Tried & Tested

Hotel review: Prince Akatoki, London

28 Dec 2019 by Jenni Reid
Prince Akatoki

Background

These seven adjoining Georgian townhouses near Marble Arch originally opened as the Arch London in 2010. The five-star hotel was family-owned and quintessentially British.

In November 2018, it was announced that the Arch would be taken over by Japan’s Prince Hotels and Resorts and converted to the group’s new luxury brand following a complete refurbishment. It reopened as The Prince Akatoki London in September 2019 and is a member of Small Luxury Hotels.

Where is it?

Near Marble Arch on Great Cumberland Place, a relatively calm street for such a busy part of London. The area is all cobbled mews, neat grassy squares and rows of eye-wateringly expensive townhouses. Oxford Street and Hyde Park are both within walking distance.

Prince Akatoki lobby

What’s it like?

The hotel promises to provide a “sense of calm and ease” from the moment you arrive. Bursting into the lobby on a cold, rainy December night, I was met by a flickering gas fire, a subtle eucalyptus scent and smiling staff, who quickly handed me a glass of hot sparkling sake.

While the layout of the Arch has been largely retained, it’s safe to say the property has been transformed. The Japanese influence makes an instant impression. I thought the blonde wood reception desks, wooden lamps, warm lighting dappled around the walls and floors, grey vases with simple branch decorations and wooden screens looked lovely.

Prince Akatoki lobby

I drank my sake and connected to the free wifi in a little area to the side of the main reception called the Sanctuary. My main thought was of the impressive juxtaposition between the grand Georgian architecture outside and the minimalism inside.

Prince Akatoki lobby

The reception is not huge but the space is used cleverly. On one side of the front door is the Sanctuary; on the other is a desk space with plugs. Restaurant Tokii is visible through shaded glass panels towards the back.

Prince Akatoki lobby

Rooms

There are 82 rooms divided into Superior (21 sqm with a queen-sized bed), Deluxe (23 sqm with a queen), Executive (29 sqm with a king, fits three people), Executive Junior Suite (36 sqm, fits four), Studio Suite (44 sqm, fits four) and a One Bedroom Suite (47 sqm, fits four).

All rooms have the same amenities: Nespresso machines; Japanese teapots with mugs and fresh chamomile; safes; ironing boards; robes and slippers; desks; bluetooth speakers/alarms; phones; TVs. The higher floors have a nice view of the surrounding rooftops and even the smallest rooms don’t feel cramped. Rooms also come with a yoga mat.

You can scroll through the album below to see the different types:

Prince Akatoki, London

I said “wow” out loud when I walked into my Studio Suite, always a good sign. It was partly because I didn’t expect there to be so much space since we were on the lower-ground floor, and I hadn’t realised how far the connecting townhouses extended.

It was also because I was such a fan of the design. When I gave some thought to how they create that minimalist feel (pondering how I might emulate it in my own home), it occurred to me that everything’s there that you would normally find in a hotel room.

Prince Akatoki

But it feels different in subtle ways – the clean lines of the pieces of furniture, all of which are slightly raised up from the floor and some of which look as Scandinavian as they do Japanese; the floating side tables with a pink box for the TV remote (apparently this would never be on show in a Japanese home); one simple piece of art subtly referencing Mount Fuji above the headboard; the soft lighting that makes the whole room almost glow; the light wooden floor with one soft grey rug.

Prince Akatoki

The four suites are called Dusk, Dawn, Sunset and Sunrise, the latter of which I stayed in. The basement also contains the Sunset suite, a meeting room and a gym.

I say basement, which makes it sound dingy, but it was anything but. The corridors feel cosy and continue the Japanese theme, featuring grey carpet with a subtle blossom pattern and two-tone grey and taupe walls.

The suites actually have large glass sliding doors along one side. These face a wall but have a long, narrow patio area with a couple of chairs and overhead heaters.

Prince Akatoki

The room has a huge flat-screen television and extensive channels, including Middle Eastern and Asian networks. It’s angled towards the sofa rather than the bed (perhaps this is another Japanese rule of thumb) but we carefully rotated the big glass panel on which it sits.

The minibar was stocked with a chocolate bar, milk, water, coke, juice, Champagne and a Chianti. Soft drinks are free.

Prince Akatoki TV

There was also a small table and desk next to a mirror with a USB charging point, UK/international plugs and an ethernet port.

Prince Akatoki

The studio has a small kitchenette with a second fridge, two hobs, the coffee machine, a microwave and a sink. This has doors so you can shut it off from the main room.

Prince Akatoki kitchen

The bathrooms were one of the only spaces not to get a refurb, meaning they are the only space that doesn’t quite fit the overall theme. However, as they are still very nice and fit for purpose, I understand the decision.

Bigger rooms have double sinks, bidets and baths. The bath had a TV plus a little pillow you can stick onto the side, which I made use of. The shower was excellent, and toiletries were by Malin and Goetz.

Prince Akatoki bathroom

A turndown service was performed at around 1830. The bed was remade, two cans of water were put by the bed and two yukata robes were laid out.

In the bathroom there was also the most comfortable hotel robe I’ve ever worn, with a wonderfully soft lining.

Prince Akatoki

Food and drink

The two options are Tokii, a Japanese restaurant, and The Malt, a Japanese-style bar.

I had an excellent meal at Tokii. It’s trendy and upmarket, but neither quality is overbearing. The menu was new that day, so staff were still navigating it themselves. Disappointingly, they had run out of the wagyu beef with spicy ponzu and truffle fries, but we made do.

The plate of five sashimi (£17) was fresh and delicious, and the small dishes we tried – crispy quail eggs with mustard mayo (£4), ox cheek croquettes (£9) and tofu tempura (£8) – were all decadent and flavoursome.

Prince Akatoki meal

I also tried the black miso-glazed cod (£20), which fell apart beautifully.

The restaurant shares a drink menu with The Malt, so the drinks menu is extensive. Seriously extensive. One bottle of whiskey (the 1984 Karuizawa sherry cask) will set you back £7,400. There are dozens more Japanese whiskeys on offer, as well as scotch, gin, tequila, mezcal, vodka, cachaça, cognac, rum, champagne and, of course, sake.

The wine list is smaller, but I had a very nice glass of Sancerre (£18) with dinner. There are also some creative Asian-themed cocktails. After dinner we headed to The Malt, which has a chilled atmosphere.

I had a Pagoda Sour (£14) with shiso-infused vodka, red Thai syrup, apricot jam, yuzushu and egg white. This was served in a little miso soup bowl with a lid and had a huge branded ice cube in it. I enjoyed it, but was envious of my companion’s Akatoki Highball with akashi blend whiskey, fig liquor, salted caramel syrup and ginger ale.

Drinks in the Malt

The breakfast spread was excellent. A buffet included smoked salmon, fresh pastries, fruit, sourdough bread and a large honeycomb. The menu offers coffees/teas, juices, smoothies and egg dishes.

I went for the Akatoki breakfast (£26) which was very tasty and made a nice change – egg tofu, miso soup, rice, steamed veg and grilled salmon.

Prince-Akatoki-breakfast

Leisure

There is a gym in on the lower ground floor. It is not huge but it is well equipped, with lots of towels, some fresh fruit and refrigerated drinks as well as various cardio and weight machines.

Business

Wifi is free and fast throughout the property, and there is the desk space in reception previously mentioned. There is a meeting room on the lower-ground floor which despite being windowless is a fairly pleasant space. This hasn’t yet been refurbished so is more of a standard hotel meeting room than a zen Japanese-inspired space.

Verdict

This was a popular hotel over the last decade in its incarnation as the Arch, but previous guests will find something totally new to enjoy. The interior refurbishment by Prince Hotels is gorgeous and the restaurant and bar are excellent.

It would be suitable for business thanks to the great central location, good wifi and work spaces. But extra touches made my stay feel like a special occasion – the delicious sake on arrival, changing into my yukata after a bath, and being sent on my way with a scented flannel and smoothie.

Fact box

  • Best for A taste of Japan in the centre of London
  • Don’t miss An arrival sake, wearing two types of robe, dinner at Tokii…
  • Price A room in January starts from £242 a night; Studios from £318
  • Contact  +44 (0)207 724 4700; 50 Great Cumberland Place, Marble Arch, London, W1H 7FD; [email protected]
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