One of London's first contemporary-design hotels still has lots going for it: cosseting bedrooms, top Basque cuisine and a quiet location amid retail heaven
If the Metropolitan on Park Lane is the glam young thing of the
COMO family, then the Halkin is the desirable older sister:
understatedly classy, with a chic Belgravia address, and still
naturally beautiful after 19 years of hard work. It must be the
heritage. Like the COMO brand (an acronym for mother and daughter
Christina and Melissa Ong, and coincidentally an Italian lake), the
hotel combines impeccable Asian roots with timeless Milanese
Long arcs of spotlit corridor, lined with seemingly impenetrable black-corrugated walls, sweep like a cruise ship along 5 floors of perfectly muffled, cossetingly creamy bedrooms. But there's no danger of cabin fever here: 33-45 sq.m. of floorspace, tall double-glazed windows and the very best of finishings - burlwood panelling, Italian-wool carpets and enough marble in the huge bathrooms to sink the QE2. Downstairs is a long lobby bristling with Armani-clad staff, an adjoining bar with a scattering of multi-lingual businessmen and upscale tourists, and Ametsa with Arzak Instruction, the sleek, modern Basque restaurant pioneered by the team behind the acclaimed Arzak restaurant in San Sebastian, Spain.
You can pay a lot of money at London hotels and still sleep badly.
Not here. Our enormous bed had an excellent mattress,
high-thread-count Egyptian linen sheets, a plump duvet and stacks
of goose-down pillows. Absolute silence and darkness was ensured
thanks to double glazing and double blinds. We slept until 10am,
and woke as if from a long hibernation.
Edith Leschke's Milanese-bred design has stood the test of time thanks to naturally muted colours, clean geometric lines and the very best of materials: Tuscan marble tiles, Irish-wool carpets and spotless cream sofas with black-lacquered nesting tables. One wall consists of warm-grained inset panelling, a section of which slides open to reveal the wardrobe, waffle robes, a minibar and a safe. Business travellers can request a printer / fax machine for the desk (there's complimentary WiFi) and there’s an internet-enabled TV for when the work is done.
There’s also a bedside console from which you can regulate the temperature, lighting, do-not-disturb sign and - should you wish - check on time zones worldwide. Perfect for the iPad generation.
We stayed in a corner Deluxe Room and would thoroughly recommend it, being that bit larger and brighter. We also liked the top-floor rooms with their monastic white-vaulted ceilings and elevated views (not that any of the views are worth writing home about). All rooms have space for 2 armchairs and a coffee table, but avoid 207 / 208 (and 307 / 308 etc.) next to the lifts.
Studio Suites are slightly larger than Deluxe Rooms and have a separate dressing area, while the Belgravia Suites have a large living space. Arched walls of glass windows border the grand COMO Suites, some of which have the added luxury of a balcony. All can host drinks parties of up to 10 people.
Big marble-clad bathrooms boast gorgeous COMO Shambhala smellies (which you can buy), piles of fluffy towels, a deep oval bathtub and a shower which puts the 'ow' back in power.
Tucked away at the rear of the ground floor is Ametsa with Arzak
Instruction. Having arrived in 2013, we haven’t sampled
its offerings yet, but with esteemed chefs Elena and Juan Mari
Arzak at the helm, we’ve high hopes for the Halkin’s
newest addition. Having achieved 3 Michelin stars in their original
San Sebastian restaurant, the chefs are bringing their own brand of
‘New Basque Cuisine’ to central London. Diners
can expect locally sourced, organic produce with earthy flavours
and surprising modern twists of creativity. The restaurant itself
can seat up to 60 guests and can be hired with the adjoining
Private Dining Room for private events.
The space previously played host to the world’s first Michelin-starred Thai restaurant, Nahm. Intimate and understated, it earned its spurs under Australian chef David Thompson. We dined here on a Sunday and felt that the restaurant lacked a bit of buzz, but much like the Halkin itself, the emphasis was on classic elegance and discretion. This approach to dining was enhanced by the excellent service: glasses were kept full, courses were promptly cleared and aperitifs were expertly recommended. We’re sure such standards will carry through to the new restaurant.
Breakfast at Halkin can't be faulted. We ordered eggs (from their health selection) and a full English: gooseberry jam and acacia honey, cherry tomatoes grilled on the stalk and a fruit smoothie of blueberry, banana and teenage jackfruit were the highlights.
The Green Tourism Business Scheme awarded The Halkin a bronze in corporate social responsibility and environmental efforts (2010).
London has lots to offer throughout the year, and the hotel is always busy, but December, January, July and August are usually a bit quieter, and weekends are normally less busy than weekdays (ask about weekend packages with breakfast and/or dinner).
Bring something smart for dinner (which you're well advised to book when confirming your room) as well as plenty of plastic for impulse shopping and bar drinks. You won't need ear plugs.
Children are welcome, and both baby cots and extra beds for under 16s are complimentary. Younger children will get milk and biscuits at turndown; older children can ask for Playstation consoles and games. Highchairs are available at breakfast.
The Halkin is in the upmarket Belgravia district, a block south of Hyde Park Corner (on the Piccadilly Tube line) and a few blocks north of Victoria station (on the District, Circle and Victoria Tube lines).
London City (17km away) is the closest aiport, but most flights land at London Heathrow (25km away) or London Gatwick (48km away). Some budget airlines land at London Luton (44km away) or London Stansted (60km away). Click on the links below for a list of airlines serving these airports.
From the Airport:
Taxis cost approximately £30 from London City airport, £65 from London Heathrow and £120 from London Gatwick. The Halkin can arrange a limousine transfer from any airport - see Rates - or you can take public transport (see below).
From Heathrow airport you can take the fast Heathrow Express rail service to Paddington, or take the slower Piccadilly line Tube service all the way to Hyde Park Corner, near the hotel. The Gatwick Express service travels from Gatwick airport to Victoria in 30 minutes, and the Stansted Express takes 45-60 minutes to reach Liverpool Street station. There's a Docklands Light Rail (DLR) service from London City airport to Bank, where you can connect with the Tube network.
Rail services to London from elsewhere in the UK arrive at Victoria (near the hotel), Paddington, Marylebone, King’s Cross, St Pancras, Euston, Waterloo or Liverpool Street. International Eurostar trains from Paris, Lille and Brussels arrive at St Pancras station.
You really won't need a car in central London - parking is generally a nightmare and the Congestion Charge is expensive. But if you do need to hire a car, we recommend Holiday Autos, which offers competitive prices and discounts for internet bookings. The Halkin has valet parking.
Get an Oyster card at any Tube station for the cheapest fares. These can also be used on bus routes and overground train services within London.
Detailed directions will be provided when you book through i-escape.com.
More on getting to the UK and getting around.
The World's Best Places to Stay, Conde Nast Traveler Gold List 2011
Top 5 Small Hotels in Europe, Conde Nast Traveler Readers' Choice Awards 2010
Top 20 UK Leisure Hotels, Readers' Travel Awards 2010, Conde Nast Traveller (UK)
Conde Nast Traveler 2010 Gold List
The Telegraph, October 2013
"Ametsa with Arzak Instruction is the result of a collaboration between The Halkin and a team that includes chef Elena Arzak and her father Juan Mari Arzak. The duo are ordinarily found in the three Michelin star Arzak restaurant they run in San Sebastian in Spain. The unusual name is actually Basque for 'dream', and Elena Arzak describes the opening as a dream project for her team. Drawing inspiration from the original Arzak restaurant, the menu will showcase 'New Basque Cuisine' and expectations are high - Elena Arzak was recently named World's Best Female Chef by Restaurant magazine."
Conde Nast Traveler (US), Gold List 2011
"Each floor at this hotel near Hyde Park was inspired by the five elements. "Very modern rooms" have pale-cream fabrics, wood veneers, and "excellent marble bathrooms."
Marie Claire, May 2011
"...it really does feel like a sanctuary. Staff speak in hushed tones, the pace is unhurried and décor is warm and natural. Every detail has been thought through and tweaked for guests’ convenience and comfort, from easy to use magnetic keys to curved walls of wood along the hotel corridors... With wonderfully attentive staff, comfort and a service second to none, The Halkin is, in my book, well worth a visit."
Conde Nast Traveler (US), Gold List 2010
"This Belgravia hotel with an exterior of weathered brick and Portland stone "makes you feel like you're staying in a private town house." Rooms, colored to evoke the five elements, are "a little small but are tricked out with good lighting.""
Reviews are from people who have booked through us.
“We enjoyed our stay at the Halkin. It was our second time there. We had breakfast and also a dinner at the restaurant, and food and service were very good. It took them a while to serve the breakfast though. The room was a good size and was clean.”