Category Archives: London hotels

Sexy Fish: Mayfair’s slice of loud, brash, bling and fun

Sexy Fish, the newly-opened £15 million restaurant from  Richard Caring (The Ivy, Le Caprice, J Sheekey) doesn’t actually look very sexy from the outside. It’s rather plain and square and dull and looks not dissimilar from the NatWest bank it used to be, plonked on the bottom corner of Berkeley Square. If it weren’t for the fact that SEXY FISH is in massive letters on the front then I would probably have walked right past it. ‘Somebody spent £15 million on this?’ I thought – and then I walked in.

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Not very sexy from the outside…

What a contrast. Being inside Sexy Fish is like no other restaurant I’ve been in for some time, if not ever.

It is not subtle.

It is like being inside a jewellery box, a Las Vegas casino and an Arabian palace all in one (it has been memorably described as ‘like being punched in the face by Abu Dhabi’).

There’s a waterfall running the entire length of the wall behind the bar to give that all-important indoor monsoon effect. There are 20 luminous floating Frank Gehry fish flying around at one end of the room and a 13ft crocodile, also by Gehry, climbing the wall at the other end. Continue reading Sexy Fish: Mayfair’s slice of loud, brash, bling and fun

The Arch hotel, London, unshowy but smart

The Arch hotel is not a flashy hotel. For a hotel which is seconds away from the maelstrom which is Oxford Street and just across the road from Madonna’s London home, the Arch is neat, calm, and quiet.

It doesn’t have the grand entrance or huge lobby of its immediate neighbours, the Montcalm Marble Arch or the Cumberland Hotel, but instead favours a far more refined welcome: a small reception with just the occasional burst of colour from the artwork on the walls.

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The reception at the Arch hotel – understated and calm
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A splash of modern art next to the lifts

The staff were efficient and friendly, escorting me to my room, where the air of quiet refinement continued. The furnishings are immaculate and the finish is impeccable: my room, an executive double, felt more like a small suite with a separate office space in the hallway, and the larger suites also come with their own mini-kitchens complete with hobs and microwaves.

There were some nice touches such as the modern smart TV which included the full Sky package including films, box sets and every Best Picture Oscar-winning film from the last 50 years. Continue reading The Arch hotel, London, unshowy but smart

The Capital hotel: London’s venue for a cocktail masterclass

Its claim to fame is that it is the closest hotel to Harrods, and it’s true that less than 30 seconds walk will take you right into the iconic department store. But thankfully The Capital hotel, just round the back of Harrods on a quiet Knightsbridge street, is more than just a place to stagger back to after a hard day’s shopping. Opened in 1971 by hotelier David Levin, it is still owned and managed by him and his family today, which gives it a far more friendly air than a corporate chain hotel.

The cosy lobby at the Capital

While the hotel does a special ‘Shop till you Drop’ package which includes a £50 Harrods voucher, afternoon tea and a drink to restore you (if not your credit card) after your retail therapy, I went to the Capital with cocktails, rather than shopping, on my mind. Bar manager Cesar da Silva has been at the Capital for 15 years and is still extremely enthusiastic about teaching other people to make cocktails in his popular Cocktail Masterclass, which is just as well as apparently he often does 10 of these hour-long courses a day. Continue reading The Capital hotel: London’s venue for a cocktail masterclass

Percy & Founders: smart, modern food with style in London

The part of London between Portland Place and Goodge Street has historically been a bit of a culinary no-man’s land, with little to tempt you to eat in the estate-agent-christened ‘Noho’ unless you actually worked in the area.

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I was seriously considering taking this old-fashioned typewriter home with me…

However over recent years the local pubs and cafes have been smartening up, the Riding House Cafe and 48 Newman Street Tavern have opened and now there is a development so new that the postcode doesn’t even yield a map when typed into Google.

Percy & Founders, the new all-day bar and restaurant built on the site of the old Middlesex Hospital, has a nod to tradition in that you can actually peer through a glass wall from the restaurant into the hospital’s original chapel, perfectly preserved and soon to be open for people to have a look around.

However in spite of individual touches such as old typewriters (I loved the one next to our table and yearned to take it home with me) the overall decor is very clean, light wood and straight lines, very much along the lines of All Bar One in the 90s. Continue reading Percy & Founders: smart, modern food with style in London

Discovering hidden treasures at The Stafford, St James’s

One thing I’ve learnt from writing my blog is that you never really know a hotel until you get someone to give you the Grand Tour. A typical hotel guest will see little more than the reception, their bedroom, the bar and the restaurant (some might make it to the gym) and I think they’re missing out.

Very rarely will guests see other bedrooms – they probably think that a request might appear unseemly – and they might think that asking for a tour shows they are too daft to find their own way around. But as a blogger and nosy journalist, I can heartily recommend it, and I don’t think I would now stay anywhere without asking to be shown every inch of the place – there are always hidden gems that you would never have discovered on your own.

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The Stafford hotel, St James’s, a grand red-brick building tucked down a quiet side street near Piccadilly

My recent stay at The Stafford was a great example of this. I’d spent a very pleasant night in the hotel, which is tucked away in a quiet corner off St James’s street in London’s Piccadilly. The entrance hall was light and airy, the restaurant looked very grand, my bedroom in the modern-looking Mews Suites block overlooking the hotel courtyard was of the high quality you’d expect from a top-end London hotel whose immediate neighbours are the equally high-end Duke’s Hotel and St James’s hotel and it was all extremely, well, nice. Nothing was jumping out at me as being particularly exciting or different but maybe that wasn’t a bad thing – maybe people don’t go to posh hotels to be surprised or excited.

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The Lyttleton restaurant at The Stafford – it is closed for dinner on Sunday evenings but I had breakfast here on the Monday

Continue reading Discovering hidden treasures at The Stafford, St James’s

Lunch at London’s latest hotspots: Kitty Fisher’s and Ham Yard

They’ve both received glowing reviews and are two of the hottest places on London’s restaurant scene at the moment, but Kitty Fisher’s and Ham Yard restaurant are rather different culinary experiences.

It could be a size thing: Kitty Fisher’s, tucked away in a corner of Shepherd Market is tiny, just six tables upstairs and not much larger downstairs, which gives it a cosy, intimate feel. Ham Yard in contrast is vast: acres of dining space, dozens of banquettes and tables of all sizes. A massive bar stretches the length of one room, there are high ceilings, pillars, mirrors and lights everywhere and it is a riot of bright colours and activity.

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Kitty Fisher’s, named after an 18th century courtesan, is tucked away in a corner of Shepherd Market in Mayfair

Both restaurants have celebrity connections: Kitty Fisher’s is part-owned by actor Oliver Milburn and entrepreneur Tom Mullion, whose wife Emily Sheffield is David Cameron’s sister-in-law (the Camerons have been, as has Nigella Lawson). Ham Yard is also where the celebrities hang out, including the Fox acting dynasty who partied there after the opening night of Dear Lupin, and Adele who recently held her 27th birthday party there. Continue reading Lunch at London’s latest hotspots: Kitty Fisher’s and Ham Yard

St James’s hotel, London: fine dining and a £1,600 suite

St James’s Hotel in London might be five-star luxury but thankfully it has none of the formal starchiness you might expect from a super-posh hotel. The staff are so cheerful and relaxed that I found myself having all sorts of random conversations with bartenders, doormen and managers during my stay, which made the hotel feel more like a very friendly club.

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My rather plush suite at the St James’s Hotel in Piccadilly
St James's Hotel
St James’s Hotel in London’s Piccadilly

However there’s no disguising that St James’s is a seriously high-end hotel in one of the most expensive areas in London. While London is hardly famed for its cheap hotel rooms, the £1,600 price tag of my suite managed to top my previous record, the £1,500-a-night Prince of Wales suite at iconic country house hotel Cliveden. However the 300-year old Cliveden comes with 376 acres of Grade I-listed formal gardens, a maze, a spa and two swimming pools (including the famous outdoor pooll), while St James’s, well, doesn’t.

But if you want to stay in a luxury five-star hotel in the heart of London, a mere stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace, then you do have to pay a premium. Tucked away at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac off St James’s Street, the 60-room hotel does have cheaper rooms, with prices starting at £300 a night. Continue reading St James’s hotel, London: fine dining and a £1,600 suite