I AM sitting in ‘probably the most beautiful bar in London’, according to the Evening Standard, and am finding it hard to disagree. I’m in the Lobby Bar of the One Aldwych sipping a One Negroni cocktail* and realising that being ‘number one’ is this award-winning hotel’s whole philosophy.
Ideally situated in Covent Garden and close to London’s main attractions, the hotel, which was opened in 1998, has more than 100 rooms and suites, each with original artwork, fruit and flowers, and the all-important delivery of the morning newspaper.
For my weekend stay, I had the pleasure of staying in a One Aldwych ‘deluxe room’, featuring a king-sized bed, 24-hour room service, a state-of-the-art Bowers & Wilkins docking station for my iPod, a large flat-screen HD television (with all of the Sky Sports channels), air conditioning and, my personal favourite, a mini-television in the bathroom which sat at eye level with the bathtub itself!
As well as doing the fundamentals to the highest of standards, One Aldwych also excels at the little touches, and it was nice to receive a little card each morning, which posed the question: ‘Wondering how to dress?’, before providing a guide to the day’s weather.
Then there were the ‘London tips’, information cards featuring news on shows and events on in the city during my stay. I also liked the ‘Liquids Onboard’ card which came accompanied with an ideal sealable bag for use when carrying liquids during a flight.
OK, I admit I journeyed to London by train, thanks to East Coast – it really is the best way to travel in the UK if you do not have to cross an expanse of water – but it will come in useful in the future!
After finally extricating myself from the bath, I simply jumped from one tub to another and made my way to the hotel’s 18-metre, chlorine-free swimming pool that features underwater music, relaxing imagery projected on to a screen, along with a steam room and sauna. And, for those who require it (i.e. not me), there is a 24-hour, 150sqm gym with dedicated personal trainers.
After the wetness of the pool, it was time to dive into a dry Martini in the hotel’s private 30-seat screening room to enjoy a Hollywood blockbuster in rather more decadent surroundings than one is used to at their local multiplex.
One Aldwych’s ‘Martini Movies’ evenings, which also include a three-course meal, are the ultimate way to unwind in this most high-flying of cities. Did somebody say ‘dinner’? From the ‘local cinema’, it’s just a quick walk to the hotel’s much-heralded and very striking Axis restaurant.
During my stay, the menu, which is lovingly prepared by executive chef Dominic Teague and features a theme of ‘modern British food’, was stacked with a plethora of well-known favourites with added panache.
For example, the Highland venison was accompanied by a little pot which Teague described as a kind of ‘venison shepherd’s pie’, adding: “We marinade venison neck with red wine and herbs, then slowly braise for approximately six hours. It is then flaked and mixed with sautéed shallots, carrot and thyme, and the reduced braising liquor. We then cover it with a mashed potato enriched with egg yolks and glaze it.” If that doesn’t whet the appetite, I don’t know what will!
For starter, I opted for the pressed terrine of Lincolnshire rabbit and young leek, wild mushroom vinaigrette. To finish, I can certainly recommend the apple tart which provided a perfect balance of sharp and sweet with crisp buttery pastry. All of this was washed down with white wine chosen by our all-seeing and all-knowing waiter.
When back in the ‘real world’, I am often guilty of eschewing breakfast, despite know-it-alls proclaiming it to be ‘the most important meal of the day’. However, on the rare occasions when I escape on holiday, breakfast becomes a one-hour event savoured to the max. And, for that, I had come to the right place. At One Aldwych, breakfast is served in Indigo, a well-crafted and peaceful space which features a balcony overlooking the Lobby Bar. Full English was the order of the day for me, and I have seldom tasted better.
Suitably well fed, it was time to explore the city and it’s when you step out the front door of One Aldwych when you realise just truly how ideally located you are, with the hotel in walking distance of 15 theatres; shopping galore; the financial district; art galleries (Tate Modern, Somerset House, National Gallery, the South Bank); the London Eye; and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.
But staying at such an exquisite hotel, I was never likely to venture very far and so I returned for one last cocktail before the end of the day. It had to be the One Negroni and, when I next come to stay in London, it will most certainly be the One (and only) Aldwych.
• One Negroni: Beefeater 24 Gin, home-made aged vermouth, bitters and strawberry jam served in a shortball glass over one golf ball-shaped lump of ice.
• David Findlay stayed at One Aldwych, London, WC2B 4BZ, www.onealdwych.com. For reservations call 020-7300 0500 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Room prices start from £264 per night (including VAT). He travelled to London from Edinburgh by train with East Coast. Standard Advance returns, booked online at www.eastcoast.co.uk from Edinburgh to London start from £34. Times and fares also on 08457-225 225, or from staffed stations and travel agents.