My Uber has barely come to a stop and the hotel doorman is already on hand to whisk my bags up the few steps leading into the Georgian buildings of The Prince Akatoki hotel. Inside, a sleek, minimalist reception has a futuristic vibe, yet somehow manages to be soothing – a trick of expert lighting design, I conclude. I complete a swift check-in and the smiling receptionist offers me a choice of refreshments, including a glass of a sparkling Japanese rice-based beverage. Formalities complete, I am taken directly to my room on the second floor.
The Prince Akatoki London is tucked away on a quiet residential street in Marylebone, in the heart of one of London's most bustling districts. Long-time London visitors (or locals) may recognise the building as The Arch London Hotel, but a multimillion dirham transformation means that although the building hasn't changed much on the outside, inside it's a whole new deal. The location is fantastic, just a few minutes from London's Marble Arch, Bond Street and Hyde Park, and the neighbourhood is popular with tourists, shoppers and affluent residents. It's also well-located for anyone keen to explore London's "Little Arabia", where Middle Eastern shops, restaurants and shisha bars line the streets.
Billed as a sanctuary in the heart of the city, my room ticks all the right boxes. It's spacious, filled with natural light and beautifully simple. The hotel's Japanese roots are clear – one wall has a huge print of what looks like Mount Fuji on it, the furniture is crafted from natural wood and I have my own yukata robe in the cupboard, complete with pictorial instructions on how to wear it. The room is minimalist and calming, but ultra functional with easily accessible power sockets, inbuilt USB charging ports and lighting controls by the bed. The bathroom follows suit with a television screen built into the wall and a waterproof remote control and bath pillow provided for television-watching in the tub.
Friendly and polite, with a sense of quiet confidence. Despite its name, not many of the staff at the hotel are Japanese, but a waiter tells me that all employees have undergone months of training with experts to master the art of Japanese hospitality. It shows. The hotel is the inaugural London property for StayWell Holdings' global brand Prince Hotels and, when it comes to providing authentic service, it sets the bar high.
My arrival at The Prince Akatoki comes directly off the back of an adventure holiday in the Canadian Rockies, which means I land on the hotel doorstep sporting well-worn trekking boots and a battered backpack. Nobody bats an eyelid. To the uninitiated, this central London building, which spans seven Grade II-listed Georgian townhouses and has a uniformed doorman on its steps, might look haughty on the outside, but inside it’s nothing but welcoming. Despite its location, the hotel exudes tranquility and the entire place smells divine, like some kind of exotic spa. The hotel seems to have successfully retained many of The Arch London’s repeat hotel guests, so there’s a slightly older demographic in-house. As evening approaches and the funky Japanese restaurant opens for dinner, there’s a distinct change of pace as younger couples venture into the hotel.
In what seems like a seamless transition, Tokii – the hotel restaurant – transforms from a quietly comforting spot to have a morning coffee, peruse the breakfast buffet and tuck into a la carte dishes, to an intimate, dim-lit Japanese restaurant with a fusion menu and first-rate presentation. An open kitchen gives diners a first-hand view of the chefs at work and there is a secondary sushi station where a chef creates Japanese artistry. Start with the scallop ceviche (Dh65) with orange, spring onion and chilli sesame. The scallops are thinly sliced and served on a shimmering oyster shell atop a bed of ice. Next up, the crunchy shrimp tempura (Dh56) is the perfect change of texture. The nigiri omakase (Dh113) consists of five different sushi rolls selected by the chefs. The flavours blend together perfectly, thanks to the smoke treatment the dish is given. A sushi chef holds a blow-torch to it through a small hole in the glass dome it's encased in. Save room for dessert – the yuzu creme brulee (Dh37) is a delicious twist on an old favourite.
Given how central it is, it's hard not to be impressed by the sense of calm preserved throughout the hotel; it really does feel like somewhere you can take a pause. The unique in-room features, such as the yukata, brand new yoga mat or mini bar filled with complimentary soft drinks, give this boutique abode a distinctive edge.
Hate is much too strong a word for this place, but a minor negative was that a section of the road was closed for roadworks when I visited, making getting in and out of the hotel a mission for anyone other than London’s savvy black cab drivers.
For aficionados of Japanese design or those craving a slice of tranquility in the heart of central London, The Prince Akatoki is the answer.
The bottom line
Rooms at The Prince Akatoki London start from £314 (Dh1,485) per night.