The first thing that struck me about the five-star Corinthia Hotel in London was how utterly huge everything is. From the vast central lobby lounge with its soaring dome and chandelier made of 1,001 crystal baubles, to the high-ceilinged pillared restaurant, to the enormous breakfast room, huge ballroom, conference rooms and outside courtyard, everything at the Corinthia is super-sized.
And that was before I’d even made my way to the ESPA Life spa, covering four floors and containing two pools, a sauna, ice fountain and 17 treatment rooms.
As it is so hard to miss, taking up a whole block of central London real estate between Embankment tube station and Whitehall, I was surprised I hadn’t been inside before.
Originally the Hotel Metropole when it was built back in 1885, its location on Whitehall Place, just round the corner from Downing Street, made it a perfect Government building and was taken over by the Ministry of Defence in 1936. Following the sale of the building in 2007 the hotel has now been restored to its original style, containing 294 rooms, including 45 suites, many with private terraces. Its Royal Suite claims to be the largest two-bedroom suite in London.
Our room, an executive king, was smart and full of little luxuries such as a TV in the bath, separate walk-in shower, original artwork and well-stocked mini bar. However we were keen to check out the spa which is one of the largest I’ve seen in a London hotel: the changing rooms alone were vast and opulent.
But it was the jet-black spa area itself took the breath away, with a 20 metre indoor pool, a hydrotherapy pool, a step-down sauna, marble heated loungers next to a line of flickering flames, private sleep pods and an ice fountain to boost the circulation after all that relaxing.
I could have happily spent all day here but a few hours had to be enough: we had dinner booked at the hotel’s Massimo restaurant. I don’t think I’ve eaten in a room with higher ceilings and with the pillars it looked like an old Roman temple.
The Italian-inspired menu was clearly written and easy to navigate: around eight starters and then a selection of pasta, rice, meat and fish dishes.
I started with creamy mozzarella and aubergine-based caponata which was fresh and light, and then had the poached turbot in ‘crazy water’ purely because of the name. It was perfectly cooked with the tomato, white wine and chilli broth setting off the fish beautifully.
Service was prompt and the wine waitress was very knowledgable, suggesting different glasses for each dish, and we finished off the meal by sharing the ‘five senses of chocolate’ which was fun and suitably chocolatey.
Not wishing to call it a night just yet, we then headed to the Basson Bar for a couple of cocktails accompanied by a jazz singer playing the guitar: our waiter was happy to replace our iPad menus with traditional printed ones, and then equally happy to return with the iPads once we’d realised it was useful to see how tall the drinks were. At £17 they weren’t cheap but our they were excellently made and perfect for a nightcap.
Thanks either to the drinks or the hotel’s formidable double-glazing we woke to find we’d slept through a collossal thunderstorm. Breakfast was in not one but two massive rooms, with a good buffet selection and cooked dishes.
It was brought home how central the hotel is when from our breakfast table we could see across the street to the commuters emerging from Embankment tube. Thankfully that day I could return to the spa instead of heading to the office – a far more civilised way to start the day.
Corinthia Hotel, Whitehall Place, London SW1A 2BD
Tel: 020 7930 8181
Double rooms from £474 a night, £1,044 for an executive king, suites from £3,540 and £5,400 for a penthouse. Day spa access from £145 including lunch. Corinthia was awarded the AA Inspectors’ Choice Hotel 2015 and London Hotel of the Year 2015
ESPA Life recently launched a new range of mindfulness treatments, including mindful facial, massage, sleep and fitness sessions