|The Ham Yard hotel library has a collection of hand-picked reading and reference books that include a large section on London.|
All week we're joining forces with our sister publication, Travel Agent magazine, to take a look at London's hottest neighborhoods and hotels. Here's a look at the bold Mondrian on the South Bank, the fresh and funky Ham Yard in Soho and the refined Beaumont in Mayfair.
London’s luxury hotel scene is blossoming everywhere. We’re particularly smitten with the bold Mondrian on the South Bank, the fresh and funky Ham Yard in Soho and the refined Beaumont in Mayfair.
Mondrian London at Sea Containers, South Bank
The Morgans Hotel Group made a splash this September opening the first Mondrian outside of the USA, a spectacular £200 million (US$318 million) refit of the iconic Sea Containers building into a gorgeous riverside property. South Bank has become a hot spot for luxury hotels (Shangri-La at the Shard opened earlier this year), and the location of the Mondrian London is particularly fantastic: equidistant from the City and the West End, minutes on foot along the Thames from Tate Modern, Borough Market and the National Theatre, with around half of the 359 rooms and suites offering river views, the best of them with balconies so close to the Thames, it’s like being on a ship.
Embracing the Sea Containers’ nautical history and riverside setting, Tom Dixon, the hottest designer in Britain, has created dramatic interiors evocative of 1920s cruise ships for his first-ever hotel project. A hand-crafted copper hull sweeps from the street entrance through the lobby, leading to the vibrant restaurant and bar areas on the river. Playfulness pervades the lobby, thanks to two Dixon-designed sculptures: a working iron swing and a massive, blue chain-link that the friendly reception staff encouraged our kids to climb!
|Mondrian London’s River View Balcony Suite offers views of the city from its furnished balcony located on the River Thames.|
In theme, there are ship models throughout the public spaces, and porthole curves to basins, baths, mirrors and light fittings in guest rooms and suites. Each features bespoke, contemporary furniture from Tom Dixon in shades of gray with pops of bright pink. The Standard room we saw, No. 503, felt spacious with an angled queen bed with room to store luggage beneath. Most-requested rooms are the 700-square-foot River View Balcony Suites (we stayed in No. 557). These open-plan L-shaped spaces have a dining area, pull-out sofa and a king bed, and the best part, a private balcony with direct views of St. Paul’s. Slightly smaller 635-square-foot River View Loft Suites have sleeping areas that can be closed off for more privacy, but no balcony. Top Accommodation: The 1,200-square-foot River View Apartments (No. 445 and No. 545) have a 12-seat dining area, lounge and separate king bedroom. The hotel has 30 connecting rooms, with combinations that can include suites or standard rooms, perfect for families.
The Sea Containers building is also home to offices (new HQ for media giant Ogilvy) and during our visit the crowd was a smattering of hip creatives, City suits and well-heeled families. The restaurant, Sea Containers, is led by celebrated New York Chef Seamus Mullen along with Executive Chef Luke Rayment (formerly of Claridge’s) and the menu ticks all the trendy boxes—seasonal, local, small plates, big plates and a wood-fired oven. Our Favorites: Fresh tuna crudo, creamy house-made ricotta and a juicy slow-cooked whole chicken. Great for solo travelers, the center of the restaurant is a dining bar; for groups there are two private dining rooms, one with a terrace.
The space flows along the riverbank with two more bars, the lounge-like Den for all-day snacks and drinks, to the Dandelyan, a sizzling cocktail bar overseen by Shoreditch’s hippest bartender, Ryan Chetiyawardana, a.k.a Mr. Lyan, known for hand-crafting all his mixers from British botanicals. For more cocktails, head up to the breathtaking, glass-sided, 12th-floor Rumpus Room.
|Mondrian London’s Sea Containers restaurant is led by Chef Seamus Mullen along with Executive Chef Luke Rayment. The center of the restaurant is a dining bar.|
Fun waits below the surface. A plush 56-seat screening room showing first-run films on the weekends (available for private hire mid-week), and free vintage 1980s video game machines beside the theater! The gym and aqua spa are beneath, a beautiful, curvy white-marbled space with sci-fi gold accents. Signature Treatment: The “Boob Bar,” a massage that claims to be “breast in class.” We adore the lightness and humor. Contact Spa Director Jacqueline Kneebone ([email protected]; 011-44-020-3747-1012).
Concierge Amy Cunningham’s ([email protected]) top tips: a 20-minute walk to trendy Bermondsey Street for art at White Cube, glass blowing at Glassworks Studio, and food at acclaimed restaurants Zucca (Spanish) or Casse-Croûte (French). For shopping, the jewelry shops at nearby Oxo Tower for quirky one-off pieces, or just beyond to Gabriel’s Wharf, 40 independent shops selling handmade art, fashion and home goods. Embracing the riverside, Amy suggests boats to get around quickly: the Thames Clipper for private hire for concerts at the O2 or sightseeing at Hampton Court Palace.
Ham Yard Hotel, Soho
Tim and Kit Kemp, the husband-and-wife owners of chic Firmdale Hotels, found three-quarters of an acre in the center of bustling Soho and created a surprisingly serene oasis for their ninth property, the Ham Yard Hotel. A striking, light-filled “urban village” with a 91-room hotel, 24 apartments, 13 stores and a restaurant and bar with outdoor dining, all in a U-shape around a tree-filled courtyard. The setting, just off the bottom of Regent Street behind the neon of Piccadilly Circus, is perfectly placed for Mayfair and Soho.
|Ham Yard Hotel has bold interiors that craft a unique vibe—sofas in Indian prints, mid-century lamps, gilded pillars and distressed wood chests.|
The Kemps have fulfilled a few fantasies: the spacious new building of brick, steel and glass contains everything from a 1950s bowling alley imported from Texas and a double-height event space with 188-seat theater, bar and dance floor in the basement (already hosting celeb-studded premieres), to a magical fourth-floor roof terrace with apple and olive trees, fragrant herb bushes and vegetable patch (used for specials in the restaurant). There’s also Firmdale’s first Soholistic Spa and gym with a hypoxic studio.
The modern British interiors by Kit Kemp are bold; she blends the unimaginable—sofas in Indian prints, mid-century lamps, gilded pillars, distressed wood chests—and it works. Plus incredible art—don’t miss the mesmerizing clock in the lobby by Gareth Devonald Smith that creates beautiful patterns before centering itself to tell the time every minute, or the wall of illuminated pots in the restaurant by Martha Freud. The lobby, drawing room, library and orangery have intimate nooks for relaxing—on our weekday morning visit there was a gentle hum with a mix of media, art and theater types, and well-dressed tourists.
|The Beaumont Hotel’s Premier Room has velvet chairs, a coffered ceiling and original period antiques and artwork.|
Being a new build, guest rooms are big for London, the smallest is a generous 335 square feet, and all have floor-to-ceiling triple-glazed windows quietly framing the Soho street scenes or the pretty courtyard. Guest rooms have a residential feel—brightly patterned headboards and colorful wallpaper balance solid linens, and gray or white bathrooms. For families, we love the well laid out 484-square-foot Luxury Junior Suites (we saw No. 128 and No. 115) with king beds and pull-out sofas, several have a sleeping nook to add a cot (room Nos. 108, 208, 308, 112, 212, 312). Top Room: Terrace Suite, with a choice of one or two bedrooms connected by a large living space with dining area and a sleek Boffi kitchen, plus a terrace with courtyard views and the London skyline beyond.
Fantastic for families: In addition to 42 suites, Ham Yard has seven interconnecting rooms, and restaurants offering children’s menus, plus books and games, mini robes, milk and cookies at bedtime, and oh wait, did we mention the bowling alley!?
With prices more comparable to a nice pub than a luxury hotel, the Ham Yard restaurant and bar buzz with locals from breakfast to dinner, enjoying tasty modern British fare and sipping cocktails in the courtyard.
Soholistic Spa has a beachy feel; pebbles and shell mirrors in the relaxation area, and a range of treatments by Temple Spa conducted in three treatment rooms. Next to the spa is a high-tech gym with a hypoxic studio for altitude training where oxygen levels are varied to intensify exercise. It is perfect for time-crunched type-As! Contact Spa Director Dorethy Thompson ([email protected]; 011-44-020-3642-1035).
For retail therapy, the Kemps curated the 13 independent courtyard boutiques for a quirky mix: bespoke eyewear, a hand-blended tea shop, a fresh-press juice bar and the first London outpost of hip Australian jewelry and housewares, Dinosaur Designs. Basically, you don’t need to leave the Ham Yard, but you must…the hotel is on the doorstep of London’s best theaters, dining, and nightlife, and the concierge team has great connections; contact Head Concierge Abbán Brennan ([email protected]).
The Beaumont Hotel, Mayfair
The Beaumont is the first hotel venture by London’s celebrated restaurateurs Jeremy King and Chris Corbin, known for The Wolseley and Colbert amongst other London classics. Inspired by the landmarked 1926 building (once Selfridges parking garage), Corbin & King created a discrete, luxury hotel around a story from their own, clever imaginations: Mr. Jimmy Beaumont, a wealthy American living in London in the 1920s. The result is a 73-room Art Deco gem, with 50 guest rooms, 13 studios and 10 suites, a gorgeous marble spa with hammam, and the lively American Bar and The Colony Grill.
A block from busy Oxford Street, The Beaumont sits on a quiet, landscaped square, a short walk from luxury shops on Bond Street, green spaces of Grosvenor Square, Berkeley Square and Hyde Park. The Beaumont has fantastic curb appeal, set back with a lovely curved port cochère, the façade is a wall of original 1920s floor-to-ceiling steel-casement windows, and on the south wing sits a striking modern touch, Antony Gormley’s inhabitable sculpture ROOM, which looks like a giant three-story Lego man.
The rich Art Deco lobby shines from the street—polished checkerboard marble floors, glossy cherry woods, gleaming period antiques—drawing you into the intimate reception and concierge area. Once inside, the place feels like the fictional Mr. Beaumont’s sumptuous private club. Off the lobby is the American Bar, where the clubby, old-school feel continues, creating an inexplicable thirst for one of the classic whiskey or bourbon cocktails on offer, and just beyond, is The Colony Grill. A sepia-tinted evocation of the classic American grill, sports-themed murals and era-appropriate celebrity portraits surround blood-red leather banquettes and studded chairs. Corbin & King run London’s most successful restaurants, so it’s no surprise the menu of American classics—oysters Rockefeller, NY strip steak and make-your-own ice cream sundaes—are perfectly executed. Posh locals and hedge funders fill the place from breakfast onwards.
Guest rooms have a refined Art Deco feel—lacquered wardrobes, timber headboards, bronze mirrors and doorknobs, velvet chairs, geometric-patterned wool carpets, coffered ceilings, large casement windows and original period antiques and artwork. Bathrooms have large walk-in showers, black and white marble mosaic floors, and are brightly lit with Art Deco fixtures. We saw Classic Room No. 318 (320 square feet), and Studio Room No. 202 (440 square feet), both sumptuous with the main difference being larger bathrooms with separate bathtub in the Studio. For families or groups, the Presidential Suite, which is 1,820 square feet and can be opened up to incorporate five bedrooms for 6,525 square feet, is a gorgeous space with lovely dining and entertaining areas dotted with vintage antiques and period art.
And then there’s the ROOM, Gromley’s three-story cuboid figure, which works brilliantly, both externally as a piece of public art and internally as an extraordinary suite. Everyone will want to “inhabit the body” and sleep in total blackout in the figure’s surreal, womb-like dark oak interior, accessed by seven steps through a black curtain from a contrasting white-marble bathroom. Booking is by phone or e-mail only, at 011-44-020-7499-1001 or [email protected].
Exclusive to hotel guests, The Cub Room is a small bar and lounge off the lobby, and in the basement is a fitness area and Art Deco spa with Turkish hammam adorned with black and white marble mosaics, plunge pool and three treatment rooms. The fitness area is open 24 hours. Contact Spa Manager Sonia Atamenia ([email protected]; 011-44-020-7499-1001).
Head Concierge Nigel Bowen ([email protected]; 011-44-020-3728-7230) is an amazing font of insider info and contacts. Suffice to say, he is the man who can get your clients into the best private clubs, hot restaurants and sold-out shows.