Has this become London’s best hotel?
We stayed at the ME London and discovered why it’s the hottest hotel in England's capital this summer.Neil Churchill August 18, 2015
“Mr Churchill...” There was a slight tug at my knee. “Your room is ready now.” Despite the mild embarrassment of falling asleep in a hotel lobby, I certainly couldn’t blame it on the spectacular atrium that I was in.
Unable to offload the shame onto the triangular, marble-walled room that could have been sculpted by a deity of minimalist design – a perfect antidote to the Gulf’s 5-star treasure chest lobbies.
There was no way I could point the finger at the jellyfishes floating across the walls that angled 100ft into the sky, a small glass pane at the top allowing light to flood in.
No. Instead I blamed my drowsy state on the red eye that landed me in town just two hours previously; on the glasses of champagne I had been plied with since arriving at ME London (it was 11am); and the curling, spacious white sofa I was comfortably reclined in, from where I eyed the jellies – projections, of course, part of a mesmerising light display.
This certainly wasn’t your standard hotel lobby – or hotel, as I would discover – and I concluded that if I could fall asleep in this room of modernity, had I been in one of London’s older, more traditional hotels, I might well have slipped into a coma.
Located on The Strand at the southern corner of the West End’s theatre land, it’s hard to think of a better location for a sightseeing tourist; a 20-minute walk to South Bank, a stroll to Westminster, a stone’s throw from the River Thames and an amble to Covent Garden.
Few get so lucky with the location on their first foray into the hotel world. But Foster + Partners – the architects behind London’s iconic City Hall and Gherkin buildings – have monopolised on the postcode, hitting the nail on the head with their clean and contemporary 157-room (16 suites) hotel.
Wrapping around Marconi House – originally the home of the Gaiety Theatre before becoming office blocks – the old façade is an unassuming shell to what lies inside.
The ground-floor lobby houses Marconi bar, popular for morning business meetings and fans of slanting chrome poles, plush carpets and fat, leather chairs. It sets the interior tone that runs throughout the hotel, a monochromatic palette with rich and luxurious textures, emphasising a yin and yang theme as guests experience regular transitions from dark to lighter spaces.
The jet black elevator doors, grey carpets and stone black marble of the pyramid’s outer wall – which soars up through the heart of all 10 floors – widens your pupils as you walk the corridors to your room. The white walls, numerous lights and mirror door shock your senses as you enter; a clear statement that you are now in your own private cocoon.
We were in one of the Passion Suites – a 75-square metre corner bolthole. All rooms have the latest mod cons with touch-screen panels controlling the suite’s lighting; press ‘Sexy’ to change the mood lighting from red to green to blue – we were in the Passion Suite after all.
Flat-screen TVs and minibars (that’s right, plural) are hidden away, suspended from the white leather walls in black lacquered wardrobes. Plush rugs and throws cover hard surfaces.
The triangular windows project out from the building’s rounded lines, suspended in the air, offering great people-watching views down The Strand.
The Passion Suite does exactly what it says on the tin and is certainly styled for couples very much in love. Candles adorn almost every flat surface, his and her sinks, a bathroom door that you cannot lock and a bathtub so big that all 5ft 9 of this writer would easily have drowned in had he had another spontaneous sleeping moment. The Bali rainforest shower was a safer option.
While it is a hugely impressive suite – jaw dropping really – there are nine other options of room available at ME London. Suites on the top two floors have private terraces, some single rooms have spacious marble bathrooms and the top dog, Suite ME, is 99 square metres of prime real estate. So for the business, solo or anti-romance traveller, you have your options.
There are three restaurants at ME London. STK – a sleek steakhouse alternative to the Gaucho and Hawksmoor brigade; the brighter and cheaper Italian, Cucina Asellina, where a delicious and traditional breakfast is served daily; and the jewel in ME London’s crown, Radio Rooftop Bar - aptly named after the BBC’s first ever broadcast was from the Marconi building.
Radio is unarguably one of the best open-air bars in London, and for good reason. We may have become familiar with rooftop bars in the Gulf but they’re a rarity in London. Unsurprisingly then on the clear, warm Thursday evening that we went, it was busy.
Located on the 10th floor, accessed via a dedicated express lift, Radio serves a Spanish menu of classic tapas dishes with contemporary twists. Certainly enough to satisfy any hunger pains when mixed with the refreshing cocktails on offer, it may not be as formal as STK or Cucina Asellina, but that’s ignoring the real reason for going.
The outdoor terrace offers sensational, panoramic views across London’s skyline, from the City’s old and new buildings in the east, past Tower Bridge, The Shard, London Eye, Houses of Parliament and on to Battersea Power Station in the west. The Ibiza-styled décor clashes with the neoclassical buildings of the area, emphasising the hedonistic, vibrant ambiance felt from table to table.
“I’m staying at the ME London, do you know it?”
“Of course I know it, I was there last week.”
That was the genuine response from a London-based friend when I told him I’d be visiting England’s capital.
I have been away from the city I used to work in for three years and in that time, ME London has not only launched but also firmly established itself as one of the city’s most impressive and popular hotels.
For more visit melia.com.