We all love a bit of lavishness if and when we can get our hands on it right? But is ‘lavish’ something which is tangible or is it merely a concept? I’ve been in so many situations where someone has said to me that they want me to recommend a ‘nice’ hotel, but ‘nice’ is such a flimsy word that can be perceived in too many different ways and so we need terms like ‘lavish’ to be tangible, (at least to some degree) in order to set a standard for what we hope for when searching for that ‘just what I want’ property.
Well whether it’s something rigid or based on matters of opinion, ‘lavish’ is a term you can’t take away from St Martin’s Lane Hotel, which sits between Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square in the heart of London’s West End. But it’s not a ‘lavish’ which needs all things sparkly, or in gold laminate, and with red carpets to fulfill expectations, as St Martin’s Lane pulls it off without any of the above and without the need for these things which are so regularly used to make places look good, but end up making them look like the height of tackiness!
While some of us love a bit of tack every now and again, St Martin’s Lane says ‘boo-hoo’ to tackiness and relies solely on taste (in so many different ways) for it’s sense of lavishness. For a start, the exterior of the hotel is somewhere I walked past for many years when I lived and worked in Covent Garden, assuming that it was just another smart, West End office block. There is no signage on the exterior, and half curtains surround the inside of the glass walled lobby, which is discreetly furnished without any overbearing ornamentation or interior signage. There are however, some intriguing details worthy of closer inspection if you can be bothered, but somehow all my cares seem to disappear when stepping over the St Martin’s Lane threshold. Entering through the revolving door and receiving the most chilled out welcome from the friendly-but-not-overbearing staff, I immediately feel like I’ve stepped into a bubble of tranquility which I normally only get from spending time at the spa.
St Martin’s Lane is part of the Morgan Group who also have the Sanderson in London, and various other properties in New York, Boston, Miami, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. I always remember the elevators at the Sanderson like a personalized, private planetarium, but there is a similar atmosphere at St Martin’s Lane where this morning I joined films of gold fish swimming around the elevator as I was on my way out.
Philippe Starck’s interiors are one of the real coups which Morgans have scored. A King of the world’s high-level interiors artistes, Starck has created a special world at these properties, which relies not on the ‘been-there, done-that’ idea of boutique hotels (where every location within the building has a totally individual personality), but instead takes a range of ideas closer to uniformity. It’s a uniformity that could easily be construed as clinical if you ignore the subtle detail. But with the simple use of signature colours revealed with such a delicate intricacy as you walk around the building, the whiteness of it all actually becomes like a personal security blanket offering a sense of order and efficiency you can always return to. It’s like colour therapy – as if it’s been decided that white is the base colour you’ll be dominated by first, and in doing so your mind is reset to a neutral mood. Then slowly introducing other colours one at a time creates moods conducive to your stay. Subsequently, everyone at St Martin’s Lane seems like they’re in the same mood… just chilled.
But as someone once said to me “it’s all about good lighting”, and Starck has not missed the point on this as the rooms and the public areas of the hotel offer lighting to both achieve a relaxed mood throughout, and also to highlight just what you need to see. A turn down service is offered to all rooms (I laaaahhhvvv that!) and when you return from your casual evening dinner in the ground floor Asia de Cuba restaurant or cocktails in the Light Bar you’ll find a banner of coloured light around the bed head (green, red or blue) has been set off against other moody lighting in the room to create another unique cozy atmosphere just perfect for preparations to slumber.
Talking about the Light Bar, it’s one of those places where you wouldn’t be surprised to see a few familiar faces so be prepared to be turned away if you’re not dressed appropriately, or if it’s a busy night (Friday/Saturday) and you haven’t got a booking. I visited on a Sunday but booked anyway when I checked in to the hotel, just in case, as I’d arranged to meet friends. We had cocktails of course, and I often find that when it comes to cocktails, presentation is given prerogative over taste, but the expert cocktail chefs here have fused great taste with delightfully stunning presentation to create a menu which is good wherever your finger lands… don’t hesitate on what to drink – just take what sounds good, or ask the staff for a recommendation.
My most favourite surprise this time around at St Martin’s Lane was not only such a warm welcome back, but a complimentary tray of beautiful, melt-in-the-mouth macaroons. I savoured the first one, but the next just didn’t touch the sides so I convinced myself to save the last two for my friends who came to visit! I also assumed that such creations could only have come from the likes of Lavuree or one of the high class London based confectioners, but on enquiring I was thrilled to discover that they’d come from the hotel’s own kitchen! I’ve taken a box for a friend’s birthday and I’ll be ordering more when I come back!
St Martin’s Lane is one of the few places in the world I could happily live at. Call it ‘boutique’, ‘lavish’, ‘nice’ or any fancy adjective you can come up with, your experience here will be second to none. I truly can’t recommend it enough!
(One night with breakfast, 24 hour internet access, and cocktails for 3, cost me £340. This was a one-off treat I sometimes allow myself on special occasions normally once each year or two. However, if you’re prepared to do some research and spend time hunting around the last minute websites and online booking agents, you can often get some really good deals which are cheaper than this so while it’s generally not going to be cheap, don’t rule it out if your on a budget!… either way you won’t be disappointed!)