In a city of a thousand hotels, or more, there are a few hotels in London that I return to time and again. The One Aldwych is one such place, all glossy and stylish near Covent Garden with its gold-leaf cocktails and history credits of cool.
Built in 1907 by the same architects who worked on the Ritz, One Aldwych spent time as a newspaper HQ before becoming a luxury London hotel.
Now, they keep the white stone and dome but have spruced up the inside with bold modern art and glittering blue lifts.
Its location, on the edge of Covent Garden and the Royal Opera House and just a short walk from Leicester Square and SoHo, make it the perfect stop for catching a show at the West End.
But there’s a couple of good reasons to stay for business travel, too, or simply to feel well if you’re spending more than one or two days on the road.
The first is the spa and swimming pool, somewhat scarce in central London.
The second is the new dining concept: the Trays of Treats.
In short, this is room service how you’d always wished it would be: great instead of an afterthought. Executive Chef Dominic Teague has designed four different varieties, to suit the mood you’re in: Healthy, Working, Children’s or Movie Night In.
Healthy includes poached fish and slices of fruit, while the children’s menu mixes the treat of chocolate milk with the more balanced carrot and hummus.
Then it’s all out piggery for the Movie Night in with sweet and salted popcorn, hot dogs and nachos.
In a fit of, well, being healthy, I tested out the healthy one. All the taste of a great restaurant, all the comfiness of a hotel room with the chance to get changed and dry my hair between courses, ready to go out.
Love the idea.
There’s a majestic curve of road that sweeps through central London called Aldwych. Like many a place in this grand old capital, it has a name designed to fox outsiders. And even insiders in this case (according to experts, you pronounce it old-witch, expecting pointy hats on broomsticks to fly by.)
Spa – One Aldwych Review
Small for outside London, this chlorine-free pool provides plenty enough space to keep you fit and healthy by swimming laps with the added quirkery of a wall-size TV screen at one end showing dolphins and wales submerged beneath the blue. There’s no natural light here, though there is a steam room and sauna, but it takes a while to notice because of this clever design.
The Lobby Bar – One Aldwych Review
The breakfast restaurant overlooks this space that’s filled with sunlight even on the greyest of London mornings and whose ceiling rains down in yellow with flowers suspended upside down.
Cocktails are a work of art, coming in popcorn and hazelnut flavours as well as my favourite: For Love (a blend of chilli, vodka, lemon and some kind of smokin’ dry ice.) On my latest visit, I tried the gold leaf cocktail and, well, bathed in the luxuriousness of it all!
Axis Restaurant at One Aldwych in Review
Enter from the street for an apparently glamorous introduction to London dining. Or, you can do as I did and scurry around in the bowels of the hotel before popping out somewhat unannounced on the hotel side.
I’d recommend the former approach.
Lighting and décor here is low key but the food most absolutely certainly is not. Many restaurants claim to use the finest seasonal ingredients and to reinvent British cuisine (yes, ho ho ho, there is some) but Axis at Aldwych really does pull it off.
Executive chef Dominic Teague served up a chunky, meaty deer tartare, fresh Colchester crab with sesame seeds and pork belly with cabbage and Jersey royal potatoes. That was topped off with poached pear and saffron cake and a joyful peanut butter ice cream, caramel popcorn and glazed banana combo.
The Rooms – One Aldwych Review
The standout spot is the Dome Suite that lives, oh yes, right beneath the dome of this stately historic building. It includes a circular dining room with a circular table for up to 10 guests and circular windows through which I could watch the non-circular London world go by.
But elsewhere, the suite resembled the other 104 rooms in terms of style and most amenities. Splashes of daring contemporary art punctuated the otherwise clean design in neutral colours. Meanwhile, the fast, free wifi, iDevice docking stations, crisp white linen and televisions in the bathroom added a refined, luxurious touch.
Showers are strong and easy to use. Room service friendly and efficient.
One Aldwych has a private screening room where up to 30 people can gather to watch films together.
What I loved
The popcorn cocktail in a high vibe bar
Being so close to Covent Garden
Sunday brunch – everything you’d expect, served with excellence
Crisp white sheets and silence – a treat of a good night’s sleep
What to know
The swimming pool plays sharks as well as dolphins on the screen!
Luxury boutique hotel with 105 rooms and suites. Find all the details you could possibly want over here.
Disclosure – I stayed as a guest of One Aldwych for review purposes on the understanding that I’d be free to write whatever I wanted, as ever, as always. One Aldwych made it to the hit list of Special Places to Stay in London over here.
Abigail King is an award-winning writer and author who swapped a successful career as a hospital doctor for a life on the road. With over 60 countries under her belt, she's worked for Lonely Planet, the BBC, National Geographic Traveller and more. She is passionate about sustainable tourism and was invited to speak on the subject at the EU-China High Level summit at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.Here she writes about food, travel and history and she invites you to pull up a chair and relax. Let's travel more and think more. Welcome!
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