Eco-luxury in the heart of London says Elizabeth Mistry
14 August 2011
It is always more fun going to review hotels anonymously but the reservations team at One Aldwych knows I am coming.
Not so much Mistry Guest as ‘arranged weeks in advance guest’. So, when I meet a charming 50-something home counties couple in the lift who tell me, within minutes of our arrival, that this is their 73rd stay - “We always come here, wonderful location, lovely staff, perfect for the theatre and the ballet…wouldn’t go anywhere else” - I immediately suspect them as having been planted by the hotel management.
Equally, the young South East Asian lycra-clad business woman who claims to run the ‘blue route’ suggested on the hotel’s jogging map - “a brilliant idea, don’t you think?” - every morning during her stay, has me convinced that she’s been positioned behind the friendly doormen - waiting for the exact moment that I return, puffed out from my exertions (window shopping is so exhausting) in nearby Covent Garden.
But first things first. The couple in the lift are spot on as far as the location goes; there must be more than a dozen theatres within a seven minute walk including the Royal Opera House (high culture) and the Lyceum (Lion King culture) not to mention numerous restaurants, bars and attractions on both sides of the River Thames which is but a two minutes walk away.
The hotel is a pleasure to look upon with an elegant dove-grey stone facade occupying a prime spot right at the confluence of The Strand and The Aldwych along which it curves ever so gently.
At once in the middle of everything; but, perhaps because the rather unusual triangular building occupies a wedged-shaped site all on its own, it seems to be a step back from the bustle. Certainly, as soon as one passes through the glass doors which lead into the light-filled lobby bar there’s a pleasing sense of leaving the city outside far behind.
It is all immensely appealing although my second thought is that I wouldn’t want to bring a small child who didn’t understand that this is not a place for boisterous games. But that isn’t to say that One Aldwych isn’t child-friendly – there are family-friendly rooms with oodles of gear available as well as babysitting if required.
And while it might be harder squeezing an extra little person into the standard rooms – all decorated in the hotel’s signature style, which I’d describe as ‘contemporary elegance’ (rather than annoyingly minimalist) – they are all are well equipped with exceedingly comfy beds, iPod docks, mini bars, proper hangers and useful magazines (for ladies as well as gents) and safes which are curiously too small for even a notebook sized computer (if you plan on bringing a laptop, let reception know in advance so they can arrange a suitable safe).
Our fifth floor deluxe double was a good size and had a great view of the London rooftops (even the building site across the road was mesmerising although the glazing is so good that we couldn’t hear any of the street noise at all), a fabulous bathroom (with a clever swivel tap that allows two people to soak in the tub without one of them having to lean on the taps), environmentally friendly, paraben free toiletries (and here's a clever thought - a small transparent ziplock bag so you can take them away in your hand luggage) and a miniature TV if you fancy following the news at the sink.
The staff are lovely. Martyna who took me up to the room and made sure I was comfortable with how the lights and the water saving loo worked (“please don’t be alarmed by the sucking sound, it means it uses much less water than other toilets”) should be made an official hotel ambassadress and Manuel won my admiration (and gratitude) when he managed to produce an obscure cable I needed almost before I had put the phone down.
In the basement I found one of the best hotel pools in London. At 18 metres long (and 1.5 metres deep) it is for serious swimmers as well as occasional dippers – and, hidden away, there is a plethora of instruments for monitoring energy use as well as the box-sized office of Gary Lohan the hotel’s award-winning head of sustainability (the hotel is one of only a few five star properties in London to boast a Gold Green Business Tourism Award).
Axis, the fine dining restaurant is said to be highly acclaimed – although sadly not by me as it is closed on Sundays – but I can vouch for the breakfasts served in the slightly less formal mezzanine restaurant, Indigo.
For an important meeting – or a very special date – One Aldwych would be the ideal central London venue. There are very few places that genuinely combine luxury and sustainability but One Aldwych has a vision that other hotels would to well to study carefully.
Elizabeth Mistry stayed one night as a guest of One Aldwych (Telephone; 0207 300 1000 www.onealdwych.com). Rooms from £230.00 plus VAT.
Nearest underground stations, Covent Garden, Temple and Waterloo (also mainline connections to mainline stations across Southern England).
The hotel can arrange tickets for theatre and other shows – or your can book the screening room for an exclusive night at the movies.
TTM Top Tip: Make time to see art at Somerset House across the road.
Disabled Access: The lobby bar (two small steps at entrance) is especially suitable for wheelchair users and there are specially adapted bedrooms on the first floor. There are steep steps down to the pool.
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