1 Aldwych, London, 44-0-20-7300-1000, www.onealdwych.com 105 guest rooms and suites from $320 (£205, advance purchase rate) to $2,025 £1,295 for the Dome Suite. Received the Luxury Eco Certification Standard from Sustainable Travel International in August.
One Aldwych is well situated: It is on the edge of Covent Garden, and Covent Garden has always been at the centre of just about everything in London.
In 1633, it became the site of London's first square, designed by Inigo Jones. James Boswell met Samuel Johnson there for the first time. It was where, in 1662, Samuel Pepys saw the first Punch and Judy show in England; and it was where The Messiah was first performed in England, in 1741. In 1823, a young urchin named Charles Dickens got a job in Covent Garden pasting labels on pots of boot polish. It remains the very heart of London.
There are not just a handful of theatres, but 15 of them within a short walk of One Aldwych, as well as an opera house, not to mention innumerable pubs, upscale restaurants including J. Sheekey and The Ivy, more relaxed eateries like Joe Allen, and private clubs like the Garrick. And then there's the shopping. On a typical Friday or Saturday, indeed on a typical Monday or Tuesday, Covent Garden's streets are heaving with people.
Some visitors to London prefer to keep places like Covent Garden at the end of the proverbial walking stick, to be discreetly sampled before the scramble for a black cab and a quiet post-theatre retreat. But others prefer to be in the thick of things, and for those people there exists an opportunity for a quicker escape, into the contemporary luxury of One Aldwych.
Once the headquarters for the Morning Post, a London daily, One Aldwych was designed by the same architects as the Ritz, London, and is one of that city's most important Edwardian buildings. Its exterior, highlighted by a copper cupola and human-head keystones, is immaculately maintained and exudes permanence. Its interior pays homage to its architectural pedigree with a nod to classicism, but is for the most part sharp, refined and utterly contemporary. Make no mistake: This is a gorgeously appointed hotel, but it successfully resists the overstuffed neo-Victoriana that too often poses for luxury.
One Aldwych has all of the usual amenities of a luxury hotel: choice of morning newspaper, complimentary Wi-Fi and shoeshine, 24-hour room service and turndown service. There are also several distinctive additions to the expected amenities. Flowers play a surprising, featured role, and each day, in every guest room, floral arrangements are changed or refreshed by the hotel's resident florist. A striking private contemporary art collection, largely abstract, also graces the guest rooms and public area. The health club is a jewel. It has a fully equipped gymnasium, sauna and steam rooms, but, unusually, also an 18-metre chlorine-free swimming pool with underwater music. Guests can also rent a 30-seat cinema with sumptuous leather seats.
Spacious, comfortable, elegant and quiet. The walls are graced with contemporary artwork. The rooms have comfortable reading chairs with, yes, reading lamps, and for those who prefer to read in bed, fibre-optic reading lights. Each room has a large Bang & Olufsen flat-screen TV, and for those who just can't get enough screen time, there are also televisions in the bathrooms. The sound of the Evac drainage system used in the bathrooms to reduce water consumption can be initially unsettling, but guests will quickly come to appreciate the hotel's efforts to save the planet. Evac uses 80 per cent less water than conventional systems, and it is just one of many initiatives of an in-house "green team." The hotel gives financial incentives to department heads who enforce green policies. As a result, One Aldwych has received recognition as an industry leader.
The staff seemed intuitively aware of the needs of guests, such as to offer an umbrella during a downpour, but guests are not forced to run a gauntlet of overbearing attendants.
FOOD AND DRINK
The Lobby Bar, with its lofty ceilings, large windows and floral gigantism, offers at once conversational privacy and an opportunity to see and be seen in one of London's finest settings, a favourite haunt for discerning guests and a smattering of actors, like Kevin Spacey. Also, Axis offers modern British cuisine, and Indigo is a relaxed restaurant overlooking the Lobby Bar.
One Aldwych is an exquisite designer hotel without the fustiness that might be implied by such a designation; a cool and luxurious base in Covent Garden with easy access to the city and many of London's galleries and museums.