London, so the consensus goes, is good at luxurious, grand hotels and tiny boutique hotels and not much else between. With some 80 rooms and suites, South Place Hotel challenges the maxim. Since it it opened in 2012 it’s become one-to-know. It’s equally unusual because it was set up by a company that specialised in high-end restaurants dipping its toe into the waters of international luxury hotels.
For a first attempt, they made a lot of smart decisions. For a start, its location is one of the best you could find in London, a city where there is a real advantage to living –temporarily or otherwise– in one of those ‘boundary’ locations, the places between different vibrant areas that tend to be quieter in their immediate vicinity, especially at weekends. In this case, it lies between the business bustle of the City of London and the trendy shenanigans of Shoreditch while the West End is easily accessible. In other words, it suits city-breakers who want to hit the clubs and bars of the East End as well as those who need to be in the business district for work. If you fit into both categories it’s even more ideal.
And then there’s the design. In commissioning Conran & Partners to design the hotel, D&D obviously made another move that would appeal to a broad clientele of sophisticates. Despite the new-build structure, Conran & Partners’ interior design has an eclectic retro feel to it; a few nods to domestic modernism from the 1950s and 1960s and, naturally, even touches of the traditionalism that has long dominated good British hotels.
There is something characteristic of Conran’s style about the place that is, in some ways, even more personal to Sir Terence Conran than some of his other hotel ventures. It has a quintessential Englishness about it visible in everything from the marble bathrooms to the proportions of the rooms or the simple striped Regency fabric used on restaurant chairs. At the same time, it has a down-to-earth earnestness about it –differentiating snobbery from tradition– with which Conran and his generation of upper-crust British designers will always be associated.
The design vision avoids excessive gestures of trendiness that characterise many design hotels. This is an hotel in which style is foregrounded over faddish histrionics. As such, it equally appeals to those who are positively hip and those who are interested in such things, but tend towards caution.
In addition to every in-room convenience you might expect from a good hotel, South Place Hotel has a number of other valuable resources. Perhaps inevitably given its creators, it has a plethora of excellent dining and bar facilities onsite, including the wonderful Angler Restaurant that specialises in British seafood and has an expansive roof terrace. It also has the Secret Garden, a gem of an outdoor bar that manages to live up to the promise of its name just enough. Yes, it can get pretty crowded, especially with after-work revelry on a Thursday or Friday evening, but it’s usually busy to exactly the right degree.
These, as anyone who is a frequent visitor to the city can testify, are an absolute blessing. London is a city where it’s notoriously difficult to find a nice quiet spot for a drink on almost any night of the week. Savvy guests usually get their friends to join them at the hotel for a drink rather than trying to find a table elsewhere. What could be more convenient?