United Kingdom Travel Guide
A month ago we thought it looked like it was nearly complete, and so it was: Andre Balazs’ new London hotel, the Chiltern Firehouse, opened a couple of weeks ago. Nearly three and a half years after we first scoped it out, and many a walk-by in between, we were able to do a quick lap through the courtyard, peek into the buzzing restaurant, and peer through the windows into the yet-to-open bar.
We weren’t quite right with our guess of it being called the Chiltern Street Hotel (and actually prefer the Firehouse addition), but we did hit the nail on the head thinking that entry to the hotel is through the courtyard, in the far corner you see above. Those red benches we spotted were in place too, along with a range of other furniture that we trust will be permanently occupied once spring pushes through and those bare shrubs sport some greenery.
Before you rush over with your bags, know that the 26 suites aren’t quite ready yet. The restaurant, pretty much booked solid at the moment, is open daily for dinner and for brunch on the weekend.
We’re on a roll when it comes to scoping out the latest on citizenM at the moment: the exterior of citizenM at Paris Charles de Gaulle seems pretty much finished, New York Times Square is getting ever so close to being done, and the Holborn location in London looks like this. When we walked by the latter, we wondered what the third London opening at Tower Hill would look like et voilà: here are the renderings.
This citizenM is interesting beyond the fact that it will bring more high-style, affordable hotel rooms to London: it will be the group’s flagship, and at 370 rooms, its largest hotel. It is being built over the exit hall of Tower Hill tube station, which will get an upgrade as part of the work. Opening is scheduled for the fall.
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While we're on the subject of hotel room keys today (or lack thereof), we noticed this super cool key system when we stayed at The Berkeley Hotel in the Knightsbridge neighborhood of London last week.
At check-in, (which is discretely done at individual desks off the lobby, with cushy chairs for the guest to sit in), we were handed two small plastic black keys. At first we thought, "Cool, old-school door keys." But when we arrived up to our room, the keys weren't used the way we expected.
Just off to the right of the door handle is a mirrored plate which has the room number. Below that is a little slot for the key, which is actually wired to the door. Once your key goes into the slot, a green light will appear at the top of the key, letting you know the door is ready to open. You can leave the key in the slot too so you don't have to simultaneously insert the key and push the door open.
It is fitting that Southern Cross Club owner Peter Hillenbrand grew up in a small Indiana farm town, one where he left his keys in the ignition overnight and his doors were literally always open.
He brought that same small-town mentality to the already sleepy 10 square-mile island of Little Cayman, located about 60 miles northwest of the better known Grand Cayman. With a population that currently sits at just under 200, his sense of community and trust seemed to be a perfect fit for the island. Typically, we board up our room tighter than Fort Knox when heading out for the day, so imagine our surprise when we were told upon check in that there were no keys for any of the rooms.
For those traveling from the bustling cities of the U.S., this might sound insane. Yet, it is exactly what sets the tone for the entire trip and definitely the most rewarding concept a traveler can experience in today's relatively untrusting world. The idea of leaving your door unlocked is designed to help you truly leave your worries behind, to pretend like you're on an untouched, semi-deserted island where none of the problems of home have surfaced. And it's easy to do, because you are.
When we talked about the arrival of Dorsett Hotels in London a few weeks back, we knew that the conversion of Shepherd’s Bush Pavilion wasn’t its only project. A second hotel – Dorsett City – is being planned on Aldgate, right next to St. Botolph Church. That puts it a few minutes' walk north of Trinity Square and just west of recent newcomer Qbic.
Dorsett City will rise from the reconstruction of an office building called The Matrix, to be ready in late 2015. Three stories are being added for a total of 275 rooms and suites, in addition to two restaurants, a bar, meeting facilities, and a spa.
How often do you find a full Poggenpohl kitchen in a city hotel room that is not a suite setting you back four figures a night? Not very often, we’d like to think, though this is what we saw when we recently popped into the Apartments by the Sloane Club, just off of the swanky London square of the same name.
True, this is slightly different than a ‘normal’ hotel, being two red brick mansions on a tree-lined residential street, linked to a private members club around the corner, and generally a minimum stay of a week applies (though shorter stays are possible depending on availability). But starting at a not-extravagant-for-London £220 ($370) a night, a Studio gets you hotel services, a bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom in a quirky triplex space.
Looks like London is getting on the bandwagon of jail hotels: the former Bow Street Magistrates Court, around the corner from Covent Garden and opposite the Royal Opera House, will become a 99-room hotel and police museum. The latter will be housed in former prison cells, with others turned into guestrooms, so you might be bedding down where Casanova and Oscar Wilde once were held – although arguably in more comfortable surroundings.
While it will take a few years to complete, there are some pretty amazing renderings out there that show hardwood floors, high ceilings, lots of black metal (iron?) work, and unusual bathroom layouts. These are by the hand of the Chinese-American architects that will be designing the project for the Austrian brothers that purchased the building, so it will be a whole multicultural affair.
The Beeston hat inspired by Belgravia Suite 34 (£795 or $1,325)
The Goring has come up with a plan to save genteel ladies from the embarrassment of having their hat clash with their room's decor by introducing their very own hat collection by British milliner, Gina Foster.
This good news comes in good time for the quintessentially British summer "Season"--the Chelsea Flower Show, Royal Ascot, and plenty of Pimms--so, without further adieu, cue the designs of the The Goring Collection by Gina Foster.
Gainsborough -- This golden beauty was inspired by Room 58 and The Terrace. The hat is covered in the Gainsborough silk that adorns Room 58's walls, and the black ribbon trim mimics the ebonized furniture. And the good news is you'll also go with the décor in The Terrace, with its yellow walls, golden silk curtains and black accents. If you're feeling bold, you can flash a little of Gina's signature hot pink silk lining during a proper Afternoon Tea--so risqué. This smart little number is £750 ($1,250).
Three more winners of their class below!
Affordable Hotels / Hotel Construction / citizenM Hotels / Hoxton Hotels / London Hotels / Hotel News / Hotel Openings / → All Tags
Rosewood London may have dominated headlines for the past six months as the new kid on the block in Holborn (sorry Boris, we’re still not down with calling it ‘Midtown’), but this year should see two new hotels opening in the same area, albeit in a very different segment: citizenM and Hoxton, both representing the much appreciated wave of stylish but affordable options that most cities need more of.
It’s also seconds for both when it comes to the British capital: citizenM Bankside is a twenty-minute walk across the river, and Hoxton Shoreditch has been doing its things just east of the Old Street roundabout for eight years. We walked past both hotels to check out what the buildings are like and how construction is coming along.
Hotel Blackslists are real, this we know. But what gets you on a hotel's naughty list can vary.
Most of the time it's for doing something illegal--drugs, prostitution, soliciting and failing to pay your bill. Sometimes, it can be for disruptive behavior--loud parties, drunkenness, damaging the room and walking around naked. And other times, it can be simply because the hotel didn't want you back. (Or rather, didn't want you there in the first place, which once happened to us a few years ago.)
But for this one guest in the U.K., the reason for blacklisting was very clear--he joked about his "trouser snake."
HC Alumnus JuliaB tweeted us a write-up of the indecent incident in a newspaper and it is beyond hilarious.
The full monty went down at the Hilton Baskingstoke Hotel in Hampshire when a guest made a naughty remark on an online comment form, telling staff "he had a large snake in my trousers." The guest said the reception staff laughed about it when he checked out. But then a few days later, he received a note from the hotel manager that said they would no longer accept future bookings from him since having to read his comment made the staff uncomfortable.
So we have to ask--was blacklisting this guest an unjust decision?
Welcome to Funky Friday, a new segment we’re trying out which features one photo that we think singularly expresses a hotel’s inner psyche. We look for – and find a lot of – wacky, wild and wondrous designs that seem to have one thing in common: a Type A personality. So why not have a bit of fun as we all wrap up our week by taking a quick look at some hotels that quite frankly, want our attention.
Every time we catch up with London's Andaz Liverpool Street to see what’s happening, we are blown away by their lust for life, creative spirit, and shear marketing genius. They have done it again with their latest artistic endeavor, an interactive art exhibit courtesy of Andaz and masters of the bubbly, Veuve Clicquot. This is just so way out and wonderful that we feel we must include it in our Funky Friday segment.
While we work down our list of London hotel openings to look out for this year, the preliminary one for 2015 is steadily growing. If all goes as planned, this should be an interesting addition to that list: the restoration and conversion of the Grade-II listed former Port of London Authority into a mixed-use complex with 120-room hotel, restaurant, club, spa, and 41 residences.
Located at Tower Hill, next to the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, it was originally commissioned in 1911 and completed just over a decade later, following delays due to World War I. Plans have been floating for the better part of a decade, with a fancy event organized as early as 2011 to celebrate approval being granted.
Key part of the restoration is bringing back the original rotunda, which was damaged in WWII bombings, with a centerpiece of ‘twisted fins’ to reflect light. The above rendering doesn’t quite give the same impression of the perfectly circular roof that is visible in the floor plan and aerial view below, but we get the idea.