Whitehall Place, London; 44 (0) 20 7930-8181; corinthia.com; 294 rooms, of which 43 are suites. From $700 (£450)
In its first year, Corinthia Hotel has been home away from home for Rihanna, Johnny Depp has been a repeat visitor to the private dining room at Massimo, Lana Del Rey performed in the lobby lounge, and Kanye West was among an intimate group who feted Canadian designer Mark Fast at a dinner in the hotel's other private dining room during London Fashion Week.
In a coveted corner of London, steps from the River Thames and within walking distance of Westminster Abbey and 10 Downing St., the building has been housing guests off and on since 1885: first as the Metropole, then to provide government accommodations in both world wars (and for 50 years it housed ministry offices). Now owned by a Maltese hotel investment group and with GA Design International at the helm, the Corinthia is on par with any premium London property. It's attracting celebrities, but unlike other hot spots that draw noncommittal jet setters, the Corinthia has the elements to inspire loyalty – namely, a four-floor spa that is as cool as any nightclub.
No matter the room size – and the average is a generous 45 square metres – each comes with a Nespresso machine, heated bathroom floors, ample closet space and a corresponding ration of hangers. Overlooking the interior courtyard is charming but doesn't compare to views of Trafalgar Square and the Thames – a modern Monet scene at smoggy dawn.
A stay at the Corinthia would not be nearly as memorable without some quality time spent at ESPA Life, the spa that is accessed off the mezzanine and continues down three additional floors. The "thermal" level is aqua bliss; there's a stainless steel pool, sauna, hammam and jet pool (rubber flip-flops were on order when I visited). The gym is impressively equipped by any standard and includes kettle bells, a Power Plate, a TRX suspension system and spin bikes in addition to the usual workout machines.
On ESPA Life's main level, there's a beauty salon overseen by coiffeur Daniel Galvin plus a "makeover room" (a.k.a. a primping suite) that can be booked, starting from £150. A Harrods concession is an upgrade on humdrum hotel gift shops.
The Corinthia offers a 24-hour check-in, check-out policy. Nearly as exciting: Breakfast room service is available around the clock. All the specialty staff – fitness trainer, spa therapists and the Bassoon Bar's head mixologist – show enthusiasm that stops just short of obsequious. A tiny oversight: I explicitly requested the Financial Times. It never came.
The hotel is anchored by two grand and gleaming restaurants: Northall, which is overseen by Michelin-starred chef Garry Hollihead, and Massimo Restaurant and Oyster Bar, a brasserie-meets-nautical-style space from Massimo Riccioli. Both offer enough visual interest and gustatory variety to make a case for never leaving the hotel. But if dinner elsewhere is non-negotiable, make sure to sample pastry chef Claire Clark's afternoon tea service. Breakfast in the Northall attracts local businessmen.
In a competitive market, the Corinthia Hotel emerges as a committed entrant, offering next-level luxury in the heart of London.