Too often one will not find due respect for bygone days when old buildings are adapted to modern needs. When stepping into the majestic Victorian building which is now housing the Corinthia Hotel London on a chilly and wet Saturday afternoon, greeted amiably by the doormen one couldn´t help thinking of those entering the building as guests of Hotel Metropole in 1885. With its unique exterior style borrowed from the Parisian apartment blocks with decorative motifs carved into its golden sandstone exterior it was built by the grand hotel developer of the time, Frederick Gordon. And very likely Corinthia London´s plan for a considered restoration, accommodating some to the hotel´s historic features, was instrumental in securing their win when the building was put up for sale by the Crown Estate in 2007, after serving the Ministry of Defence for 70 years.
”True craftsmanship is always bespoke“, claims Alfred Pisani, founder and chairman of Corinthia Hotels, describing the philosophy that guides him. And special we felt, met by a very lovely and attentive receptionist and later offered a glass of our favourite Rosé Laurent-Perrier before enjoying the magical world of nearby Covent Garden for an afternoon of Christmas shopping.
True to the vision and worth of “quiet quality”, the hotel has chosen to enhance its inner space with a unique collection of specially commissioned artworks by predominantly British artists with the guidance of Minda Dowling, one of which caught our attention behind the reception desk, a unique metal artwork showing a 20-mile stretch of the River Thames. The hotel also supports the arts with the annual Corinthia Artists in Residence programme, nurturing young up and coming talent, not to mention its support for and affiliation with BAFTA as the official hotel and nominees party host.
This commitment to providing a stimulating and visually rich environment to guests was obvious when entering The Northall later that evening observing a fine selection of contemporary artworks including oil paintings by Alan Macdonald featuring cardinals, noblemen and classical beauties in 17th century style with a twist, Cardinal Spin II caught our eyes, to name one. And the feast of tastes was no less pleasurable, as might be expected in a restaurant with a focus on seasonal produce from artisanal suppliers overseen by executive chef Garry Hollihead, winner of Michelin stars at three different establishments. We didn´t get the chance to taste the modern Italian cuisine served at Massimo Restaurant & Oyster Bar, reserved for another visit.
After a most satisfying meal it was time to put the best UK hotel spa to the test, the ESPA Life at Corinthia having received the Condé Nast Traveller Readers’ Award 2014 for the second time. We were certainly spoilt for choice of treatments in this spa most fitting to adorn the flagship of the hotels of Corinthia where in antiquity there was a town called Thermae, now Loutraki (bath-house), as closely affiliated with this modern luxury as the small Belgian town of Spa. We found the bamboo joint release experience and the detoxifying body cleanse most rewarding looking forward to visit the spa´s other amenities prior to departure on Sunday.
Before returning to our room we enjoyed a night cap in Bassoon, a musically inspired destination bar, showcasing an array of theatrically created cocktails and an exquisite spirits library from behind a seven-metre long grand piano forming the bar top! Although quiet this evening Bassoon is allegedly becoming known as one of London´s most talked about music destinations showcasing a mixture of breakthrough artists and established performers.
The hotel offers a collection of exclusive two-storey penthouse hotel suites, which may well herald a new era of luxury accommodation for the city. We made do with one of the standard guest rooms but actually there is nothing standard about these rooms, averaging 45m2 and among the largest in their category in London. The television screen available while bathing is certainly not standard, the pleasure of which was only stifled by the disappointing result of the game aired that evening.
After still another memorable experience the following morning enjoying our “a la carte” breakfast one can only admire the level and choice of services this hotel has to offer. The Crafty Concierge will guide you off the beaten tourist track; Downton Abbey fans can visit the nearest equivalent in West Sussex, The Petworth Estate; even daytrips to Lapland are available for those eager to see the real Santa. And worthy of mention are the choices for entertainment and culture just around the corner, in the West End and on the South Bank. A tale most memorable was at an end only to leave us looking forward to the next.