Story and photos by Melanie Votaw
Additional photography by Manos Angelakis
Corinthia Hotel London
Whitehall Place, London SW1A 2BD
The Corinthia Hotel is a stunning 5-star property right across the street from the River Thames, Whitehall Gardens, and the West End’s Playhouse Theatre. The Victorian building, which was modeled after Parisian architecture, dates back to 1885 and began as the Hotel Metropole. Then, the government took over the building and used it for Ministry of Defense offices. The original Hotel Metropole played a large role in London’s debutante season, and during the building’s government office days, rumor has it that room 801 held the government’s records of UFO sightings.
The building has been the Corinthia since 2011, when it was restored and renovated. Besides the exterior, the renovations preserved the window frames, columns, ceiling decoration, and stair banisters. To call the hotel “grand” is an understatement. When you walk in, the Lobby Lounge and inner foyer areas are vast. The chandelier, created by Parisian designer Chafik Gasmi, was produced by Baccarat with 1,001 crystals. The Lobby Lounge serves afternoon tea, which includes bespoke blends of teas created especially for the Corinthia.
There is an in-house florist that supplies fresh flowers throughout the property, and there are two restaurants, a spa, and a musically inspired cocktail bar called Bassoon, which has a 7-meter-long piano that forms the top of the bar. Bassoon’s décor is inspired by a 1920’s art deco music room.
While Hotel Metropole contained 600 rooms, Corinthia contains just 294, all of which are spacious. Today’s travelers expect larger accommodations than in years past, so 40 of the 294 are suites and 7 are penthouses. Some of these have two stories, private elevators and terraces, fireplaces, and historic turrets. The hotel’s website includes convenient videos of the different room types to help you decide which one you prefer.
I had a Deluxe Junior Suite, which – at 700 square feet – was larger than many New York apartments. I had a chaise, couch, table and chairs, and a Nespresso machine in the bedroom. There was also a Juliette balcony that offered a view of the Courtyard. Of course, the suite included a safe, minibar, and media hub, and the TV had 75 international channels. WiFi was complimentary. There were bedside buttons to control the lights, which included options for a reading light, night light, or mood lighting.
Opposite the king bed (with a Hypnos mattress) was the television. To its right, a foyer at the entrance door led to a walk-in closet that contained motion sensor lighting and enough storage space for practically my entire wardrobe from home.
To the left of the TV was the entrance to the bath with two sinks, a heated floor, a large tub with another TV screen in the wall, and a separate shower. The shower had the largest rainshower head I’ve ever seen. It really did almost feel like standing outside in the rain.
If you want the full lavish treatment, you can opt for the hotel’s “Suite Life” package that includes a bottle of champagne, butler service, airport transport, use of the hotel car, a tour of the Burlington Arcade with a traditional Beadle Guard, and more.
The Corinthia’s spa uses ESPA products, a very popular company in England. It’s an unusually large facility that spans four floors and has 17 treatment rooms. There’s an indoor pool, vitality pool, sauna, ice fountain, heated beds, private suite and sleep pods, a hair salon, and a gym. They even offer a medical massage. I experienced a wonderful foot reflexology treatment in the relaxing atmosphere that includes curved walls, ambient fireplaces, leather furniture, and black marble and lacquer.
There are two particularly unusual features at the Corinthia. One is its commissioning of 250 unique artworks that are displayed throughout the property. American Minda Cowling serves as Art Consultant, but the collection celebrates contemporary British artists. The second surprising feature is its own Cigar Sommelier, Manu Harit, who is the youngest in the industry to have received The Higher Certificate. The hotel’s Garden Lounge is its cigar lounge, overseen by Harit.
Of course, Corinthia is also frequently used for weddings, conferences, and other events. The “Courtroom” is a space shaped like a crescent that opens onto a sheltered colonnade and The Courtyard for open air events.
The Corinthia has two restaurants – The Northall and Massimo. Massimo serves Italian cuisine, while The Northall serves quintessentially British dishes. I had a meal at The Northall, which is helmed by Executive Chef Garry Hollihead, who has won Michelin stars at three different establishments including L’Escargot. The restaurant has picture windows that provide views of Whitehall Gardens and the Thames, and it has two private dining rooms available for events. The décor includes mirrored panels and burnt orange leather seating.
If you had the idea that the British don’t know how to cook or to eat, you’re mistaken. Using wholly British suppliers, the restaurant focuses on a mix of traditional dishes with contemporary twists. Beef is sourced from The Lake District Farm, fish is brought in from Cornwall, and cheeses are from La Cave. The menu is seasonal, but I had a scrumptious lamb dish, while my dinner companion had the suckling pig. For dessert, I had sorbets and cookies. Steaks can be ordered with a variety of sauces like blue cheese, port and shallot, or truffle hollandaise. If you want a quintessential British dining experience that’s upscale and well-done, The Northall is the place to go.
Corinthia Hotel London received the AA Hotel of the Year London for 2015-2016, and it was easy for me to see why. I recommend it wholeheartedly when you travel to London.
© July 2016 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.