My taxi is spotted by an eagle-eyed doorman who wastes no time in getting me and my luggage in from the hotel’s entrance on a busy junction between The Strand and Aldwych, next to Bush House. The building is a new-build property designed by Sir Norman Foster. From the outside, it blends in with its surroundings, but inside things are much jazzier, with an open-plan lounge bar downstairs and white marble floors surrounding a central, black pyramid, and lots of steel. Check-in is inside the statement-like pyramid on the first floor (the atrium stretches up to the top of the hotel on the ninth floor).
The hotel is in “Theatreland”, on the site of the former Gaiety Theatre. Somerset House and the London School of Economics are also on its doorstep, while Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square and the Embankment are a short walk away.
ME London is one of the Spanish Melia group’s six super-luxury properties and is now the company’s flagship hotel, with the building costing about £80 million (Dh487.8m) to develop. The hotel claims to offer a “Latin vibe in London” to counteract the sometimes cold experience that guests can receive in the British capital. About 60 per cent of the staff are Spanish-speaking – “hola” is as popular as “good morning”. The other guests are a mix of business and leisure; currently mainly British, but they include western Europeans, Americans and those from the Middle East. The rooftop terrace, Radio, which has a bar/restaurant, is currently the place to be when local workers leave their offices.
The hotel has 157 rooms and 16 suites. There are nine categories of room; mine is the third from bottom, called “Mode”, on the sixth floor. It’s only 35 square metres and is long and narrow, but well designed, with a diamond-shaped triple-glazed window giving a 180-degree view of Aldwych (when you’re standing next to the window). Walls are white-leather panels and there are dark carpets. The TV and bedding are excellent, as is the bathroom, though it lacks a bath, and there’s only a coffee machine, with no facilities to make tea in the room. There was, however, a multicoloured light display function.
There are a lot of staff around and they are alert and cheerful without being cloying. The concierge desk was on the ball and room service was quick to pick up the phone. Service in the STK London steak restaurant was assured and slick; less so in Cucina Asellina, the Italian restaurant. Overall, the Latin service was intuitive.
Though a nice venue, the food in the Italian restaurant was average. The buffet breakfast there and the coffee were good. STK London feels slightly like a nightclub; eat earlier to get the pre-theatre set menu or later if you want to hear the in-house DJ. Standout dishes were the swordfish ceviche (£9; Dh55) and the 225-gram fillet steak USDA Prime (£30; Dh183), which was nicely chargrilled (pepper-crust sauce costs an extra £4 [Dh24] and there’s a huge choice of sauces). A side of truffle fries is £4.50 (Dh27).
The comfortable room and STK London restaurant.
The lack of a bath or a spa (in-room treatments can be ordered via a partner company). There’s also no swimming pool.
A fun retreat in one of the busiest parts of London.
The bottom line
Double rooms at ME London (www.melia.com; 0044 207 395 3400), 336-337 The Strand, London, cost from £256 (Dh1,561) per night, including taxes.
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