Starkly original design in a 21st century hotel that feels like ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ directed by Jean Cocteau. Just be prepared for a party vibe in the bar.
In 2000, the combination of Ian Schrager, Philippe Starck and a classic modernist Grade II-listed paint showroom proved a seriously winning mix, but how is it holding up 16 years on? The short answer: pretty well, thanks to Starck’s originally smart but whimsical design throughout a space that takes in starship-themed lifts, barely visible portraits of dogs and arty wall lights behind full-length silk curtains, and exuberantly rich touches like John Piper’s soaring stained glass wall in the regal billiard room.
The rooms, in a pared-down palette of silver, dove grey and lemon, are similarly ethereal, especially when cool green lighting spills out of the huge glass-box bathrooms. Here too an off-kilter ambience is created by silver sleigh beds, fittings set at odd angles, and Starck’s sculptural dumbbells for XO mounted on the walls. The spacious rooms aren’t quite perfect – noise from the Long Bar and courtyard leaks in – but they’re close to it, especially if super-comfortable kingsize beds, crisp white linen, great products, smartphones and an impressive number of premium channels are what make you happy in a hotel.
At weekends, the Long Bar and its outdoor courtyard garden become the party spot for international bright young things from as far afield as Moscow, Tel Aviv and, er, Essex. However they don’t intrude too much on the adjacent restaurant, which serves modern British food as well as a great breakfast, and in any case wise residents head for the Purple bar to sit in a tiny, jewel-like space from which the hoi polloi are excluded. Open until 3am, it’s a space in which to feel cosseted and privileged in equal measure – rather like the Agua spa. Here, white silk curtains help divide a lofty space into heavenly white relaxation rooms and ‘pods’, while upstairs, 14 treatment rooms offer a wide range of treatments by brands including Natura Bisse, Eve Lom, Nuxe and Ciate. Like the rest of the hotel, it’s original, different, and enjoyable enough to make you forget both the teeming masses on nearby Oxford Street and the vociferous hordes in the bar.
Time Out tip
The tiny Newman Arms on Rathbone Street is a godsend in an area where eating and drinking well can be tricky. Here, you can do both in an eighteenth-century pub which also appeared as a location in Michael Powell’s 1960s 'Peeping Tom'.
50 Berners St
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