This property is the first of Hyatt’s Unbound Collection in the UK, and opened in December 2019. It was the sixth property in Europe joining the Hôtel Martinez in Cannes, Nish Palas in Istanbul, Hotel Sofia Barcelona, Hôtel du Louvre in Paris and Párisi Udvar Hotel Budapest.
What’s it like?
A five-star small sized hotel in central London, though hiding behind an attractive, but not outstanding façade of Edwardian red brick and Portland stone, the history of the building, both police and army, has been used to create a whole design theme (by design agency HBA).
Tourists will find it very interesting, as perhaps might others, though much of the detailing I think will probably either go unnoticed, or just simply baffle guests. The building is on the site of the former headquarters of the London Metropolitan Police force, and so there are references to everyone from Sherlock Holmes to the Kray Twins, though the police force moved out in 1890.
In 1910 the building was taken over as the British Army Recruitment Office and Royal Military Police headquarters and latterly it was an office used by the Ministry of Defence until 2013.
As you enter off the street look up and you’ll see a sculpture of a deconstructed clock with the time stopped at 6 o’clock, which apparently is the time that Lewis Carroll was interviewed at this location as a suspect in the Jack the Ripper Case. You descend some stairs but there is no sign of reception. Instead there are some comfy sofas and a large artwork by Nicola Green with lots of portraits of silhouettes of people’s whose lives have been touched by or passed through the British criminal justice system.
You could spend a lot of time looking at all the art which has been put together by Sarah Percy-Davis of the Hollandridge Group. There are over 600 pieces from 28 artists including Nicola Green and British Contemporary artists, Cornelia Parker, Alastair Mackie, Ann Carrington, Marcus Hodge and Piers Bourke.
The lobby also has glass cabinets with a police helmet, a collection of police whistles and an old-style truncheon, as well as barrister’s wig and mug shots of criminals from yesteryear. It’s interesting, in a bizarre sort of way, and reminded me of another new London hotel, The Dixon, which I stayed at earlier in the year. That was a former Magistrates Court and had similar references in its design.
Assuming you haven’t got distracted by all of this art, when you descend the short flight of stairs into the lobby, turn right and you’ll find the reception desk. Even here there is a lovely piece of art – The Inquiry by Ann Carrington.
Check-in is done at one of two desks which have been designed to look as though they are resting on suitcases, and while you are sitting in armchairs you are offered a glass of alcoholic punch – very civilised, though a little early for me since it was only late afternoon.
As you go up to your room check out the Basset Hound mouldings on the handrails and the corridors where a Brazilian artist has created a take on how the UK is perceived from abroad – tea drinking and a Chelsea Pensioner on a moped.
Where is it?
Just off Whitehall, about a ten-minute walk from Covent Garden, steps away from Parliament and Covent Garden and two minutes from Trafalgar Square. The Civil Service Club is almost next door. Charing Cross underground is close, as is Embankment or, a bit further walk, Leicester Square tube on the Piccadilly Line.
The 152 rooms are on five floors, with over a dozen room categories, all gathered around a courtyard with rooms having a variety of views. The central location means few of them are large and there are some varying room layouts. The entry level King rooms are 16 sqm and have good quality furnishings and quirky design including doors with the Metropolitan Police crest on them (it’s in the same colour as the doors, so it is not obtrusive).
Once inside there’s a neutral colour palette and natural lighting with blue veneered nightstands which is another reference to the police. Some rooms have a bottle opener attached to the wall in the shape of a moustache and the wardrobes in our twin room (18 sqm) had an art deco style mirror on the front of the larger one and then a smaller wardrobe concealed behind book-cladded doors. Between these was an area for putting our bags and a further rail for hanging clothes.
The minibar, tea and coffee making devices (Nespresso) were on an attractive piece of furniture beneath a flat screen TV which was recessed into the wall, almost as though it was a picture.
Bathrooms are also traditional in style with art deco detailing, but also with a modern Toto toilet and amenities from The Scottish Fine Soaps company. At the time of our stay in December 2019 not all of the rooms were open. In addition, next door to the hotel there is a complete Georgian Townhouse – No1 Great Scotland Yard Townhouse- which is a standalone two-bedroom property with five stories which will be available for rent.
Food and drink
For a relatively small hotel, there’s a wide choice. First up is the tea lounge called Parlour, which is Indian-inspired both in terms of its colonial-era décor with green baize leather doors and menu with spicy chai blends and tea-inspired cocktails. This is an afternoon venue, and so was closing as we made our way back down from the room, but it didn’t matter, because the bar was open.
This is called 40 Elephants, which is named after a female gang of the 19th century and has lots of references to this, from high tables with glass tops containing ‘evidence’ from their robberies and a very impressive chandelier including both broken glass and precious gem stones.
The cocktail menu has been inspired by “Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks” by William Terrington, believed to be the oldest book on British cocktails and dating back to 1869. As a result, head barman Michal has created a selection of cocktails where wines, fortified wines and beers are used as well as spirits in the drinks. There are also low or non-alcoholic options with intense and complex flavours, alongside several chilled seasonal punches ‘inspired by English hedgerows’.
If this all sounds a little much, I should add that it is a lovely room, with comfortable banquette seating, great service, and I would quite happily have spent several hours in there had we not been determined to have a meal rather than several cocktails and some bar snacks.
The main restaurant is The Yard, under Robin Gill, which is where breakfast, lunch and dinner are served. It offers modern British cuisine with an open kitchen and is of a superb standard, with prices to match. The service is exemplary, very impressive when they have to wear some very bizarre clothing – like they have just wandered out of a 19th century dairy, with the addition of knuckledusters hanging from their belts.
I was on a periodic health drive and so has the vegetarian menu, which was delicious, with a starter of winter vegetable salad, Nashi pear and chestnut (£14) followed by a roast cauliflower, gremolata and smoked potato main course (£24). Desserts are affordable to tempt you into splashing out. Keeping with the vegetarian theme I had Coconut tapioca pudding with an exotic fruit compote (£7).
Lastly there is the speakeasy style whisky bar called Sibin, which is hidden behind panelling just off the main corridor, but which can be accessed by pressing a button to make the door swing open to reveal a bar and comfortable seating. It has a choice of around 170 whiskies including many rarities from around the world, but it’s a very approachable list, again, mainly because of the friendly staff.
In the hotel’s basement is a well-equipped fitness centre with machines and free weights.
The hotel’s lower level has an area called Grace and Favour, which was going to be a private member’s club but now will be used for meetings.
This is a superb five-star luxury hotel close to both Westminster and Covent Garden, with attentive service and a lovely choice of bars and a must-visit restaurant.
- Best for the hidden location – central but off the main roads and so quiet and like a secret find among London hotels
- Don’t miss a drink at one (or both) of the bars, and a meal at The Yard.
- Contact 3-5 Great Scotland Yard, London. +44 (0) 207 9254 700; hyatt.com