This small, nattily appointed hotel in the heart of Chinatown is brilliant for Soho escapades and nights at the theatre. Mayfair is but a short stroll away putting you within easy walking distance of numerous highlights – exhibitions at the Royal Academy, window shopping in the Burlington Arcade, and strolling St James Park.
The hotel was originally developed by St John’s one of the leading lights of London’s restaurant scene. Not long after it opened the hotel was sold to Unlisted Collection, the Singaporean-based group behind Town Hall Apartments in London and The Waterhouse in Shanghai. The group has developed a reputation for small, boutique hotels with an eye for quality furnishings and light fittings.
We found the hotel in its previous incarnation rather cold, since taking over the place the owners have made a few minor tweaks, nudging the hotel in the right direction. The existing white walls and furnishings have been retained ensuring that the rooms are as bright as possible – this is important in London! – floor coverings have been replaced and the rooms now feel calm and simple but not clinical. The bar has also had a makeover and is now a pleasant spot for some of London’s cocktails expertly prepared by The Talented Mr Fox. For us the only issue was a lack of lobby space or other communal area and – a perpetual complaint – lack of proper working desk.
This is one of London’s most dynamic neighborhoods – you’ll find a melange of cheap and cheerful Chinese restaurants and grocery shops, musical theatre venues plus proximity to London’s most popular shopping districts. In terms of eating and drinking, the choices are as varied as they are exciting. Favourites around here include Yauatcha for chic yum cha (reservations essential); the so-hot-right-now Peruvian restaurant Cerviche (walk-ins welcome at the bar), Koya for London’s best and most reasonably priced udon noodles (no reservations so arrive early or late or be prepared to queue – it moves quite rapidly) or Boca Di Lupo for brilliant regional Italian food in a sensual decor (book way in advance). For expertly prepared if slightly pricey cocktails are on offer at the Experimental Cocktail Bar (reservations recommended, entry via an unmarked door in Gerrard St). And if that wasn’t enough on your plate already, the hotel’s restaurant is also firmly on the foodie’s map – with fine British food and its own Michelin star.
What We Love
London can be polite but it’s not necessarily friendly – we were lucky enough to be checked in by the dapper O’Neal, whose friendly manner and beaming smile was like a ray of sunshine – and if we were giving out awards for Most Nattily Dressed Concierge, he’d win it! We also liked the simple, slight maritime feel of the rooms (not unlike Shoreditch House in East London) and the luxury of a full bath. The neighbourhood was a real plus – everything was on our doorstep. Assuming your room rate includes breakfast the offerings from the in-house (Michelin starred) restaurant are excellent in terms of quality and extremely generous.
The room was really cosy, overall very well appointed with excellent beds. We loved the line of wooden hooks along the two main walls: a cute, creative way to provide additional hanging space.
Room to Improve
Pillows are a personal thing – soft, hard, fluffy, foamy, large or small everybody has their preference. However, try as we might we cannot recall any hotel review ever waxing lyric about how wonderfully ‘lumpy’ the pillows were. On requesting new pillows from night reception we were told that there were slim pickings as we were the fourth room that evening to ask for pillows. This suggests that a pillow audit is required.
A well-run hotel will always give the appearance of efficiency and calm – any problems should be dealt with away from the guests. Overall the staffing at One Leicester St was excellent – friendly and responsive – however someone who looked like the manager spent hours every morning on the phone in the small reception discussing various issues with his superiors – from guest complaints to HR problems with his personnel! – so loudly that you could hear all the details not only in the adjacent breakfast room but all the way up to the fourth floor landing… Bad vibe. We suggest they get this man an office and free up reception for guest queries!
Keep in mind there are really only two room categories – the roomy superior (the brightest rooms face the front of the hotel) and the post-supper rooms described as a ‘room with a window rather than a room with a view’, these small rooms are priced accordingly.
It’s on the edge of a very busy neighbourhood – right behind the W Hotel and a few *blissful’ meters from the tourist hell of Leicester Square – so expect some street noise downstairs – particularly on weekends. If you are a light sleeper pack ear plugs (we never leave home without them).