Luxury Explorer Review

5-Star Hotel Review

St Martins Lane

United Kingdom

Located in the heart of the West End, with eclectic Philippe Stark designs and innovative restaurant Asia de Cuba

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St Martins Lane

Location

St Martins Lane, the West End, WC2

Travel Information

London City Airport - 30 mins
London Heathrow - 45 mins
London Gatwick - 1 hour 20
Nearest Tube - Leicester Square

Top Tips

The in-house restaurant Asia de Cuba is not to be missed - puddings are to die for

5-Star X-Factors

Philippe Starck's quirky designs

Light it and love it

In true Morgans Group style, St Martins Lane does not have an impressive grand period exterior, more a utilitarian one. However, it comes with seven storeys of floor-to-ceiling windows, entered through Brobdingnag yellow-tinted glass circular doors. The sense of irony, wit and alternative is immediate, while light both natural and technological is a star attraction.

If London to you means theatre, galleries, ballet, opera, Soho and Covent Garden, then look no further. This hotel is three minutes from the mandatory National Portrait Gallery, two minutes from the London Coliseum and three o'clock from the Noël Coward Theatre.

Before you take in the theatrical humour of this urban extravaganza, you are aware of something less eye-catching but perhaps more significant: the service. From the doorman to the associates at the front desk, you are welcomed in a manner almost unique in 'Metropolitania'. The staff members here are some of the most decent, caring, gracious and hospitable in any city hotel I have visited, with a genuine bon vivant and a personal approach that avoids intrusiveness. How do they do it?

St Martins Lane was conceived first in 1999, defying all hotel convention with a non-prescriptive anti-label approach both visually and emotionally. Phillip Starck's typical quirkiness has brought together  customised furnishings reflecting on several periods, from Baroque to contemporary to out-there, resulting in a vibrancy that works as a mood enhancer and pleasing distraction. Usually three of the seven dwarfs turned into stools would make flying ducks on the wall appear tasteful, but here anything goes so it seems and that's the charm. It was no doubt exquisitely orchestrated, like a naturally made-up face, but the end result is refreshing and tantalising.

Viva la vista 

We were escorted to our 'apartment' way up on the sixth floor. Wow! This has quite some view. The walls of windows, installed with supremely clever slatted privacy blinds, throw the best of London's WC2 right in your face. The street bustles below while the slate-tiled, and now landscaped, rooftops of Late Victorian London fill the whimsically nostalgic middle ground. Many of the city's great landmarks stand out for miles; in the far right distance, the Post Office Tower appears ridiculously tall, while to the left, Nelson's Column stands to nearby attention with Westminster Abbey flaunting her spires on the horizon.

The chilled LP popped with notable vigour as we scrutinised the funky glamour of our decor and bespoke Starck-designed furniture: lime green pashminas casually thrown over outsized Star Trek arm chairs, a small white futuristic rocker, a flat-screen TV the size of lesser cinemas and a dining table laden with exotic fruit.

Our bed as with all the Morgans' beds was pristine perfect, only this time we had the outrageous panorama of theatre-land. A nearby switch brings on a suitable colour to match the mood; being so close to, I opted for rouge. The bathroom was decked from head to foot in smooth honey-toned French limestone, with a vast customised porcelain and maple sink, an outsized free standing porcelain tub, a walk-in shower room, and a plethora of Agua products.

The Apartment Suite joins on to a couple of other Penthouse Suites, creating a living space for a very large, and lucky, family. Imagine the joys of taking the children to a musical followed by a museum or art gallery and a stroll around the boutiques of Covent Garden, with endless 'fusion' restaurants, pubs and brasseries to drop into.

Thirst quenching

As the lights of The Noel Coward Theatre started to flash, and folk started to line up below, we took this as our cue to visit the bar for a 'cocktail of the month'. The bar feels distinctly private, yet the warm lights in shades of orange, pinks, violets and greens create a celebratory mood. The drinks were fabulous fresh and fruity, made with market berries and organic vodka and, when I asked what was in it, I had the ingredients in the exact amounts written out for me. How nice is that?

Asia de Cuba was a great discovery; bearing in mind that the staff members are now close companions, the food had a lot to live up to. The room is surprisingly relaxed and effortlessly divided by a series of columns, some adorned with seemingly well-fingered and deeply relevant books and others covered with ethnic sepia photographs in varying sizes. The lighting is soft to sultry, with bulbs hovering a few inches above the food, while the funky furniture is languishingly cushioned.

The food is a Latino twist on the Orient, though the latter emerged as the most distinctive. It was delicious and intriguing: spicy if you wished, grilled if you desired, baked in banana leaves, and plenty of it. Our sea bass was painstakingly boneless, wrapped up in jungle leaves, delicately soy enhanced, surrounded by shitakes and straddled with intensely flavoured black beans in a sticky chilli sauce. The wine of the month was an Austrian Riesling, skilfully chosen by our new best friend, Beppe, the much-loved sommelier. After several courses, fresh mint tea was a digestive imperative.

The drama, or theatre, of the hotel resists sleep, however, the attention to slumber detail is adhered to with genuine care, and sleep you will. You can also rely on swift room service; our next NBF delivered piping hot cappuccinos within our five-minute call-to-door five-star prerequisite, the morning after the night before.

Sophie Marchant
Sophie Marchant


Luxury Explorer