COMO The Halkin

Belgravia, London, United Kingdom Book from £290

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 design.

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.

Highs

  • The classic Italian design - launched in 1991 - has stood the test of time: bedrooms feel smart, linens are sumptuous and all furnishing are regularly refreshed
  • Beautiful bathrooms with big bathtubs, power showers and gorgeous COMO Shambhala products to squabble over
  • The friendly yet professional service is outstanding; nothing is too much trouble
  • Perfect for diplomats (this is the heart of embassy-land), shoppers (Harrods and Harvey Nichols await), joggers (Hyde Park is on your doorstep) and anyone staying over near Victoria
  • And, if you want to mingle at the Met, The Halkin guests get priority reservations at Nobu and the Met Bar

Lows

  • It lacks the buzz of some London hotels - not so good for people-watching or party types
  • While the rooms are likely to suit business travellers, others may feel that they lack flair
  • It's not cheap, but guests all seem to say it's worth the cost (and there are regular offers through i-escape)
  • New in 2013, we have yet to dine in Ametsa with Arzak Instruction

Best time to go

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).

Our top tips

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.

Great for...

Family
Foodie
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 41
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
Room: COMO Suite

Rooms

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.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cd player
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

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 The 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.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Cooking classes
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • The Halkin is well-placed for exploring London’s most famous attractions - the London Eye, the bustling commercial streets (Oxford Street and Savile Row), Covent Garden's opera and street theatre, the world-class art galleries and museums (The National Gallery, Tate Britain, Tate Modern and the British Museum) and the dynamic music and theatre scene (from Ronnie Scotts to Royal Ballet)

  • Head to Knightsbridge (5-10 minutes' walk) for the iconic superstores of Harrods and Harvey Nichols, and Sloane Street, whose shop fronts read like a roll call of fashion's greatest names

  • Hyde Park is only 5 minutes away. It's one of London's most beautiful parks, boasting avenues of plane trees, an art gallery housed in a 1934 tea pavilion, and the (in)famous Diana Memorial water feature. The Serpentine Lake has rowing boats for hire and a Lido where the brave can swim

  • Buckingham Palace is 10 minutes away. The 775-room residence and state offices of Queen Elizabeth II hosts Britain's most lavish receptions, as well as the famous Queen's Guard with their red tunics and bearskin hats (come at 11.30am, daily in summer and alternate days in winter, to see the ceremonial changing of the guard)

  • Also easily accessible are the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. Tours are available during the 2-month summer recess, and some debates can be observed from the public gallery (queue early for admission). Next door is Westminster Abbey, where many of England's greatest monarchs were crowned and buried; several famous poets and musicians (Purcell, Chaucer) rest in not much peace at Poets' Corner

  • If you feel like eating out there are plenty of restaurants nearby: award-winning Amaya(Indian grill), the Fifth Floor (in Harvey Nichols), the 2-Michelin-starred Capital(French gastronomic), and of course the trend-setting Nobu at sister hotel The Metropolitan

  • Back at The Halkin, you can order a massage in your room, or walk 10 minutes down the road to sister hotel The Met, where you have access to the well-known Shambhala Spa (book ahead)

  • The hotel offers a range of Unique Experiences from private perfume consultations and chocolate workshops, to private tours of the local area and floristry classes. (Guests should book at least 72 hours in advance through the concierge)

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Cooking classes
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Shopping / markets

Kids

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.

Family friendly accommodation:

Some of the Double and Deluxe Rooms interconnect (request when booking). Two-bedroom COMO Suites are available. All rooms can accommodate a baby cot, while the Deluxe Rooms and the Suites have space for an extra bed.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots and highchairs are available on request.

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
8/
Food
8/
Service
8/
Value
9/
Overall

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Rates for COMO The Halkin