The opening marks the 13th hotel from Nobu Hospitality, the luxurious brand founded by chef Nobu Matsuhisa, actor Robert De Niro and director Meir Teper, and the third collaboration with L+R Hotels. Previously the Radisson Blu Portman Hotel, the building underwent a refurbishment and reopened as the new lifestyle hotel in May following a soft launch in December 2020.
The group has a second hotel in London’s Shoreditch (which is temporarily closed) and last year opened hotels in Chicago and Warsaw. It plans to add another seven in destinations including Hamburg, Marrakech and Tel Aviv.
What’s it like?
The new glass façade on Upper Berkeley Street is an impressive contemporary redesign of the first two floors of the existing building which has two less attractive towers jutting out above.
The expansive hotel houses 249 luxurious rooms and suites, and has a beautiful open-plan lobby with double-height ceilings, a mezzanine with events spaces, and natural light flooding in through floor-to-ceiling windows – an architectural feat that shines onto the street as night falls. The public spaces have been designed by David Collins Studio and are inspired by craftsmanship.
A kinetic chandelier-style sculpture by British artist Ivan Black, for instance, stretches 16 feet from the ceiling, with rotating fins suspended above a centrepiece of green glass vases sprouting fuchsia-coloured stems and delicate orchids.
The hotel’s décor relies on a beautifully curated selection of handcrafted artworks, with plenty of gold leaf and soothing brushstrokes. An intricate piece on the left-hand wall made up of burnt Japanese silk paper recalls the motion of a typhoon.
The lobby opens onto the hotel’s lounge on the right-hand side, which features lower ceilings, furnishings in burgundy and green, and a sultry art-deco bar clad in black and gold geometric lines. It’s a great space for business meetings, classy cocktails, and some lighter food. Two dark doors at the end of the room take you to the sexy bar area and the buzzy restaurant upstairs (more on this later), which have a separate entrance on Upper Berkeley Street.
Along the left-hand side of the building is an experiential gallery space entitled ‘The White Box’, which is used for artist residencies. Prior to my stay, Rod McIntosh – whose artworks are displayed throughout the hotel – held the exhibition ‘When The Ink Clears’. Guests could chat with him while he worked, and passers-by could peep in through the floor-to-ceiling glass windows. The space will be used for workshops and experiences, with the hotel keen to partner with local galleries and independent businesses.
Check in was easy, and Anna at reception introduced me to the friendly service emblematic of the hotel.
Where is it?
On the corner of Portman Square in Marylebone, near Marble Arch Underground station, and within walking distance of London’s famous shopping areas, Oxford Street and Regent Street.
Rooms come in seven categories and start at 18 sqm, many of which have balconies. All feature the same sleek minimalist design by Make Architects which includes subtle tones, soft wooden furnishings with matching sliding doors, and calming original prints. Black metal detailing pays homage to the wrought-iron gates of neighbouring Portman Square, while Japanese touches include lantern-style lights, bonsai trees and traditional tea sets.
High-tech lighting panels in each room are easy to use and create a nice ambience, with different options for day, evening and night, plus the option to turn all the lights off. There’s also a button for housekeeping, or alternatively ‘do not disturb’.
The minibars have an interesting selection of products which include a phone charger, an ‘antibacterial protection’ collection and emergency essentials, plus plant-based products for “the knackered”, “dreaming” and the “mini rehab”. F&B products include Cartwright and Butler crackers, popcorn from Propercorn, Double Dutch mixers, and ready-made Moth cocktails.
The entry-level Superior Room features a king-sized bed, while all other categories boast an emperor bed. Amenities include a Nespresso machine, minibar, safe, high-speed wifi and 24-hour gym access. Bathrooms combine marble and wooden fixtures and feature Toto toilets, large bottles of gorgeous Grown Alchemist toiletries, plush robes and various kits (including a dental and nail one).
I stayed in a spacious one-bedroom suite, which featured two vast 65-inch TVs, two sumptuous bathrooms (one with a bathtub including a bamboo bath tray, and the other with a large walk-in shower), a Queen-sized sofa bed, and kimono-style Yukata robes. I felt very at ease in my room, which also made for a lovely working environment, with a lengthy built-in wooden desk beneath the cinema-style TV which had useful USB and plug sockets.
The rooms are beautifully decorated, with a simple design that exudes tranquillity. Lantern-style lights complement the chestnut-coloured brushstroke prints on either side of the bed, while the sensor light below the two wooden bedside tables is also a nice touch.
Food and drink
Nobu is first and foremost renowned for its cuisine, with over 45 restaurants dotted across six continents. Marylebone is the brand-new home to the former Nobu Berkeley Street restaurant, which operated for 15 years.
The ground-floor bar has a deep blue colour scheme, with dark wood and little natural light, giving it a moody nightclub feel (there’s a DJ box, after all). It’s here that you’ll spot the A-listers, though it might be tricky without night-vision goggles. A year-round terrace had been transformed into a Japanese Gin Garden in partnership with Roku Gin during my visit in July, with cherry blossoms and bonsai trees.
Upstairs lies the lengthy restaurant area, which resembles an upmarket canteen-like space that comes alive in the evenings, with an open kitchen, sushi counter and brilliant acoustics.
We opted for the Omakase dinner, a surprise seven-course tasting menu and some inventive cocktails – an American Breakfast (Suntory Toki Whiskey with maple syrup, apricot puree, citrus and yuzu bitter) and a Yamato Champagne Cocktail (Suntory Haku vodka, thyme syrup, lemon juice, bitter, Lillet Blanc, Veuve Clicquot champagne).
Highlights included the delicate black miso cod and the chocolate fondant with green tea ice cream, which was presented in a bento box.
The lounge by the lobby also serves lighter fare such as California-style salads, and an à la carte breakfast, which features classic options as well as the more interesting crab yuzu benedict.
The hotel has two boardrooms, and a 600-person ballroom on the first floor with an adjoining reception area which overlooks the lobby.
There’s a huge 140 sqm gym and wellness area with three treatment rooms. A shop sells high-end sports gear such as Stella McCartney pieces, plus there’s a grab-and-go café with healthy options.
The main attraction, however, is the world’s first Nobu Pilates Reformer studio which holds classes that blend classical Pilates with high-intensity training and state-of-the-art equipment.
The sophisticated hotel offers a wonderful combination of in-room serenity and lively energy at its glamorous bar and restaurant outlets, which are already a hotspot in the capital. Staff are excellent, the location is well-connected, and brilliant facilities include vast wellness areas and events spaces.
The melt-in-your-mouth black miso cod at Nobu Restaurant
A dynamic Pilates class to refresh
Internet rates for a flexible midweek stay in November started from £329 for a Superior Room
22 Portman Square, London; (0)20 3988 5888; london-portman.nobuhotels.com