It’s testament to the reputation of Four Seasons that when it opens a hotel in a city, all other hotel chains start to benchmark themselves against that hotel. The brand already has one property in London – on Park Lane, but this new addition is housed in the City, not a location for many luxury hotels, or even four star ones, at least until recently.
Four Seasons says it is the only luxury property in the City of London, which may annoy new hotels such as the Ned, but of course this is a brand that is unashamedly five-star and yet aims to attract business travellers along with leisure travellers.
The brand used to have a property in Canary Wharf but that association ended in 2016
Business Traveller had a pre-opening tour of the property
and then covered the opening
at the end of January 2017.
First impressions are fairly daunting from the exterior. The hotel occupies the grade II-listed Port of London Authority HQ opposite the Tower of London. Opened in 1922 (architect Edwin Cooper) you can approach it from Tower Hill tube station, walking past the Citizen M – reviewed here.
You can’t miss the building’s grandeur. It is slightly monolithic and memorial, with a façade seemingly constructed from giant blocks of Portland stone. It reminded me of the Freemasons Hall in Covent Garden.
I’ve walked past this building many times over the last 20 years (I get lost easily in the City) and one time I saw craftsmen polishing the steps of this building, which says a lot about the (undisclosed) amount of money that was spent on the restoration and conversion.
If you watch the video (below) you can hear about some of the maritime detailing in the design – it’s 11 minutes long and only scratches the surface of the history of it. I missed out the bits about what they found when they excavated underground. You didn’t come here to hear about Roman cesspits, even if they have interesting artefacts in them.
There are usually several members of staff on the steps or around the entrance, and depending on whether you are travelling light or arriving by chauffeur-driven car, they will help you up the steps and into the lobby of the hotel, where you face a Rotunda and dome which has different lighting schemes at different parts of the day.
Notice the rope theme in the pillars and the maritime brass, as well as the frieze along the walls which is subterranean, but in a good way. The small reception area is to the right – it doesn’t seem to get busy here – the hotel only has 100 rooms, and I suspect some check-ins are done in the rooms as well.
The staff are smartly dressed, but this is clearly all about affordable luxury. As I checked in an American man in his early twenties was checking out, and if he looked like he’d been hanging out in a skate park for most his London visit, so if you have the money, you will be welcome.
There’s a Flickr photo tour if you hover over the next picture. If it’s a blank space, that’s because of software incompatibility, for which I apologise.
The 100 rooms (89 rooms and 11 suites) are on floors one through to three, and range in size and views. The hotel makes up a “block” and has five streets running alongside it (it is an irregular pentagon), so you can come out of the elevator and walk all the way round via the corridor – though note security is good, and you need key cards to access the floors and these corridors. Somewhere in the building are also 41 “private residences” and a private club.
Incidentally, the streets include Pepys Street named after Samuel Pepys. He used to work around here and watched the Great Fire of London start from his office. Reportedly, his first reaction was to get his prized wines and Parmesan cheese and bury them somewhere safe. His second reaction was to put his wife on a boat. Imagine the Daily Mail on that one. (It’s not quite true – one of the first things he did was go and brief the King and take instructions about pulling down houses in the path of the fire to try and provide a firebreak. Claire Tomalin’s biography is excellent.)
Other streets are Muscovy Street, Savage Gardens (I walked along it, it’s not so bad), and the wonderfully-named Seething Lane where Pepys lived which has a Seething Lane Garden from where (soon) you will be able to access the two hotel restaurants directly. They don’t make road names like they used to.
Entry level rooms are Superior – 28-34sqm (12 of these). These have walk in showers, while all other rooms also have baths, though all have lots of pale marble and lovely toiletries by Bottega Veneta. Other room categories are Deluxe 30-45sqm (22 of these), Premier 33-49sqm (21 of these) and Executive 53-67sqm (34 of these).
All the rooms have City (exterior) views apart from the Executive ones, which are onto a central atrium. For me the Executive Room was ideal, since if I wanted the view there was a lovely indoor seating area on the first floor overlooking both the lobby and Trinity Square and I also like internal facing rooms since generally they are quieter. All the rooms have lots of technology, from iPads to control various functions in the room to flat screen TVs, complimentary wifi and tea and coffee making.
Restaurants and bars
The hotel’s signature restaurant is La Dame de Pic by Michelin-starred French chef Anne-Sophie Pic.
I ate in the newer Asian restaurant Mei Ume which has a mixed Japanese and Chinese menu and is a superb space – art deco, like restaurants I have eaten at on the Bund in Shanghai, but with a western-friendly menu and lots of choices, perfect for sharing plates.
The hotel’s bar is in the rotunda, which I was a little doubtful about at first since lobby bars have the dubious distinction of being both anonymous and public at the same time, but this one has excellent and knowledgeable bar men (and probably women), and there are booths where you can almost hide away from guests walking around the rotunda to their rooms, or the restaurants or the spa.
There’s a good list of cocktails – I tried a couple, and had a very interesting conversation about the best type of tonic water and what was special about it. It’s evenings like this that can make travelling on business a little less lonely.
Business and meeting facilities
The hotel’s main meeting space is the UN Ballroom (150 for a banquet) where the inaugural reception of the United Nations General Assembly took place in 1946. It’s a lovely room, restored to former glory, as proven by a painting of that original reception on an easel in the corner. Corinthian columns, walnut panelling and two crystal chandeliers are the setting for a room with views of the Tower of London and Trinity Square Gardens. The hotel has the more modern Merchant’s Hall as well as several smaller function rooms.
The hotel has a very large gym with modern equipment, a fitness studio and an outstanding spa with swimming pool.
It’s been quite a while since I stayed at a Four Seasons, and I had forgotten how good most of them are. The last was the Westcliff in Johannesburg, which although excellent, still reminded me of its previous incarnation (in a good way) and so seemed less a Four Seasons than a wonderfully updated version of the previous hotel I’d stayed in years before (it was an Orient-Express hotel back then).
Before then, I stayed in one in the US which needed a renovation, and then there were many others – some seemingly out of place – The Four Seasons Damascus, for instance, and others – like the Park Lane property, which are excellent.
This stay reminded me of something they were keen to talk about in the last recession – how they were the hotel which gave business travellers “the tools in the box”.
Well, if you have the budget, and the location suits, this has all of that and then some more. It is a simply superb hotel with great facilities, flawless service and a building renovation that the developer / owner can be proud of. In short, it’s a Four Seasons: expensive, but worth it.
- Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square, 10 Trinity Square, London EC3N 4AJ; tel+ Tel. +44 (20) 3297 9200