Tried & Tested

Hotel check: The Montcalm, London

16 Mar 2010 by BusinessTraveller

What’s it like? Previously owned by Nikko Hotels (part of the JAL Group), the Montcalm was acquired by Shaftesbury Hotels in 2008 and reopened in September last year following a £38 million refurbishment programme. The property is named after the 18th century French commander Marquis de Montcalm who was defeated and killed by the British at the Battle of Quebec – more information on this can be read here.

A large part of the crescent-shaped building was converted into a hotel in the early 1970s, retaining its Georgian façade, and the recent refurbishment has created an elegant lobby with cream and turquoise seating, huge flower displays and a triangular chandelier beneath the entrance to Vetro restaurant. When I arrived, there were two members of staff on the door, and a further three at the check-in desk, where I was seen immediately.

Where is it? In a crescent set back from Great Cumberland Place, a couple of minutes’ walk north of Marble Arch underground station and the top of Park Lane.

Room facilities The hotel’s standard Montcalm rooms start from 20 sqm, with Portman rooms at 25 sqm. Aside from the size, these rooms feature the same amenties, including 37-inch high-definition LCD TVs, free wifi, iPod docking stations, digital music libraries, safes, work desks, minibars, air-conditioning, combined baths and rain showers, Elemis toiletries, bright yellow bathrobes, and TVs in the bathrooms. Marble Arch Club rooms start from 28 sqm, and feature upgraded Acqua di Parma toiletres and access to the Club lounge (see below).

I was staying in one of five Park Lane suites (there are seven suite categories) looking out from the front of the hotel, with extra features including a separate living area (effectively an adjoining room) with a sofa, coffee table, TV and guest toilet/shower room. These and other suites also feature a glass-walled bathroom, allowing light to flood into the space (and enabling guests to watch the bedroom TV from the bath), although an electronic blind can be used for privacy.

The combined bath and shower offered a bewildering array of different settings, from monsoon to waterfall, and it took several attempts of soaking myself before I worked out which knobs operated what. Confusion continued over at the basin, where there seemed to be no obvious direction as to which way to turn the tap to obtain hot or cold water. However, having made a guess and turned it on, I soon realised that it had an ingenious (if somewhat indulgent) lighting system, that glowed blue when the water was running cold, through to purple for warm water and bright red when hot.

The beds at the Montcalm are provided by Hypnos, a company with a royal warrant from the Queen, and proclaiming its products “the most comfortable in the world”, with Lansdowne mattresses containing “body-moulding memory foam”. They are certainly very comfortable, although I thought it a little odd that having gone to all this trouble (and no doubt considerable expense) to purchase such high quality bedding, my king-size bed should actually be two twins pushed together, which meant that you had to sleep on one side or the other to avoid the join in the middle.

Marble Arch Club rooms and suites also have access to the sixth floor lounge, accessible 24 hours a day by keycard, and featuring business facilities, a selection of newspapers and boardgames, and a large flatscreen TV that was showing BBC News 24 (muted) when I was in there. At the far end there is a self-service food and beverage area, with snacks and canapes, free tea and coffee, and alcoholic drinks in a fridge operating on a honesty paid basis. A complimentary continental breakfast is also served here.

Restaurants and bars Vetro restaurant is located off the lobby, and serves modern Italian cuisine for lunch and dinner, as well as English and Japanese breakfast choices (a nod to the considerable proportion of Japanese guests still frequenting the hotel since its purchase from Nikko Hotels). There are large oval skylights in the ceiling and, slightly incongruously given the Italian theme, a huge print of a public garden in Barcelona covering most of the back wall.

The space is bright, if a little breezy, and I felt it needed a few booths as the open-plan layout is not really conducive to intimate dining. Having said that, the food was superb – my main course of slow-cooked lamb (£15.75) was served in a heavy earthenware pot with steamed dumplings and baby carrots, and fell off the bone as it was put on the plate. The starter was also delicious – sautéed scallops, cauliflower purée, courgette flowers and anchovies (£16.75), with other choices including goat’s cheese and red pepper tart with red onion marmalade (£9.25), and cured horse bresaola with mixed pickles (£13.50). Desserts included the intriguing, if not totally satisfying, Tiramisu “fai da te” (“made by you”), a deconstructed version of the classic dish, with three bowls containing Amaretti biscuits, cream and coffee for the diner to combine as desired.

Barre Noire has its own entrance on to the street, and offers an extensive list of whiskies, while the lobby serves afternoon tea, including a Chocolate Indulgence choice (£23.50). Next to the bar there is an unused space, with plans to convert it into a fine-dining restaurant, due to open in May. As yet there are no details as to the restaurant’s cuisine, but Business Traveller will update this page when further information is available.

Business and meeting facilities There is a meeting room on the lower ground floor, with a capacity for up to 30 delegates boardroom-style, along with a private dining area with space for up to eight guests.

Leisure facilities The hotel’s spa is located on the basement level, and is accessible by the main lifts, so there’s no need to walk through reception in those aforementioned yellow bathrobes. There are four treatment rooms, offering Li’tya experiences “inspired by ancient Australian indigenous healing modalities”, as well as Carita facials, and treatments specifically designed for male travellers.

Guests in Club rooms and suites receive a free 20-minute treatment. Spa facilities (open from 7am to 11pm) include a modest swimming pool with a very powerful, self-activated whirlpool function, a spa bath, sauna, steam room, monsoon shower, heated stone loungers, and a small gym with Precor equipment.

Verdict A tranquil, elegant hotel with good in-room and spa facilities, and well located for central London excursions.

Fact file

How many rooms? There are 143, of which 60 are Montcalm doubles,  42 are Portman doubles, 25 are Club rooms and 16 are suites.

Room highlights The light-filled bathroom with the choice of shower settings and novel taps.

Price Internet rates for a midweek stay in mid April started from £210 a night for a Montcalm room, and from £507 per night for a Park Lane suite.

Contact The Montcalm London, 34-40 Great Cumberland Place, Marble Arch, London; tel +44 (0)20 7958 3200; montcalm.co.uk

Mark Caswell

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