Tried & Tested

Hotel check: The Corinthia

30 Jan 2013 by Tom Otley

BACKGROUND The Corinthia opened in 2011 in a Whitehall building that was the Hôtel Métropole for many years before becoming offices for the Ministry of Defence. The Corinthia Hotels Group – founded by the Pisani family of Malta in the 1960s and with other properties in Budapest, Prague, St Petersburg and Lisbon – spent more than £300 million on renovating it.

WHAT’S IT LIKE? Approach from the Thames and this triangular wedge of a building looks more like a Parisian apartment block or even an office building than a hotel dating from 1885. Step inside, however, from either the entrance on Northumberland Avenue or from Whitehall Place into the reception lobby, and you’ll be under no illusion that it is a five-star luxury property.

Modern artworks, along with grand Calacatta marble columns and flooring, create a lavish air. The overall design incorporates oak timbers, leathers and silks but it’s the art that attracts attention. There are huge Thames motifs by Based Upon, a London art group, etched into the reception desk and hanging on the facing wall. A large “full moon” chandelier by Chafik Gasmi – made of 1,000 Baccarat crystal globes – hangs at the centre, and works by British artists such as Claire Brewster, Alan Macdonald and Marcus James, are dotted about the space.

WHERE IS IT? On Whitehall Place, a minute’s walk from Trafalgar Square. You’ll probably come in via the Northumberland Avenue entrance if you arrive by Tube or from Charing Cross station.

ROOM FACILITIES The 294 rooms and suites are on the mezzanine level up to floor seven, where five of the seven penthouse suites are located. The rooms are gathered around an internal courtyard, and, for light sleepers, 123 rooms in total are courtyard-facing. The second is the smoking floor and contains 46 rooms. Outward-facing rooms look on to either Northumberland Avenue or Whitehall Place. These aren’t particularly busy roads but there is some traffic noise, as you would expect in central London.

Entry-level Superior rooms are 30-32 sqm and have free wifi, Loewe LED TVs, Nespresso machines, tea facilities and marble bathrooms with separate rainshowers, large tubs with in-built TVs and Espa toiletries. The rooms are lovely – unfussy yet elegant – though despite the control pad for the lighting being next to the bed, I found it difficult to get all the lights turned off in the evening (the wardrobe one remained on) and, in the morning, I couldn’t turn them all on for packing and dressing.

RESTAURANTS AND BARS There are two main eateries. Massimo restaurant and oyster bar serves Mediterranean cuisine, and I ate one of the best Italian meals I have had in London here. It has a superb range of fish, including some Mediterranean crudo starters of sea scallops, roast lime and vanilla sea salt (£10) or Sicilian red prawns with spicy citrus dressing (£10).

Breakfast is in the Northall, which faces the river with tall windows for the morning light – the buffet was large with an impressive choice of fresh fruit, but at £30 for this plus a discretionary 12.5 per cent service charge added automatically, with another gap left for a gratuity, it doesn’t come cheap. As with Massimo, Bassoon bar has been designed by David Collins, with the bar formed of a seven metre-long grand piano.

BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES On the mezzanine floor is a business centre with six computers and printing facilities, as well as six meeting rooms. The ballroom has Belle Epoque columns and natural light, and seats 180 people for dinner.

LEISURE FACILITIES The hotel has a four-floor, 3,300 sqm spa by Espa spanning the mezzanine, ground floor and two underground levels, including a bottom level with thermal pools, a steam room, sauna and pool. It’s a fabulous area where you could lose yourself for many hours. There is also a Daniel Galvin hair salon and an “ultimate make-over room”.

VERDICT Truly superb, vertiginously expensive, but with the kind of décor, service and facilities – including an outstanding spa and two great restaurants – that justify the prices.

Fact file

  • HOW MANY ROOMS? 294 – 57 Superior, 71 Deluxe and 123 Executive rooms, and 20 Deluxe Junior, four Whitehall, six Trafalgar, six River and seven Penthouse suites.
  • HIGHLIGHTS The TVs above the baths, free wifi, Nespresso makers, and the fabulous Massimo restaurant.
  • PRICE Internet rates for a flexible midweek stay in March started from £588 for a Superior room.
  • CONTACT Whitehall Place; tel +44 (0)20 7930 8181; corinthia.com

Tom Otley

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