Soho Hotel, London
Lisa Richards checks in – not under her real name, of course – to one of London’s hottest hotels and drinks the mini bar dry
From a rather unassuming former life as an over-used, dingy NCP car park in the heart of London’s Soho, has grown the city’s most glamorous A-List celebrity hangout – room-and-board for the stars, and delicious cocktails and restaurant fodder for us mere mortals.
The place positively buzzes. As soon as you check-in – we did behind David Schwimmer, aka Ross from Friends – you can hear the chatter coming from the hotel’s bar and restaurant. Whatever time of day you venture from your room, the meeting rooms and public areas are full of ‘media types’, agents and their celebrities discussing new ideas for Channel 4 shows and hiding underneath baseball caps and dark glasses. And that didn’t happen just the once.
The loveable thing about the 85-room Soho Hotel is that, while its décor, staff and clientele ooze effortless style, glamour and elegance, it doesn’t make you feel out of place or not cool enough. As I swished in and out of the lobby, laden down shopping bags or tipsy from one too many cocktails in the bar, I felt positively important – almost celebrity-like, partly thanks to the consistently high levels of service for everyone, whoever you are, and partly due to the PR-wannabes who eyed up every single visitor to the hotel suspiciously, in the hope they’d bag themselves someone famous.
The Soho Hotel comes from the same quality stable as The Pelham and The Covent Garden Hotel, so its breeding cannot be denied. When owners Kit and Tim Kemp, the husband and wife team behind the Firmdale Hotel group, came across the old NCP car park for sale, they realised that there was the unique possibility of creating a luxury, new-build hotel from scratch in the heart of the city’s media district. An opportunity that rarely arises in the middle of London’s tightly-packed city centre. And so that’s exactly what they did. The car park, surrounded by tall, six storey-plus Georgian houses, was taken down piece by piece and in its place the pair built what has become the favoured hangout of London’s media set, as well as a fair few A-list celebs proper. Already with a handful of industry awards under its belt, including appearing on Condé Nast’s ‘Hot List’, within its first year it had forged a name for itself. I’d hazard a guess that St Martin’s Lane and The Sanderson’s celebrity quota is at an all-time low.
The hotel’s design rules have been loosely written by Kit Kemp. You can see that she has a passion for beautiful objects, and while there’s a theme relating to the hotel’s previous life as a car park, her ‘Modern British’ collection of pieces is both eclectic and inspiring. In every room we visited we could point out something that we’d love to get our hands on. From beautiful, figurative paintings to show-stopping pieces of furniture.
The rooms themselves are beautifully kitted out. Lime green is an accent colour throughout, and the huge king-size bed in my rooftop suite glowed in the London sunshine that poured in through the floor-to-ceiling windows. A mini balcony offered Mary Poppins-like view of the rooftops of London, and became a dramatic setting from which to watch a thunderstorm approach menacingly. The rooms are more than generous in size – I loved the show-off empty spaces left without clutter or furniture, just because there was ample floorspace to do so. Armchairs were soft and comfy, covered in lime green suede (and just a little too big to sneak into a suitcase), while the bathrooms were enormous, with a bath that filled in under a minute and a shower big enough for two. Even the mini bar was imaginatively stocked, with herbal energy drinks, detox and hangover relief remedies (that tasted vile), and plenty of beer and Champagne (hence the hangover remedies).
Another reason to not leave your room, apart from its sheer size and minibar squeezed full of delights, is the room service menu. I have never seen such a well-put-together selection of food, available around the clock. After a hard day pounding the tarmac, the menu beckoned as I soaked my aching limbs in the enormous tub. ‘The Soho Burger’, made from foie gras, truffles and confit of duck fitted the bill, and once the order was placed (and a bottle of Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir uncorked) it arrived on a silver platter in 20 minutes and was presented with a flourish. Never underestimate the beauty of eating high-quality room service food, with a bottle of the best red wine money can buy, whilst encased in the fluffiest of bath robes. Bliss.
While my stay at The Soho Hotel was more pleasure than business, if you are staying in the capital for work reasons alone, the hotel’s amenities will cover every eventually. Its gym and spa, Soholistic, in the basement mean you can relax and de-stress after a long day’s deal signing, while for the concierge, no task is too big or small. I sent faxes, got documents printed out a moment’s notice, received IT support when my computer wouldn’t connect to the high-speed wireless Internet access and even got them to post off several parcels for me (see, it wasn’t all play and no work!). If you’re hoping to bag a top-name celebrity for your latest movie epic, the hotel’s two state-of-the-art screening rooms will do the trick.
For the duration of my stay, when talking to colleagues about the hotel, I did catch myself on several occasions describing it as the ‘best hotel I’ve ever stayed in’. While I’ve stayed in flashier, bigger, more modern and more celebrity-packed hotels all over the world, The Soho Hotel’s mixture of achingly hip clientele, painstaking service, stunning and quirky interiors and extreme levels of comfort mean that it’s going to take some beating before it’s knocked from my top spot.
The Soho Hotel
4 Richmond Mews (off Dean Street),
London, W1D 3DH. Tel: +44 (0) 207 559 3000