August 20, 2021
Tablet is your source for discovering the world’s most exciting boutique hotels — places where you’ll find a memorable experience, not just a room for the night. For over twenty years we’ve scoured the earth, evaluating hotels for every taste and budget, creating a hand-picked selection that’s proven and unforgettable. Now, we’re the official hotel selection of the legendary MICHELIN Guide.
Here are the top 10 London boutique hotels:
London was among the birthplaces of the luxury hotel, and it was an early adopter of the boutique-hotel trend as well. But the most uniquely London form of hospitality just might be the member’s club. These meeting places have historically been approximately one part shared workspace to two parts secret society, and they’re exclusive by nature — not simply exclusive in the modern sense, meaning “expensive,” but truly selective about its clientele. Lately, though, a few of them, like Marylebone’s venerable Home House, have offered another path to (temporary) membership: if you can demonstrate that you’ve got the good taste to book a room for the night, then you’re a member for the duration of your stay.
Home House lies on Portman Square, just off of Oxford Street, around the corner from Selfridge’s and mere streets from Hyde Park. It’s essentially hiding in plain sight, a discreet trio of Georgian townhouses, and you’ll immediately notice the old-world approach to service — private club staff are exceedingly capable and accommodating without being chirpy or solicitous.
The thought of a Spanish luxury chain moving into central London is the sort of thing that could ordinarily be counted on to attract a bit of criticism. But in point of fact, it’s hard to imagine a hotel that’s much more quintessentially English than ME London. It’s housed in a new building designed by Foster + Partners, and located at one end of the Strand’s central Aldwych Crescent, an iconic location if ever there was one. This new build is an addition, really, an outgrowth of a thoroughly renovated 1904 building which was the first home of the BBC, and the original headquarters of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company — proof in itself that London’s never been shy about admitting the occasional overseas influence.
And it’s as big a deal as you’d expect from a new-build Norman Foster luxury hotel in the heart of London. Big, sweeping architectural statements are made, especially in the nine-story pyramid-shaped atrium, while private revelations abound — the top-floor terraces have unrivaled views, and the suite in the corner tower boasts a 360-degree exposure. The interiors are crisp and modern, the rooms and suites reinforcing contemporary London’s international character rather than playing up the Marconi House’s Georgian heritage, and the fixtures and finishes are state-of-the-art, from the integrated electronics to the massively decadent bathrooms.
South Place Hotel offers a pitch-perfect lesson in some of the most exciting changes taking place in London — from its eastward-moving hotel scene to its most forward-thinking designers to its up-and-coming visual artists — but instead of some didactic bore, your instructor is a witty, über-savvy hotelier eager to show you a fantastic time. Of course if your hotel search has led you this far east on the map, you likely already know that the City of London and its surroundings are no longer just where Londoners work — home to one of the world’s great financial centers — but increasingly where they drink and dance and dine, far from the heavily trafficked circus of Piccadilly. And with a rooftop bar that was a coveted nightlife destination practically before it opened (LCD Soundsystem’s Nancy Whang dropped in for one of the initial DJ sessions alongside the house act), South Place knows how to play.
Fortunately, it’s as easy to get a good night’s sleep here as it is to get an expertly crafted drink. The rooms are designed by Conran, who also did the celebrated new Boundary Hotel nearby, and it’s clear who had the power in the relationship between the accountants and the designers. Rooms run from spacious-by-London-standards to positively enormous, with beds, which start out king-size and only get bigger, to match. Lavish Italian-marble bathrooms are stocked with toiletries by the perfumer James Heeley; oversized showers fit two or three bathers at a time; massive Bang & Olufsen screens come with free on-demand movies; and luxurious bedding, including mattresses wrapped in cashmere and silver (why not?), are by Josephine Home. Not that it’s all extravagance for the sake of extravagance. Take the highly functional, oversized work-desks, fitted with recessed media hubs and multinational sockets — perhaps less sexy than, say, the glass bathtub in the window of the Suite 610 room, but proof that function can coexist with form.
A few streets away from Marble Arch, near the the west end of Oxford Street and the entrance to Hyde Park, might not be the first place you’d look for a hotel that’s a celebration of Japanese culture. London has long been a cosmopolitan city, though, and this venture from the Tokyo-based Prince hotel brand distinguishes itself from many other local luxury hotels with the tranquil atmosphere, thoughtful design, and first-class service for which Japanese hotels are famous.
With fewer than a hundred rooms and suites it’s neither a large nor a particularly small hotel, but each unit feels a bit like a little ryokan room, full of wood grain and warm textures. They start out compact, central London being what it is, but the suites are genuinely expansive, and at all levels you’ll have creature comforts like a pillow menu and a walk-in rain shower.
Number Sixteen is either the coziest boutique hotel in London, or the most luxurious bed and breakfast — we’re still not sure. The location, down a sleepy side street in South Kensington, is fairly well hidden; just a row of nineteenth-century Victorian townhouses without so much as a sign to show the way. As a member of Firmdale’s Townhouse Collection, it’s a more low-key experience than the bigger, more lively Ham Yard or Soho Hotel — Number Sixteen is notable for its intimate scale and its quiet charm.
Interiors avoid an excess of clichéd Englishness, mixing the usual antiques with modern artworks and muted contemporary colors. The result is chic without being precious, and the overriding birds-and-butterflies theme is unique, though perhaps an odd choice. Rooms vary from typical London size (rather small) to surprisingly large, and all are luxuriously outfitted with big comfortable beds and top-quality linens. Some rooms come with balconies, and the views vary as well, looking over either Sumner Place or the meticulously kept gardens and conservatory around back. The conservatory is also the site of a restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner to guests and non-residents alike, and the social life spills over into the hotel’s library and drawing room, where travelers huddle round the fireplace or the honor bar, according to taste.
One of London’s original luxury hotels, the Langham opened in 1865, and was, at the time, the most opulent hotel in Europe. By the end of the Second World War it had closed, and was owned for a time by the BBC — but now that it’s back under the banner of the (now Hong Kong–based) Langham Hospitality Group, it’s been restored to its former glory, and is again a major player on the London luxury-hotel scene.
Tradition is very much the name of the game here, though it’s not a strict reproduction of the original — the interiors have been subtly updated, but remain true to the Victorian spirit of the place. This means it’s a fair bit less glossy and jewel-encrusted than some of London’s more ostentatious hotels, and feels much more connected to the city’s historical character. Needless to say, this is a good thing. And with a location just to the north of Oxford Circus, it places the whole of the West End, the traditional heart of London, right at your feet. Also right at your feet: Roux at the Landau, one of London’s most highly regarded restaurants, as well as the glamorous Artesian bar and the grand Palm Court, where the tradition of afternoon tea — a tradition that was born in this very room — is alive and well.
Restaurateurs Chris Corbin and Jeremy King have no shortage of expertise in creating spaces that are quintessentially, nostalgically London — the Ivy, the Wolseley, the Delaunay. But for their first hotel venture, they’ve taken their inspiration from across the Atlantic, patterning the Beaumont after a fictional Roaring Twenties New York member’s club of their own invention. It’s in Mayfair, between Grosvenor Square and Selfridges, and despite its American accent, it’s about as Mayfair as a 21st-century hotel can get, right down to the brash, slightly puzzling piece of quasi-public art that adorns its Twenties Art Deco facade.
The rooms, most of them anyway, are the least surprising thing about the Beaumont, which is not necessarily a criticism when you’re talking about a luxury hotel. They’re subtly stylish, true to their Art Deco intentions, complete with period black-and-white portraits on the walls and ornate marble bathrooms. They feel designed, but in a self-effacing way, studiously avoiding large gestures, feeling more like a well-tailored suit than a show-stopping couture piece. (We’ll get to Antony Gormley’s ROOM in a moment.)
If there’s an upside to the enormously overheated state of the London hotel market, it’s the competition at the top end: the Connaught is just one of a fraternity of clubby old grand hotels, any one of which would be by some distance the top hotel in just about any other town.
In days past the Connaught was as old-school as can be, a bastion of country-house pomp in the heart of Mayfair. Today, after extensive renovations and a redesign by Guy Oliver, it’s less the archetypal country manor and more the archetypal London luxury hotel, which sounds like a dismissal but isn’t actually; these interiors won’t shock you with their originality, but the muted colors and clean lines, along with judiciously preserved traditional references, project just the right atmosphere of stately seriousness.
On a narrow side street in the bustling and chic Covent Garden district of London’s West End, this splendidly theatrical small hotel’s exclusive atmosphere and central location make it the perfect London pied-à-terre for visiting actors, professional shoppers, and savvy yet indulgent travelers. The opera house and the theatre district are close by, as are the West End’s best shops and boutiques — and yet the hotel itself is stunning enough you may have trouble dragging yourself outside.
The building, a converted 1880s hospital, doesn’t exactly scream “hotel” from the outside — it’s a substantial brick structure, in contrast to the Firmdale group’s other Georgian townhouse hotels, and the front windows look into the Brasserie Max, rather than the lobby. Once inside, though, you’ll find the reception desk framed by lavish draperies — a nod to the stage curtains of the surrounding theatre district — and behind, a heavy stone staircase leading to the guest rooms upstairs.
Haymarket Hotel is among the younger hotels in the Firmdale group — or shall we call it a family? We’re disposed to think of Number Sixteen, the Knightsbridge, Soho Hotel and all the rest of the group's other London hotels as instant classics: luxury-hotel values on a boutique-hotel scale, with a unique design personality courtesy of Kit Kemp. What’s not to love?
What’s special about Haymarket Hotel comes down largely to its location. Not far south of the Soho Hotel, and just off Piccadilly Circus, the Haymarket finds itself even more in the thick of Theatreland, surrounded by about as much culture as one could reasonably be expected to take. The National Gallery awaits, as do the low-culture pleasures of Mayfair’s famous shopping districts.