this is not just a big hotel that went up quicker than you could say Jackie Robinson (Jack Robinson’s cooler older sister), this is what’s known in the business as a game-changer, a hotel that has art on the outside (beautiful ceramics), and almost as many floors underground as above ground, sixteen in total. They’re calling it the world’s first super boutique and we’re in no mood for contradicting them, whoever ‘they’ are.
The Londoner, basically, is trying to have its cake and eat it. It wants to be a huge landmark of a hotel but it wants to be quirky and arty and stylish and cool, qualities that money usually can’t buy. Not in this case. It’s what they mean when they say ‘super boutique’. Partnerships with the likes of Matthew Bourne, the London Film Festival and London Fashion Week don’t hurt any either.
But how does this boil down to an actual hotel, you’re thinking. Think no more. Walking in, you’re immediately hit by the art side of things. A buzzy lobby scene, with a mini-stage set up for a band amidst the people having teas and cocktails. This space is actually called The Stage and in among the bottles of champagne, you’ll find contemporary busts against a backdrop that looks like a theatre curtain.
To the right, walking in, is Whitcomb’s, the super-slick main restaurant, catering to walk-ins and guests alike, that takes hotel restaurants… we’d say ‘to another level’ if it wasn’t such a cliché. But that. With its towering Irving Penn-esque black and white photos and its cosy tartan seating, it’s probably the best French Mediterranean food in this restaurant-heavy part of town. And one of your party is vegan? Absolutely no problem. The service, by the way, so friendly we actually thought about getting a job just to enhance our social lives.
And Whitcomb’s is just one of several food and drinks spots at The Londoner. There’s 8 at The Londoner, a decadent rooftop izakaya lounge; Joshua’s Tavern, named after the 18th century portrait painter, with its pubby atmosphere; The Stage, which we’ve already mentioned; Refuel, ‘a results-driven food clinic’. There’s also a secret residents-only whiskey bar up that staircase behind the stage with its own whiskey sommelier and some rare whiskey finds on display, but don’t tell anyone.
Upstairs in the rooms and suites, which look out over Leicester Square or down towards the Houses of Parliament, they’re doing the having cake/eating cake thing again. Slicker than a well-greased otter and yet cool with Georgian-style paneling hiding cupboard space and a shower that – if you want it to – looks into your room. Shelving with bric-a-brac, a chaise longue for reclining, wooden floors, 40s-retro lighting and – of course! – art. Treat yourself to the Tower Penthouse Suite over two levels with Mary Poppins views if you’ve got in on Marty Byrde’s money-laundering scheme in Ozark.
But you’re still worrying about losing that cinema, aren’t you? Relax. They have replaced that rats’ nest with a sparkling new multi-screen Odeon Luxe. It’s where the partnership with the London Film Festival goes on.
And of course there’s a spa – a vast undergound spa with a huge pool – called The Retreat. And of course there are ballrooms for getting married in and conference spaces and a private lounge for residents and spaces to get some work done in… Well, they do have 16 floors to play with.
Besides all of that, The Londoner is environmentally sustainable to the max, with an ‘excellent’ rating from the people who certify these things as they go above and beyond any requirements for energy and water use, pollution, materials, waste, ecology… you know, the important stuff.
They call it an ‘urban resort’ – which we would usually scoff at, because we’re cynical like that about marketing terms – but seriously, we can’t really think of any reason to leave once you’re in. OK, maybe just a quick trip to Dover Street Market up the road but then it’s straight back, OK?