BACKGROUND Starwood opened the 40th of its trendy W hotels in Leicester Square on Valentine’s Day. It aims to reach the 50 mark by the end of 2012, with properties due to open in Paris, Milan, Singapore and Bangkok next year.
WHAT’S IT LIKE? The curved ten-storey building is swathed in a glass “veil” dotted with tiny lights, with the entrance, marked by a huge W, on Wardour Street. Inside is a dark-walled entrance area – “welcome ambassadors” should be there to take you to the lobby on the first floor, but there was no one around when I visited so I had to work out where to go. Coming out of the lift, you are greeted by a huge glitterball display (a recurring theme) that leads around to the lounge and bar. The concierge desk is ahead and there are three semi-circular reception desks to the right, next to which is a clothing and accessories store.
The design is young and fun, aiming to reflect “the duality of British culture” – buttoned up versus buttoned down. As such, the lounge features interlinked sofas dressed with tartan, tweed and pin-striped cushions, and a floor-to-ceiling shelf unit in the shape of a Union Jack, upon which is displayed plates depicting impossibly attractive models in racy attire, along with lifestyle books and games. Next to it, the bar has a black wrap-around Chesterfield sofa, a parquet floor and open fires inside glass cylinders.
WHERE IS IT? On the north-west corner of Leicester Square. This may not be the most salubrious part of London, but it is being re-landscaped and there’s no doubt this is a prime spot in the heart of the West End. Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus tube stations offer links to Heathrow and mainline stations.
ROOM FACILITIES The 192 rooms come in several categories. The entry-level one is Wonderful, followed by Spectacular and Fabulous. These are all 26 sqm and differentiated by view, which ranges from Soho to Chinatown and Leicester Square. (Higher up the building, you get some great views of the skyline.) They are modern and funky with a white, red, gold, silver and black colour scheme, a cushion instructing you to “Keep your Wig On”, and more of the plates from the lobby.
They are cleverly designed to make best use of the space, most notably by eschewing a traditional bathroom for two mirrored closets holding the toilet and a superb rainshower. In the centre of the room is a long white bar with a sink at one end and workspace at the other, with international plug sockets and a media hub for linking your gadgets to the 37-inch flatscreen TV. Innovative this may be, but bear in mind the loss of privacy if you are staying with someone else. Also, the seat for working is at bar level, which may not be too ergonomic after a while.
Standard facilities include comfy beds with 350-thread-count sheets, minibar, iPod dock, robe and slippers, safe, iron and ironing board, free sparkling water, Bliss toiletries, turndown service, 24-hour room service and wifi (£16 per 24 hours or free for Starwood Preferred Guest members; it is also free in the lounge). The air conditioning was quiet and I couldn’t hear much noise from the square from my third-floor Fabulous room, but unfortunately the music in the bar downstairs on this Saturday night was more than audible.
Suites (from 38 sqm) have a separate bathroom, most with large tubs, and a living area with a table for working at.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS W lounge and bar is relaxed by day and buzzing at night – open until 2am, it attracts a dressy crowd on the weekend. It also serves food. Leading off from here is the glamorous, 70-capacity Wyld bar – access is by guest list only with a minimum spend of £500 for up to six people. It’s open 9pm-2am Sun-Wed, 9pm-4am Thurs-Sat.
On the ground floor is Spice Market – under the leadership of Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and open all day until 11pm (11.30pm Thurs-Sat), it’s a lively spot across two levels with black, red and gold décor. The cuisine is Asian fusion and the philosophy is to share, so dishes are placed in the middle of the table. I had a delicious meal. A good breakfast is also served here.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES On the second floor are two meeting rooms that can be joined together to hold 60 people for a reception, and a 24-hour business centre with two computers. There is also a 39-seat screening room off the lounge.
LEISURE FACILITIES On the sixth floor is a good-sized 24-hour fitness centre with Technogym equipment, and a spa with five treatment rooms, a sauna and steam room.
VERDICT A welcome high-end addition to the London hotel scene and Leicester Square in particular. The look is funky, the rooms are innovatively designed – though the lack of a traditional bathroom in the lower categories might not be to everyone’s tastes – and the restaurant is impressive.
HOW MANY ROOMS? There are 192 – 59 Wonderful, 59 Spectacular, 46 Fabulous and seven Cool Corner rooms, seven Studio, five Fantastic, two Marvellous, three Spa and three Wow suites, and one Extreme Wow suite.
ROOM HIGHLIGHTS The excellent shower, great bed and funky look.
PRICE Internet rates for a midweek stay in June started from £431 for a Wonderful room.
CONTACT W London Leicester Square, 10 Wardour Street; tel +44 (0)20 7758 1000; wlondon.co.uk