History and experiences – and a bit of mystery – make luxury travel so much more worthwhile. Take a plane from A to B and you do not want any of that, of course. But stay in a luxury hotel and you expect unique pointers throughout your stay. There are certainly plenty at Corinthia London, even without the fabulous Above And Byond immersive theatre that has just finished its first run. The building, a wedge-shape only 20 yards from the Thames, was opened in 1885 by a Mr Gordon, who also had the Metropole in Brighton. The first of what became annual London to Brighton motor rallies started here.
The seven-floor building belonged to the Ministry of Defence from 1936 through to 2006, after which Corinthia spent well over £300 million buying and converting it to a 294-room hotel. Corinthia has not skimped on style. ESPA Living, for instance, extends over four floors and it is absolutely beautiful – the gym has pod-shaped semi-private areas for personal training session, the main sauna, set slightly below the ground around, is round-sided, with all-glass walls, and as you swim in the stainless pool your wake is reflected in the ceiling above.
It is more than probable that 724, the Hamilton Suite, is the most beautiful of all the hotel’s rooms. It is two floor (go up 24 curved white marble stairs to your open closet, bedroom with semi-private bathroom. and out to your terrace, with hot tub. ESPA toiletries are full-sized, big enough not to slip out of your wet hands in the shower.
The dining room, with big crystal chandelier, is more white, with mirrors, and lots of shiny silver bits and pieces. There are flowers everywhere, either purple orchids or white orchids. The salon is intimate, with lots more white and champagne-colour and mirrors wherever possible. You have books on Chanel and every fashion icon worth their salt, and Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code if you must. The salon is also the office. Sit at your desk and look across a low glass table at your working fire, one of the most ‘real’ looking I have seen. Do your work, or write letters, using the paper in the suede-lined leather compendium.
Plan where to eat. The suite is so beautiful one does not want to leave, and in summer dine out on your terrace, by the hot tub, and look at the London Eye.
On the ground floor, Massimo’s, which has ten, 20-foot Corinthian columns today painted in horizontal grey and white stripes, was gym for the Ministry of Defence guys and gals. Now it serves oysters, seafood, whatever, Italian style. Some prefer traditional English in the adjacent business-like restaurant – memo, wherever you dine you might, if Corinthia London is doing another of its brilliant immersive art theatre presentations, be aware at seven minute intervals of actors pretending to be, say, Greta Garbo.
The hotel is so stylishly thought out. The main indoor entrance to the restaurants seems to go via the florist’s. But this is no ordinary flower shop – it is run by Moyse Stephens, started in 1876 and still going strong. I think they must buy every perfect purple, or white, orchid they can find, making a lovely welcome.