Executive Travel: Discrete luxury and convenience at London’s Conrad St James

Lurking behind a 19th Century facade is a modern facility close to the heart of UK government buildings

Behind the grand old facade of the Conrad St James is a modern hotel which opened in 2012. Hilton Hotels
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Discretely tucked away behind an unassuming 19th century facade opposite the St James underground station, the London Conrad is far larger inside than it appears from the outside.

Actually one of London’s newest luxury business hotels, the seven-year old interior is extremely modern. It offers 256 rooms and suites in a serene atmosphere of corporate dark woods, artworks celebrating its proximity to the Houses of Parliament and swathes of marble flooring.

The hotel first opened in 2012 as an InterContinental. But it shifted to the Conrad stable two years later. Around half of guests stay for business and indeed apart from the artworks you could really be in a well-appointed, boutique business hotel almost anywhere in the world.

This district of London is full of government ministries and quangos, and being on-site for meetings is always a boon as getting around London in the rush hour can be challenging. Taxis get stuck in traffic and trains can be hot and crowded.

During my stay the door locks were being converted to iPhone access so that guests can bypass the check-in downstairs entirely, a facility being rolled out worldwide across Conrad hotels.

Around a hundred rooms have access to the executive club lounge on the first floor that was recently refurbished and reopened in May. It provides all-day food and drink presentations, breakfast, newspapers and a small business centre with an Apple computer and printer, even if the strong air-conditioning does make it a bit cold.

The Blue Boar restaurant on the ground floor serves contemporary British seasonal fare by head chef Michael Riodan. But it is closed at weekends, except for a delicious breakfast buffet.

However, the magnificent laid-back Blue Boar bar is a comfortable, clubbish alternative with panoramic windows to the street; and upmarket gastro pub food.

Or try Emmeline’s lounge and bar — named after the heroic suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst — for the famous London afternoon teas or vintage cocktails. Liveried serving staff exude old fashioned service standards, and plenty of help is always on hand.

My Dh1,580 per night, king executive room with lounge access was compact and quietly situated on the sixth floor opposite the St James underground station.

Its top-spec fit-out includes a 42-inch TV monitor in a mirror facing the bed, brown marble bathroom, Nespresso machine, iHome phone charger, a full-sized glass desk with UK, US and European plugs and a superfast 354 Mbps internet connection, the fastest I have ever experienced in a hotel review.

Room service was reasonably priced and quick to arrive. A club sandwich is Dh71 and a mini-burger with chips Dh53; Coke Dh13 and two bottles of water were complimentary with the room.

A technical problem with connecting an HDMI cable — I could not find the right switch on the handset — was swiftly resolved by the in-house IT expert, and an emergency morning call for more milk was rapidly answered.

Among the 15 suites the signature Conrad penthouse features its own private elevator access, and ranks among London’s finest hotel suites; prices start from Dh3,000 per night for a one-bedroom suite.

In the basement are seven meeting rooms totalling 575 square metres that can be variously configured for social events for up to 300 people, smaller conferences for up to 60 and as boardrooms. Training companies are frequent clients, such as UAE-based Glomacs.

There is no spa or swimming pool. However, the 24-hour, underground, Life Fitness gym has four running machines, two bicycles, weights and two bench press machines, though no rowing machine. Walking or jogging in St James Park nearby is also recommended.

The hotel concierge can also offer a white horse and carriage, a tour of London sites in a classic Mini Cooper, or a vintage boat on the River Thames reached by Rolls-Royce and helicopter.