The first Raffles hotel in London, owned by the Hinduja Group and operated by Accor, opened in September (2023). It is housed in a legendary Edwardian Baroque-style building, the OWO, and the guest experience is built around its exceptional history.
The Grade II listed Old War Office was built for The British Army in 1906, based on the site of the original Palace of Whitehall, home to monarchs between 1530 and 1698. It has witnessed world-shaping events and been the office of political and military leaders including Sir Winston Churchill. The inception of MI5 and MI6 took place in this building, inspiring Ian Fleming to write the Bond series. It was subsequently used as a film location for multiple Bond films, from 1983’s Octopussy to Spectre in 2015.
Where is it?
On Whitehall, central London, an area synonymous with British politics. It faces Horse Guards and the official gates to Buckingham Palace and is steps away from 10 Downing Street. The city’s major highlights are all close by.
What's it like?
Exquisite, breathtaking and, quintessentially Raffles, an achievement that should not be taken lightly. Echoing the sentiments of Raffles & Orient Express CEO Omer Acar, this “monumental project” marks an “important moment in the history of the Raffles brand”, because no other Raffles in the world comes as close to emulating the Singapore original in terms of its elegant sense of place and history.
This is confirmed as you enter, with the Grand Staircase featuring a dazzling Murano glass chandelier illuminating the mosaic-tiled floors and oak-panelled walls. The old war office’s features have been preserved during a meticulous eight-year restoration project and the Raffles brand essence – timeless luxury, glamour, and a storied destination reign supreme – oozes from every pore and mega wide corridor.
There are 120 rooms including 39 suites, one featuring the largest hotel bathroom in London and another originally the army council room of Winston Churchill. There are eight Corner Suites dedicated to notable women and female spies and we stayed in one of them – The Nearne Suite, named after sisters and secret agents Jacqueline and Eileen Nearne.
After checking in, our personal butler showed us to our suite and explained the history and features, including the in-room iPad, which controlled everything, from lighting and curtains to TV settings, as well as butler communications – and it all worked. When I messaged the butler, the response was instant, upholding Raffles’ legendary service.
From carpets to carpentry, the suite gave a nod to English Art Deco traditions, with regal red and subtle cream tones and subtle geometric shapes throughout. Breathtaking and elegant, this suite featured an entrance hallway with seating and adjoining guest bathroom, a large lounge with dining table and chairs for six, a three-seater sofa and a chaise lounge overlooking Whitehall. In the bedroom, a beautiful ceiling skylight and light feature illuminated a bed designed to be homely, rather than hotel-ish!
A walk-in shower, large bath and double sink unit, quality amenities plus under-floor heating made the white marble bathroom feel super luxurious. Special touches appreciated included the Dyson hairdryer, fluffy robes and slippers and even the Raffles pen, plus a decent dressing table with mirror. Service wise it was discreet, intuitive and prompt, and included evening turndown and even a morning spruce up too.
Food and drink
There are nine restaurants, three of which are a partnership with renowned chef, Mauro Colagreco. Each a unique dining experience, they showcase seasonal, locally sourced produce. We dined at his signature restaurant, Mauro Colagreco at Raffles London at The OWO, a sophisticated dining room where we were taken on a five-course taster menu journey, paired with unique wines.
Each masterfully crafted dish was hyper-local and hyper-seasonal, explained in detail by a member of staff, focusing on the use of ingredients, their source and their flavours, with even a simple lettuce turned into a culinary masterpiece. For breakfast we dined at Mauro’s relaxed venue, Saison, with a focus on Mediterranean cuisine, both buffet style and à la carte, served in the building’s former library
Magnificent event spaces include a grand ballroom and in spy themed style, several ‘Morse’ and ‘Code’ rooms are available for meetings. The maximum guest capacity is 600.
Raffles is not only a dining destination but a wellbeing hub too, spanning four floors and featuring a 20-metre indoor pool surrounded by day beds, steam and sauna rooms, a gym with the latest cardio and strength training equipment, and a movement studio.
But the highlight is the indulgent Guerlain Spa with nine treatment suites. I enjoyed a superb bespoke treatment, customised to suit my needs and preferences, with every detail of considered, from room and bed temperature, music, lighting, and fragrance to breathing techniques, massage pressure, products and areas of focus. The spa bed was divine, the therapist professional and intuitive, and the treatment world-class, topped off with a heady spray of Guerlain perfume.
This is no ordinary hotel or getaway; a stay at Raffles London at The OWO is bucket list worthy. It’s quite simply a hospitality industry triumph. Gemma Greenwood
- Best for A special occasion
- Don’t miss A five-course tasting menu at Mauro Colagreco
- Price Internet rates for a midweek flexible stay in March start from £930 per night for a Classic Room (Corner Suites start from £4,860 per night)
- Contact 57 Whitehall, London, SW1A 2BX; raffles.com