If you want to join the 19 million tourists who visit the capital every year but want to stay somewhere more interesting than a chain hotel, look no further.
Whether you fancy old-fashioned charm, a knock-out location or a brand new hotel, Sarah Turner has the answers.
WEST END BEAUTY – KETTNER’S TOWNHOUSE
Swanky: Soho stalwarts have relied on Kettner’s since 1876 for late-night sustenance but last year Soho House also opened a hotel on the site
Fill me in: Soho stalwarts have relied on Kettner’s since 1876 for late-night sustenance but last year Soho House also opened a hotel on the site.
The ground floor has been meticulously restored, with pianos and a horseshoe-shaped bar, plus a restaurant with fixed-price menus (part of Kettner’s appeal was that the food didn’t cost a fortune).
Upstairs, the 33 rooms and suites have serious history – Edward VII was said to have appropriated one for liaisons with Lillie Langtry when she was performing in a nearby theatre. The Jacobean suite is for the most party-minded – it’s a vast panelled room with a Victorian/1920s mash-up decor.
Cost: Doubles cost from £190, room-only. kettnerstownhouse.com
AWARD WINNER – HOTEL 41
Fill me in: Enough people have heard of this hotel for it to be voted TripAdvisor’s top UK hotel, but it’s still very much under the radar.
Staying opposite the Royal Mews in Buckingham Palace Road, guests get all the benefits of a great location plus access to 41 Hotel’s bigger sister next door, The Rubens, which is also owned by the same Red Carnation group.
There are 30 rooms and suites with bold, fun decor in black and white, superb service levels, including a choice of complimentary champagnes on arrival, and a pantry to plunder in the evening.
Cost: Doubles cost from £347, room-only. 41hotel.com
Chic: The Laslett’s smart entrance (above)
LIVE LIKE A LOCAL – THE LASLETT
Fill me in: Twenty years after the film Notting Hill was released, here’s a hotel that lets you immerse yourself in one of London’s most desirable districts without shouting about it.
With 51 rooms and suites overlooking Pembridge Gardens, there are stacks of Penguin classics by every bed, modern art on the walls and an easy-going but thoughtful approach to things.
The Henderson Bar, named after one of the founders of the Notting Hill Carnival, serves everything from coffee to cocktails, and guests can hang out in the library or wander around the neighbourhood.
Cost: Doubles cost from £220, room-only. living-rooms.co.uk
OLD-FASHIONED CHARM – DUKES
Fill me in: Between Piccadilly and St James’ Palace is a maze of tiny passageways. In one of them is Dukes, a hushed, old-style bolthole that opened in 1908. Just 90 light, unfussy rooms are paired with a small but perfectly appointed bar.
Ian Fleming was once a regular and the bartenders still wear white coats and take their art seriously. The hotel’s restaurant, GBR, is emphatically British and a regular haunt for the grandees from the Royal Household and the Foreign Office.
Cost: Doubles cost from £320 on a B&B basis. dukeshotel.com
A SAINTLY PAST – L’OSCAR
Transformed: The ornate Baptist Grill at L’Oscar is a former chapel
Fill me in: On Southampton Row, near Holborn, is a former headquarters of the Baptist Church. While the exterior is fairly austere, head inside and cult designer Jacques Garcia’s first London hotel is lavishly maximalist.
All 39 rooms are different and feature everything from Minton fireplaces to a riot of silks and velvets. Rooms on the newly added top floor have balconies with expansive views across the city.
The chapel – with a lavish coating of gold leaf – has become The Baptist Grill, where chef Tony Fleming lightens Victorian staples.
Cost: Doubles cost from £297, room-only. loscar.com
FUN WITH THE FAMILY – AMPERSAND
Family-friendly: A cool bedroom at The Ampersand in South Kensington
Fill me in: South Kensington is great for families thanks to its plethora of museums, parks and smart shops. Despite a quiet setting on Harrington Street, the 80-room Ampersand has a full raft of family-friendly elements, including interconnecting rooms and kitchenettes in the suites.
So far, so sensible, but this hotel is definitely in the treat category too, with a kids’ sci-fi-themed tea and mini-bathrobes. Meanwhile, adults get thoroughly grown-up decor and Italian-accented food in Apero.
Cost: Doubles cost from £216, room-only. ampersandhotel.com
GENTEEL LUXURY – BELMOND CADOGAN
Fill me in: Check in here and you’ll be staying in one of Chelsea’s most discreet addresses. It’s always been a refuge for the famous – in 1895 Oscar Wilde was arrested in room 118. But after an expensive renovation and a thorough de-chintzing, there will be 54 art-stuffed bedrooms in this red-brick mansion on Sloane Street when it reopens later this month.
There is a sense of serenity in the ground-floor library, cafe and tea lounge, while in the new restaurant young chef Adam Handling combines modern British food and a fashionable ‘zero-waste’ policy.
Guests also get the keys to Cadogan Place gardens, usually only available to homeowners in the area.
Cost: Doubles costs from £470, room-only. belmond.com/uk
BRAND NEW – VINTRY & MERCER
Fill me in: Tucked away in Garlick Hill, a tiny road behind Mansion House in the City of London, Vintry & Mercer opens tomorrow. This 92-room hotel aims to evoke the area’s rich tradition, with maps in the bedrooms that reference the City’s trading history – but the rest of the hotel, including all-day kitchen, is manifestly 21st Century.
Cost: Doubles cost from £149, room-only. vintryandmercer.com
DESIGN-MINDED – BOUNDARY PROJECT
Industrial past: The rooftop area of the hip Boundary Project, which opened in Shoreditch in 2009
Fill me in: Some hotels like being a hidden gem. Boundary Project, which opened in Shoreditch in 2009, is owned by Sir Terence Conran, a man who has guided British taste since the 1960s.
A former industrial building on hip, boutique-filled Redchurch Street, food is central here, with a branch of Albion Cafe, plus the subterranean Tratra restaurant and bar, and a roof terrace that goes Alpine in winter with heaters and Mediterranean in summer.
There are just 12 rooms, all of which have been inspired by a different designer. Stuffed with wonderful furniture, including original Eames chairs, the rooms to aim for are the loft suites.
Cost: Doubles cost from £171, room-only. boundary.london
A BLAST FROM THE PAST – BATTY LANGLEY’S
Fill me in: In the heart of Spitalfields, only a small sign above the door of this Georgian building will alert you to this jewel.
All 29 rooms bring fun and a sense of history – expect four-poster beds, Victorian bathing machines and slightly saucy artworks.
And what’s behind the name? Langley was an 18th Century bon viveur who wrote books about Regency style. His spirit lives on with a honesty bar.
There isn’t a restaurant, but Folgate Street is full of great bars, while breakfast can delivered to your room.
Cost: Doubles cost from £161, room-only. battylangleys.com