1 August 2014

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Clash of the titans


It’s been a busy time  for hotel openings in London. We pitch the four big arrivals against each other

St Pancras Renaissance - exterior Full_Exterior_resized.jpgLondon’s hotelscape changed dramatically in the past year, as the restored Savoy and St Pancras Renaissance were revealed, Leicester Square got a W, and the Corinthia opened its doors down Whitehall way.

If the city’s accommodation was somewhat polarised before, with a scarcity of world-class business-friendly hotels to fill the gap between the corporate workhorses and the glamorous grande dames, the high-end hotel scene suddenly looks a lot more competitive. Now that there are an extra 1,000 well-polished guestrooms clamouring for our business, what can we expect from the newcomers?

The Savoy (tel: 020 7836 4343, squaremeal.co.uk/savoy), aristocratic in spite of its showbiz origins, was built in 1889 and shone most lustrously in the first half of the 20th century; by the 1980s, it was more shabby than chic. Has its megabucks revamp done the trick?

The St Pancras Renaissance (tel: 020 7841 3540) is making a comeback, too, 138 years after its original debut as the Midland Hotel, which closed in 1935, leaving Gilbert Scott’s grand Gothic pile unloved until this spring. Will its new incarnation live up to the architecture?

The Corinthia (tel: 020 7930 8181, squaremeal.co.uk/corinthia) is no laggard in terms of grandeur – and budget. Will its luxurious spaces thrive?
And will the groovy lifestyle shtick of the West End’s future-facing W Hotel (tel: 020 7758 1000) be embraced by Londoners?
Let’s see how they measure up…

Meeting rooms

The Savoy - Meeting Room 34187013-H1-SVY-294_resized.jpgReigning champion The InterContinental Park Lane’s (tel: 020 7409 3131, squaremeal.co.uk/ic-london) 19 light and airy meeting spaces, occupying a whole floor of the hotel, and overlooking Hyde Park and Green Park, are hard to beat.

W True to its Theatreland location and hip lifestyle credentials, the W has a screening room for up to 40 people, as well as a pair of flexible, design-savvy, high-spec meeting/reception rooms known as W Studio Spaces.

St Pancras Renaissance The historic, plushly restored rooms around Gilbert Scott’s grand edifice include the Paxton and the Ordish, on the first floor, and the Billiard Room and the Station Master’s Office, on the second floor, capacity up to 10 boardroom-style, or 12 for a standing reception.

The Corinthia Six meeting rooms on the calm mezzanine level are handsomely furnished in residential style, offer drop-down projectors and screens, and are served by a fully teched-up business centre on the same floor. They hold 14–20 for a boardroom meeting.

The Savoy Wow: the Savoy’s six private rooms, all named after Gilbert & Sullivan operettas, are both swish and efficiently administered, holding between 10 and 32 delegates for a boardroom-style meeting.

The winner It’s a close-run thing, but the Savoy’s impressive, seamless offering just pips the Corinthia and
St Pancras Renaissance.

St Pancras Renaissance - Ladies smoking room Social_Ladies_Smoking_Room_3542.jpgFunction space

Reigning champion The ballroom at Grosvenor House, A JW Marriott Hotel (tel: 020 7499 6363, squaremeal.co.uk/grosvenor-h) on Park Lane is
equal to anything: glittering social events, mega conferences, exhibitions, you name it…

W The hotel’s bar and club, Wyld, is available for private hire on Mondays, oversize mirrorball and all.

St Pancras Renaissance The lofty Hansom Hall, which holds up to 450 for a reception, was put to the test at the hotel’s glitzy launch party, where it duly impressed. On the second floor, the Ladies’ Smoking Room has an enviable outdoor space.

The Corinthia With its own entrance on Whitehall Place, the Corinthia’s 400-capacity ballroom is nothing short of spectacular, with Belle Epoque style mirrors and chandeliers. The curving Courtroom opens onto an internal alfresco courtyard.

The Savoy Major sense-of-occasionsville. Very elegant, with their own discreet entrance away from the Strand, the Banqueting Rooms hold between 120 and 800 for a reception; the flagship Lancaster Room is particularly well appointed in terms of AV and technical wizardry.

The winner St Pancras Renaissance. The Ladies’ Smoking Room and its good-sized terrace are a joy, and the Hansom Hall is ready for anything.

Corinthia - Massimo Restaurant & Oyster Bar Massimo_Restaurant_and_Oyster_Bar_1_-_smaller.jpgDining

Reigning champion The combination of Bar Boulud and Heston’s Dinner at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park (tel: 020 7235 2000) makes it unassailable in terms of hotel restaurants.

W A snazzy roll-out from Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Spice Market is a tribute to south-east Asian street cuisine, with sharing food that arrives continuously throughout your meal. Reviews, including our own, have been mixed, though the private Globe Room (up to 60 standing) is a good party space.

St Pancras Renaissance Marcus Wareing is the man behind the marble and gilt brasserie in what used to be the entrance hall and coffee room of the Midland Hotel. The menu is inspired by historic English cooks such as Agnes Marshall and Isabella Beeton, and there’s an understated PDR for up to 14.

The Corinthia Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful dining rooms in the city, Massimo has an easy-to-love yet refined seafood menu devised by Massimo Riccioli, famed chef of La Rosetta in Rome. The PDR has its own dedicated kitchen, for up to 20 guests to watch the chefs in action. Northall, the hotel’s second restaurant, will serve breakfast, lunch, high tea and dinner, with an emphasis on artisan-produced British food.

The Savoy The Savoy Grill, headed by Gordon Ramsay’s right-hand man Stuart Gillies, serves luxurious lobster and fish dishes, and highest-quality British meats. There’s a chef’s table for up to eight, and private dining can be arranged in the D’Oyly Carte room (up to 40 guests). Elsewhere in the hotel, the River Restaurant does modern French cuisine. The pastry chefs working behind the scenes of the Thames Foyer will use some three tonnes of Valrhona chocolate every year. 

The winner The Corinthia. Massimo is beautiful and luxurious but nonetheless democratic and unpretentious. The PDR-cum-chef’s-table has its own appeal, too.

W Hotel - Wyld at W Wyld1_resized.jpgBars

Reigning champion The Bar at The Dorchester (tel: 020 7319 7071; squaremeal.co.uk/dorchester) is arguably the swankiest perch in the capital.

W Wyld Bar is a collaboration with Ignite Group, the party people behind Boujis, and rocks a dramatic, fierce look, all deep red and black leather. The premium tequila selection is its USP in terms of refreshments, and the music policy promises Soho sounds, from Denmark Street jazz to 1980s Wag Club cool.

St Pancras Renaissance The classically elegant bar overlooking Euston Road has all the atmosphere and cachet that the restoration project has been aspiring to. It offers seasonal cocktails and Threesies, as well as Elevenses – brilliant. Breakfast will also be served.

The Corinthia The parpingly named Bassoon bar was hosting glitzy parties before the hotel was even open; it’s almost too glamorous for ministers of state, but perfect for their tycoon pals. Cocktails are based on ‘molecular’ recipes. The piano will apparently receive regular tinklings from well-known artists, making low-key appearances.

The Savoy The American Bar is among the most celebrated in the world, and restoration has seen it somewhat preserved in aspic. Bartender Erik Lorincz’s cocktails are absolutely killer; the White Lady was made famous here in the 1930s by Harry Craddock. The Beaufort Bar is a brand-new bar, with art-deco stylings and £40,000 worth of gold leaf applied to its walls.

The winner Wylde at the W, because a truly good bar has to be a little bit louche.

The Savoy - Stephen Fry 1106_savoy_place_(18).jpgGlamour

Reigning champion The May Fair Hotel (tel: 020 7451 0196, squaremeal.co.uk/mayfair-h) pulls in celebs galore, deliberately courting luminaries such as Kate Moss and Paris Hilton.

W The glowing façade and Manhattan energy that W brings to the party on Leicester Square is certainly colourful, though it’s perhaps a bit contrived to be mistaken for a bona fide London scene.

St Pancras Renaissance The sheer magnificence of the Victorian Gothic architecture lends the St Pancras Renaissance an aura, and its launch party was certainly star-studded, with Jamie Callum tinkling the ivories. But whether its plushly carpeted corridors are likely to attract an A-list crowd remains to be seen. Its alfresco spaces are a boon.

The Corinthia You don’t spend £300m without a certain sprinkling of stardust. BAFTA and Vanity Fair parties have already taken place, and the Espa spa alone, with its 17 treatment rooms, nail studio, Daniel Galvin hair salon and amazing gym, is likely to attract a well-heeled and well-dressed clientele.

The Savoy Even without Noël Coward or Elizabeth Taylor swanning around, the Savoy is having a serious second coming. The spec is grand and gorgeous, and butlers are on hand for guests in suites who happen to be travelling without their own staff.

The winner The Savoy. With its pricelessly glittering past and convincingly stellar reincarnation as a 21st-century grande dame, the Savoy is still the big name to drop.

This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events, summer 2011

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