by columnist and Sherelle Jacobs, The Telegraph, September 26, 2017
"Excuse me. Can you take a picture of us?" my friend, Freya, asked a waitress, motioning to the pool with its show-stopping views of St Paul's Cathedral. Unprepared, I yanked at my too-small bikini (note to self: don't buy any size available in a Melissa Odabash sale). I needn't have worried. "No pictures in the members' areas, ladies." was the tart reply.
I was on the rooftop of The Ned, a freshly opened hotel and members' club rumoured to have cost a bank-busting £200 million, and one of the most anticipated new hang-outs in the capital.
Private members' clubs in London hotels are having something of a resurgence – from The Curtain, a hipster's playground in Shoreditch (where else?) with its members-only gigs, to Ten Trinity Square with its private wine clique and The Lanesborough offering exclusive membership to its gym for a heart-thumping £6,000 per year.
But while the opening of The Ned succeeds in riding a wave, it also smacks of selling out. When Nick Jones launched members-only Soho House in the Nineties, committee members reportedly relished shredding applications from City slickers in favour of creative types. Yet some 20 years later he has opened a hotel and members' clubs in – er – the City. And in the old Midland Bank building at that.
It seems risky to try to impose a photo ban in a hotel full of financiers given their aversion to regulation. There were also no obvious signs of celebrities, though maybe they had disguised themselves with handlebar moustaches and man-buns to blend in.
The Ned also odd in other ways. The queue for check-in – in the art deco former banking hall – was reminiscent of NatWest at lunchtime when they're down to one till. "We've been here four times and it's always the same," huffed a couple behind us. "Why do you come back?" I asked, incredulous. Their eyes melted. "It's just so beautiful here we put up with it," they gushed.
I feared we wouldn't get a room before Brexit, or the next solar eclipse. But when we were finally checked in, I immediately understood the attraction: mauve walls, chintzy curtains and velvet armchairs in a very Seventies shade of brown lent a pleasingly vintage vibe.
I also adored the detailing, from hand-painted china pots on the tea tray, to the retro-style alarm clock and phone (Net-a-Porter on speed dial!). Our bathroom had 10 full-sized bottles of Cowshed toiletries in the likes of rosemary, grapefruit and red mandarin. I came out of the shower smelling like a cross between a smoothie and a herb garden.
I set out to explore and soon discovered that, despite the group's members' club origins, there is nothing intimate about 252-room The Ned. I'd have appreciated a golf buggy to get around the seven restaurants on the vast open-plan ground floor, which struck me in its design as something Ikea might come up with if it ever ventured into food halls.
The spa is also huge: we indulged in a mani-pedi and splashed around in the basement pool. The highlight though was a make-up lesson at the Trish McEvoy beauty parlour, where I learned that a primer is not in fact a slanging fest between American presidential candidates.
Food and drink was hit and miss. Lunch at Venetian Cecconi's was disappointing; I couldn't hear Freya over the swing band in the lobby and my tuna tartare had about as much punchy, definitive flavour as a plate full of air.
Dinner at Asian-Pacific Kaia was better – a protein-dense, sticky-glazed romp featuring wagyu beef tataki and tarragon miso with black cod. Breakfast brought pleasingly fashionable options: cue chia-seed yogurts and cold-pressed juice with collagen.
I also rated the basement bar in the old bank vault, complete with original safe door. "It's like Gringotts Wizarding Bank!" Freya trilled. Limited options to go #harrypotter-tastic though –again, no photos allowed.
I was left with the sense that The Ned – part of a hotel group that was conceived in the mid-Nineties – is the hotel equivalent of a millennial. Doggedly ambitious but deeply confused, it's struggling with the question of how to get on in a world where it is credit default swappers, not film critics, with money to spend. But as a fellow twentysomething, I just can't get my head around the Instagram ban.
Doubles from £315, including breakfast. There are 13 rooms adapted for disabled guests (020 3828 2000; thened.com). For more information on The Ned, read Sherelle's full review, and for more City recommendations, read our guide to the best hotels.
This article was written by columnist and Sherelle Jacobs from The Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].