|The dramatic lobby of St. Ermin’s was designed by JP Briggs, the famed theatrical architect best known for the Savoy Theater.|
If you have clients traveling to London for business or leisure, look no further than the St. Ermin’s Hotel, which has been brilliantly restored to its Victorian grandeur and transformed into a deluxe four-star property, following a $50 million renovation. Travel Agent had the privilege to visit St. Ermin’s—the latest addition to Accor’s upscale MGallery brand known for rich historical backgrounds, exceptional locations and high-design interiors—and see firsthand one of the most thoughtful and meticulous renovations of a historical property in London.
Located in the heart of Westminster, the 331-room property was originally a 15th century monastery that was later transformed into apartments for wealthy Londoners. In 1904, St. Ermin’s created quite a stir when it was converted into a hotel with a dramatic lobby designed by JP Briggs, the famed theatrical architect best known for the Savoy Theater. Today, that has all been beautifully restored, and entering the hotel is like walking onto a sumptuous white wedding cake with tiers of sweeping staircases, curved balconies and rococo plasterwork ceilings.
Bright and airy, the lobby, library and restaurant surround a lushly planted courtyard, an unusual luxury in this bustling part of the city. The decor is well-suited to this landmark gem—classic with modern sensibilities. Handpicked antiques sit together with modern pieces to provide a warm, sophisticated London welcome.
On a recent school holiday, the cozy library was bustling with casually dressed families enjoying tea, while the clubby Caxton Bar was filled with business people in suits sampling the hotel’s signature flights of wine, whisky and champagne.
The rooms vary in size (including Superior Queen, around 170 square feet, and suites, nearly 700 square feet) and they can be quirky in terms of layout—the hotel was built in Victorian times, after all. But all are nicely appointed with bright, modern furnishings, which look even fresher in this particular historical context.
St. Ermin’s has the most thoughtful family accommodations we’ve seen in London. There are 18 family suites—400-square-foot rooms with two queen beds, a day bed, and two full bathrooms with tubs. Five can comfortably sleep here. (Family suite room numbers end in 8, 11 or 14.) For smaller families, we liked the Deluxe Rooms, which are around 200 square feet and have two full-size beds. For couples, we suggest the 275-square-foot Executive King corner rooms, which feature a small sitting area and larger bathrooms with shower (but no tub). Booking Tip: Rooms facing the courtyard boast the best views.
St. Ermin’s offers its guests all the conveniences they’d expect from a luxury hotel, including flat-screen TVs, international outlets and 24-hour room service. For the fitness-minded, there is a 12,000-square-foot, fully equipped gym. Spa treatments can be arranged in-room. There are also 15 meeting rooms, ranging from the stunning balconied ballroom that seats 150 to intimate boardrooms.
While the properties may be eclectic, the MGallery service is charming and professional. The staff at St. Ermin’s was very warm, especially to youngsters—a real comfort in a big city.
|Caxton Bar serves business people and other guests St. Ermin’s’ signature flights of wine, whisky and champagne.|
Our children were greeted at check-in with a Spy Kids pack, trading on the hotel’s glorious past of intrigue and espionage. (During World War II, Sir Winston Churchill organized covert operations from the meeting rooms; in the 1950s, British double agent Guy Burgess of the “Cambridge Five” gave top secret files to Russians in the bar; and it is rumored that secret tunnels still run from the hotel lobby to the Houses of Parliament.) In the pack, kids found a book of codes, complete with code-writing instruction, and a challenging but fun Secret Agent quiz that took them through the hotel. Upon completion they were rewarded with a compass, spy card and “mocktail” at the bar.
“Field to Fork” Cuisine
Food is not an afterthought here. Head Chef Hus Vedat is a follower of the “field to fork” movement, so much so that he is even harvesting honey from 75,000 bees that live in hives on the hotel’s roof and featuring it in a three-course dinner at the Caxton Grill. Breakfast and lunch are also served in the restaurant, and we enjoyed a gorgeous European-style breakfast buffet—loads of fresh pastries, wonderful meats and cheeses.
High tea in the library is also delicious—we couldn’t decide between the traditional and the chocolate menus so worked our way through scones, clotted cream, and a host of chocolate confections.
There is no shortage of fantastic dining outside the hotel either, and Head Concierge Lee Wood ([email protected]) pointed us toward Quilon, a sophisticated Michelin-starred Indian restaurant that is only a three-minute walk from the hotel.
Close to Shopping and Sights
The hotel is ideally located; St. James’s Park Tube station is around the corner, while St. James’s Park, the oldest of the Royal Parks of London, is a two-minute walk, with elegant Mayfair and energetic Piccadilly just beyond. For shopping, Lee pointed us toward Elizabeth Street in nearby Belgravia, a fun mix of niche luxury brands and one-off shops including royal wedding milliner Philip Treacy’s only London store.
Dotted between are cafes and artisanal food shops—don’t miss pastries at French bakery Poilane. Traditional tourist sites, including Buckingham Palace, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and London Eye, are all within easy reach.
The “M” in MGallery stands for memorable and each property in the collection (there are 45 in 20 countries) plays on the individual distinctions of the hotel to create exclusive travel experiences called “memorable moments.” At St. Ermin’s, this is a private guided tour of Westminster Abbey (easily booked online or at the front desk), which is just down the street from the hotel.
Travel agents should reach out to Sales Director Stuart Leckie ([email protected]) for bookings or special requests.