Boutique hotels offer what most luxury chains can’t: personalised service, unique design and great central city locations – often at more affordable prices. Here’s our pick of London’s best.
Often, a stay in a boutique hotel is less about the bed you sleep in, and more about the overall experience. They are designed for travellers who want to make their accommodation an integral part of their trip – and London is overflowing with them. From whitewashed modern spaces to boudoir-style hotels that celebrate the city’s history, here’s our pick of the best around.
A glance at the Artist Residence will tell you it’s something special, but the Pimlico favourite really is magnificent inside. Often touted as “affordable luxury”, the 10-room hotel features exposed brickwork, unconventional art and a very British array of eccentric-but-it-works clutter. Plus, it houses the delicious Cambridge Street eatery, serving up modern fare all day. Start your morning with avocado on toast, and wind down in the evening with a pre-dinner cocktail and bites in the way of burrata and crispy cornish squid.
Since its opening in 2006, the Hoxton has become synonymous with the cool, East London vibe – making it perfect for hipsters at heart. Billed as “anti-hotels”, the Hoxton Shoreditch is the original of the hotel properties owned by Sharan Pasricha, who has since opened in Holborn, Amsterdam, Paris and now, New York and Oregon. Rooms offer great value for money, and the brand focuses on a community feel. Lobbies double as work and social spaces, and breakfast comes in the way of a fruit, yoghurt, and pastry bag delivered to your door each morning – perfect for making the most of late-morning sleep-ins.
The Mandrake borrows its name from a mystical, hallucinogenic plant – a fitting tribute given the mind-blowing scale of transformation from red-brick building to jungle-style retreat when you walk inside. The verdant palm tree-filled interior feels more like Indonesia than Central London, and the spiritual concierge service adds another layer of far-flung Zen. Rooms range from seductive dark-toned spaces with four-poster beds and oriental influences to luxe white spaces attached to hammam-style marble bathrooms with dreamy rainforest showers. In-house restaurant Yopo is a lesson in culinary innovation, serving fusion British-South American food such as octopus empanadas and lamb loins served with chorizo and chard.
Located bang in the middle of trendy Soho, the Ham Yard is within walking distance of the West End, Chinatown and Oxford Street. But the best way to see London is easily on the hotel’s rooftop garden – a well-kept secret among guests. The drinks menu is original and delicious, and the atmosphere is joyful (helped by the garden theme – there are even two beehives). There’s a real focus on having fun at the Ham Yard – the interior, designed by Kit Kemp is playful and colourful, and there’s even a 1950s-style bowling alley.
If it comes from the people behind Soho House, you know there’s always going to be a buzz around – and that’s exactly the case with Dean Street Townhouse. The restaurant is an institution; attracting both club members and visitors alike. The rooms come in sizes – from Tiny to Bigger – meaning there’s a price point for almost every guest. With an eye on comfort (the freestanding bathtubs are a perfect example) and luxury in the form of the Cowshed toiletries, you’re guaranteed a great introduction to London’s busy neighbourhood.
The Henrietta aims – and rarely fails – to surpass all guests’ expectations. Its rooms were handed over to interior designer Dorothée Meilichzon to stamp her signature playful style, and would consequently not look out of place in a Wes Anderson movie – think curved Art Deco lines and contrasting pastel and primary colours. The hotel is owned by the same group that runs the Experimental Cocktail Club – a speakeasy-style basement bar hidden behind a Chinatown door – and the libations served here are just as good. While the bar is the place to imbibe both newfangled and classic cocktail options, the restaurant is perhaps the biggest draw. Helmed by Valentin Pouzet, its menu is a mix of French and Basque influences, with items such as ham croquettes, and baked sea bass with romesco sauce.
Parquet flooring, geometric wallpaper and hanging beds (yes, hanging) give The California Hotel a curious personality that you’ll want to get to know better the moment you step inside. Each spotlessly simple room retains original features such as the sash windows and external brickwork, and bright colours splashed across the odd magenta-hued wall. Down in the bar, stained-glass doors lead to a leafy courtyard – the perfect spot for a barrel-aged cocktail. King’s Cross has been experiencing something of a cultural revival, so there are plenty of must-visit spots nearby, including Dishoom at Granary Square, and celebrity-approved beauty spot, FaceGym.
The Zetter Townhouse was designed to feel like the home of someone’s mythical aunt (who has as much money as eccentricity). From mid-century furnishings and faded antique-framed portraits to Union Jack-draped four-poster beds and gold-tile bathtubs, the decor reads like a the home of a time-travelling noble from yesteryear. If ever there was an excuse to start the holiday early, you’ll find it in reception, which doubles as a kitschy cocktail bar. The apothecary-style drinks – inspired by recipes for old tinctures and herbal remedies – come with supposed mystical health benefits (ironically, the incredibly strong Quartz Gin Martini will actually enhance your memory). You can also tuck into traditional British snacks, or pull up an armchair in the olde-worlde reception room for a spot of afternoon tea.
The bright geometric artwork on the exterior of The Megaro hints at what to expect inside. Each distinctively designed room has its own theme, ranging from the silver and glittery Space Room to the Britannia Rose rooms – decorated in sultry shades of red wine. The Megaro Eatery serves up modern Italian food made from fresh British produce. For breakfast, try the Bomba – a warm buttery pastry oozing sweet fillings such as banana and hazelnut praline – and come dinner time the Pugliese Burrata on fresh sourdough and beef shin lasagna is not to be missed. Round the night off with a nightcap and possibly even a live comedy show in The Megaro Bar.
The COMO hotels are known for their refined yet subtle luxury, as well their impeccable service – and COMO The Halkin certainly lives up to that reputation. The whitewashed reception space brings a sense of calm to your mood, which will only be heightened when you see your room – lacquered wooden walls and cream tones create an Art Deco vibe that mingles nicely with the hotel chain’s signature East Asian influences. Should you want to take your peaceful stay one step further, you can sign up to in-room spa treatments courtesy of the award-winning Como Shambhala, while the in-house gym offers personal training and private yoga sessions.
Though practically obsolete terms today, “vintry” and “mercer” refer to two of London’s once thriving trades – the former alludes to the arrival of wines from France, the latter to sellers of fine textiles. Both are celebrated at this high-end hotel, perhaps most notably in the rooms, with their velvet-upholstered headboards and hand-stitched wallpaper. As for the wine? Try pairing a glass with some Asian-influenced tapas at Vintry Izakaya, or knock several back in the surreptitious basement bar, Do Not Disturb. The shining light, however, is Mercer Roof Terrace. With views over St. Paul’s Cathedral and The Shard – and Instagram bait in the way of glass igloos used for warm winter meals – the British cuisine-embracing restaurant is a must-book for dinner during your stay.
Situated just a few minutes’ walk from Earl’s Court Station, The Rockwell is focused on comfort while still offering up stylish rooms at wallet-friendly prices. Rooms are whitewashed with pops of colour coming from plush furnishings and feature walls with floral wallpaper. It all combines to evoke a sense of rural England – and that’s before you lay eyes on the garden, a rare treat within a city where real estate is an increasingly competitive commodity, and the perfect spot to take breakfast and soak up the sunshine.
Walking into Batty Langley’s is like stepping back in time to London’s Victorian era. After you’ve checked in, waste no time in checking out your room: think gold-inlaid furnishings, walls in deep shades of merlot red and charcoal grey, and the crowning feature – a mahogany four-poster bed. The hotel eschews a typical restaurant and bar in favour of a living room-style honesty bar and room service – treat yourself to smoked salmon bagels in bed or beef bourguignon. When it comes to eating out, you’ll be pleased to know the area is home to some of London’s most-loved eateries – try Dishoom for top-notch Bombay cuisine and an authentic Iranin cafe culture.
Comprising three Georgian townhouses in bustling Soho, Hazlitt’s is a seductive space that draws you in the moment you step through its doors. Much like sister hotel Batty Langley’s, it’s more boudoir than bedroom; an opulent hotel that feels plucked from another century gone by. Roll-top baths, four-poster beds, chandeliers and Moroccan rugs are commonplace, making it all too easy to while away the hours in your room. Do peel yourself away however, even if only for a tipple at the honesty bar, although beware – one too many stiff drinks may make the plush armchairs a little too comfortable.