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Hotel check: St Ermin’s hotel

Published: 08/09/2011 - Filed under: Tried & Tested » Hotels » Tried & Tested » Tried & Tested » Hotels » UK / British Isles »

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BACKGROUND A hotel since 1900, St Ermin’s reopened in April following a £30 million renovation by its new owner, US company Amerimar Enterprises (it also operates the Hutton hotel in Nashville – click here for a review).

Housed in a Grade II Listed Victorian building, the property has a rich history, having served as the base for MI6 and Winston Churchill’s Special Operations Executive during the Second World War. Most recently a 275-room property owned by NH Hoteles, it is now being positioned in the four-star deluxe bracket. It is a member of Accor’s M Gallery brand.

WHAT’S IT LIKE? The entrance to the red-brick horseshoe-shaped building is set back from the road, Savoy-style, with a landscaped courtyard and two stone griffins on guard at the front. Doorman greet you on the steps up to the property, and you enter to a lavish high-ceilinged lobby dominated by a wedding cake-style curving double staircase and wrap-around balcony, an original feature by theatrical designer J P Briggs. His work has been carefully restored, with lashings of rococo plasterwork now picked out in bright white, while LA designer Dayna Lee has introduced a warm, slightly quirky aesthetic.

Seats and cushions are upholstered in mismatched textures and patterns, while a range of antique and modern pieces are on show – a glass-topped coffee table is filled with pocket watches, a pug dog sculpture sits on an old fireplace, a gold lamp-stand has a base shaped like a bird’s legs, and a still-life sits on an easel. There’s lots to look at. Perhaps surprisingly, it all gels together well, creating a welcoming, parlour-like feel. Interesting features include the wooden Division Bell, which is connected to the House of Commons and rings to call MPs to vote; there is also a hidden door, behind which, legend has it, a tunnel leads straight to Parliament.

Reception is to the left as you enter, and there were several friendly staff on hand in the lobby to offer help throughout my stay. Leading off from the lobby to the right is the library lounge, a pleasant space with more quirky art pieces where afternoon tea is served (2.30pm-5.30pm daily). This, in turn, leads to the ground-floor meeting rooms, bar and restaurant.

WHERE IS IT? On Caxton Street, just off Buckingham Gate. St James’s Park underground station is around the corner and Victoria and Westminster stations are a five- to ten-minute walk away. Scotland Yard is across the road.

ROOM FACILITIES There are currently 260 rooms, though this will increase to 331 when a new adjoining wing (previously home to offices) opens – this is due to be finished in December. They are accessed by two rather historic, and very slim, lifts, though two more will be added with the new wing.

Rooms start from 18 sqm and feature a warm colour palette of green, purple, red and cream – a geometric-style poppy print is a recurring theme. The entry-level category is Superior, followed by Deluxe and Executive – these have the same amenities and are differentiated by size. They have queen, king or two double beds, workdesks with multinational plug sockets, wired and wireless internet access (charged at £12 per 24 hours), flatscreen TVs, iPod dock/alarm clocks, minibars, tea and coffee-making facilities, safes, robes and slippers, iron/ironing boards, 24-hour room service, either a shower over the bath or shower only, and bathroom amenities by the White Company (in dispensers).

When the new wing is open, there will be 41 suites in total, measuring up to 60 sqm. I stayed in a King suite, which had a separate living/dining room, attractive furniture pieces, a comfortable canopied bed and a Bose sound system. The marble bathroom had twin sinks and a wet room housing a roll-top bath and an excellent digitally controlled rainshower. It felt homely and looked on to Scotland Yard (other room views include the courtyard and the back of the hotel). As it had a dining table for working at rather than a desk, it didn’t have the multinational socket hub, and it being an old building, I found the room a bit lacking in plug points.

Suites are also not equipped with tea and coffee facilities – instead, you can call room service to have them delivered, freshly brewed, for free (a nice touch, though sometimes it’s nice to have it to hand). Suite guests will have access to a ground-floor Executive lounge serving breakfast, drinks and canapés, also due to open by the end of October.

RESTAURANTS AND BARS The Caxton Grill, led by head chef Hus Vedat, serves modern British and European food with an emphasis on local produce. It is an attractive, relaxed venue with wooden flooring, an olive and cream colour scheme and its own street entrance. A selection of dishes are cooked on a Josper grill, which results in a delightful, charcoal-like taste – I tried both the grilled halloumi and summer vegetables (£16 for a main course) and the sirloin of beef with mushroom rub and smoked béarnaise sauce (£20 for 200g, £25 for 300g) and they were both excellent, particularly the steak, which was the best I have had in a long time.

Breakfast is also served here, with à la carte options available as well as a good continental spread (£19 for continental, £24 for full English). Breakfast is served Mon-Fri 6.30am-10am, Sat 6.30am-12pm, Sun 7am-12pm; lunch Mon-Fri 12pm-2.30pm; dinner daily 6pm-10pm. There is a “wake and take” coffee and croissant option in the lobby (6am-12pm) if you don’t have time to sit down.

Off the restaurant, the Caxton bar is an inviting space in rust, brown and grey, with a long bar that serves cocktails and whiskey and wine “flights”. There was a nice buzz in here on the Saturday night I stayed. Open Mon-Fri 11am-11pm, Sat-Sun 1pm-11pm, later for residents. Drinks and snacks are also served on the Caxton terrace (Mon-Fri 11am-10pm, Sat-Sun 1pm-10pm).

BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES There are 15 meeting rooms in total, split across the ground and first floors. The ground-level ballroom and adjoining Cloisters room are rich in Briggs’ original details, with a balcony wrapping around the ballroom. The ballroom/balcony holds 220 people for a banquet or 300 for a reception, and the Cloisters accommodates 160 delegates theatre-style.

The other meeting spaces are upstairs and hold up to 60 in the largest. The Caxton terrace, just off the lobby balcony, looks down on to the front courtyard and can be used for gatherings. A business corner in the lobby has three PCs and a printer for printing boarding passes, with 15 minutes’ free internet access.

LEISURE FACILITIES There is a temporary gym on the first floor until a permanent 1,200 sqm one opens in the new wing. It has Precor equipment and is open 6am-11pm. Maps of the area are available from the concierge.

VERDICT The revamp has transformed St Ermin’s into an impressive, stylish hotel while keeping much of its original character. The staff are welcoming and helpful, the restaurant is excellent and the location is central yet peaceful. Recommended.

FACTFILE

NUMBER OF ROOMS There are 260 at the moment and there will be 331 when complete – 33 Superior Queen, 62 Superior Plus, 52 Deluxe King, 65 Deluxe Double/Double, 47 Executive King, 13 Executive Queen and 18 Executive Queen/Queen rooms, plus 29 King and 12 Deluxe King suites.

ROOM HIGHLIGHTS The homely feel, excellent bed and super rainshower.

PRICE Internet rates for a midweek stay in September started from £237 for a Superior Queen room.

CONTACT St Ermin's Hotel, Caxton Street; tel +44 (0)800 6350 438; sterminshotel.co.uk

Report by Michelle Mannion

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