By Catherine Leech, Director, 101 Holidays
You can take the girl out of London but…..
It’s seven years since I lived in London but it appears that this latter day country bumpkin, now ensconced in deepest Dorset, has not lost her passion for the city, especially when it’s in the guise of a ‘staycation’ at Sanderson London, Fitzrovia’s coolest hotel.
Beloved amongst the fashion and music crowd, The Sanderson remains spot on in its dedication to all things Schrager and Starck, but I wasn’t convinced it would be for me. I am more from the Sanderson fabric generation – the hotel was artfully hewn in the early ’90s from the Sandersons’ Berners Street wallpaper showroom and retail centre.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. The warm welcome from the uniformly unstuffy and charming staff was to set the tone of my 24-hour escape.
Rooms are reasonably spacious and outrageously calming, with subtle but clever lighting, swathes of soft white fabric and just the single artwork – an oil painting positioned above the bed. The sleigh beds are vast and comfy, there are Korres goodies, a tinglingly powerful shower (what else from Philippe Starck?) and the best black-out blinds I’ve ever come across in a city hotel.
However, a stay at Sanderson isn’t about catching up on the zzzzzs – it’s all about the scene on the ground and first floors.
We lashed in to the Mad Hatter’s Tea in the courtyard garden – this was no dainty tea and scones, more a canvas of bonkers but delicious delights. Think candy-coloured sandwich soldiers, pink chocolate hearts hiding fluffy strawberry mousse within, a ‘drink me’ bottle of sweet yumminess and whacky lollipops. I reckon it’s the most fun you can have in a London hotel for £35 – top it off with a glass of champagne for an extra tenner.
Set yourself up for the night with a soothing but searching massage in AGUA, the hotel’s first floor all-white spa. With double-floor ceiling heights draped from top to bottom with acres of that same soft white fabric, the sense of calm is hard to equate with the spa’s location, a short stroll from Oxford Street. If someone were to squeeze a teeny gripe out of me it’s this – why ask clients to complete a lengthy questionnaire about such things as personal taste in music when the entire treatment zone is pumping classical muzak…?
Tucked away from the vast white spaces, and oozing cosy intimacy, is the residents-only Purple Bar. The cocktails are seriously sexy – or you can kick your night off with Sanderson’s new vodka tasting session of no less than nine vodkas from around the world. It’s one helluva warm up for the night ahead!
Reached by the positively teeming Long Bar (recession, what recession?), the hotel’s restaurant, Suka, was buzzing with a party atmosphere – situation normal I gather. Don’t go expecting discreet tables for two – think long canteen tables and loud music, perfect for a night out with friends.
Modern Malaysian is probably the best description for the succession of uniformly delicious, fresh and innovative dishes from refreshing tuna tartare with black pepper pineapple salsa to meaty giant prawns and sea bass with clams in a delicately spiced broth. If you want a slice of Suka style but are watching your budget, go for lunch and opt for a Bento Box (£10 to £15).
Our staycation coincided with the last of this season’s Sanderson Predicts nights – up and coming bands play an intimate set in the courtyard garden. The hip crowd assured me this was where Florence and the Machine were discovered; it’s also where Pixie Geldof wowed the audience with her singing and song-writing earlier this summer and where we grooved to a great performance by The Heartbreaks. It’s the perfect summer concert venue – look out for registration details for summer 2012.
In keeping with Sanderson’s finger on the art scene pulse, we also had the chance to take in David Gwyther’s thought-provoking Construct & Comply installation just off the lobby – he asks if everyday objects such as hammers, petrol cans and wheel wrenches could become objects of desire when given the designer label treatment…? Give me the Tiffany hammer any day.
Finally, if room service is the test of a great hotel (an impressive 6-minutes for an early morning pot of tea), then Eggs Florentine is surely the test of a great breakfast chef – and Sanderson earned a massive tick.
Sanderson London gets my vote for a cool minimoon, a spoiling girlie spa weekend, Mad Hatter’s Tea with a client and a fun night out with friends – with not a hint of chintz.
Check out the latest special offers for the best value – for example Summer in the City, at £205 for a night for two with breakfast, also includes bicycle hire and a smoothie each – stay before 4 September 2011.