When I visit London it’s usually a whirlwind of meetings and catch ups, and wherever I stay is just a bed to pass out into. But on my last trip I took the opportunity to stay over on a Sunday night and transform my usual hectic London trip into a relaxing mini-holiday. And I couldn’t have picked a better place for it than One Aldwych. Right in the heart of the city, the hotel is rated as five-star and is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World group, so you know it’s going to be something special. It’s an oasis from the crazy pace of London, where your only problem might be finding the motivation to drag yourself out to explore.
One Aldwych is set in a triangular building on the corner of Aldwych and the Strand. The building was designed by Anglo-French architects Mewes and Davis, who also built the Paris and London Ritz hotels. It started life as the offices of the Morning Post newspaper in 1907 and went through various incarnations including as the Ministry of Defence, a bank, insurance office and brasserie until One Aldwych took it over in 1998. It’s in a fantastic location for exploring London, just a short walk away from Covent Garden, Holborn, Piccadilly Circus and across the river to Southbank. Somerset House is just across the road too and you’re right the heart of theatreland – so close in fact that my room practically looked into the Lyceum Theatre. There are a couple of Tube stations with easy walking distance at Temple and Charing Cross.
Being on a corner, our deluxe room had two windows which made it very light (loved the special blinds that managed to let lots of light in without the risk of exposing yourself to passing commuters too). The decor is classy and understated, with warm greys and creams to suit the Edwardian building’s style. Our room came with a big comfy king-sized bed, a seating area with two armchairs as well as a desk if you needed to work. The triple glazing meant you couldn’t hear a thing from outside, quite a feat considering the near-constant stream of honking horns and wailing sirens you get in central London.
You get all the facilities you’d expect – minibar (though beware London prices), Nespresso machine, flatscreen TV, iPod docking station, plenty of storage and plug sockets (including a couple on the edge of the bedframe for that all-important night-time phone charging). But there were also so many thoughtful little touches, from the welcome chocolate (or fruit if you’re feeling healthy) and magazines to the note at turndown to tell you what the next day’s weather will be. The en-suite bathroom had both a bath and a separate shower, and came stocked with T London toiletries and hotel-branded bathrobes and slippers.
The hotel’s Indigo restaurant is located on a mezzanine overlooking the lobby bar. It’s a relaxed and informal place with none of the fussiness that sometimes comes with five-star hotels. Executive chef Dominic Teague has created a menu that features plenty of local and seasonal produce – but the twist is that everything is gluten- and dairy-free. Having been gluten-free for a couple of years now I’m used to struggling to find something on the menu when I eat out, so it was a treat to have a whole list to choose from. So I got to eat all the things I normally can’t have – homemade bread, gnocchi and an amazingly rich Valrhona chocolate mousse cake which it was hard to believe wasn’t packed full of cream.
Post-dinner we headed down to the lobby bar for a cocktail. It’s been named one of the top five hotel bars in the world so we had high expectations, and it didn’t disappoint. After a bit of help from the bartender to navigate the cocktail list we went for a Mexican Heat (tequila, mezcal, pomegranate liqueur and plum with a touch of spice) and a French 75 (gin, lemon and Champagne). Breakfast is also served in the restaurant (or you can have it delivered to your room for an extra cost), with cooked-to-order hot options like a full English or eggs Benedict or lighter options like porridge, muesli or pastries. One thing we didn’t get to try though was the delicious-sounding Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-inspired afternoon tea, complete with candy floss and golden chocolate eggs – one to come back for.
The heart of the hotel is the big, bright and open lobby area, with the original oak windows from its days as the newspaper’s Advertisment Hall. There are also giant flower displays, colour coordinated with the decor (all in orange when I visited). The hotel has over 400 pieces of art, dotted around the building. There are individual paintings in each room and sculptures in the lobby – a Beano dog nicknamed Spencer whose coat is made from pages of the comic and André Wallace’s giant Boatman with Oars. One Aldwych also has its own 30-seat mini-cinema, which hosts ‘film and fizz’ evenings that come with popcorn and bubbly (£25 per person, or there’s a package which also includes dinner at Indigo for £55 per person).
Down below the hotel, the former Morning Press printing press room has been converted into a luxurious health club. There’s a 18-metre chlorine-free pool with a few hidden secrets – put your head underwater and you’ll hear music playing from submerged speakers. There’s also a screen at the end of the pool which projects shoals of fish or clouds floating by to add to the relaxing feel, plus a sauna, steam room and gym (apparently). But I was there to try out the spa with a Oskia Signature Glow Facial, 75 minutes of cleansing, steaming, scrubbing and moisturising that left me feeling completely blissed out. Oskia is a British skincare brand with a focus on nourishing products that help rebuild the health of your skin.
- Guests are… a Sunday night mix of couples on a weekend break and businesspeople up for Monday morning meetings, but with lots of space the communal areas never felt busy.
- Staff are… attentive and keen to help (when checking out the guy on the reception desk seemed almost disappointed he couldn’t store my bag or arrange transport for me) but unobtrusive.
- Don’t forget… to book in advance if you want afternoon tea on a weekend as it’s really popular.
- Useful to know… there’s a secret guests-only lounge hidden away – ask staff for a tip off.
Rooms at One Aldwych start around £300 a night. Or for the real wow-factor you can book the dome suite in the roof with its separate living room and views across London’s rooftops (from £600 a night).
Many thanks to One Aldwych for hosting me for my stay. All views and opinions are, as always, my own.