An elegant hotel in Theatreland, with a buzzing bar, two top-notch restaurants and an underground health spa, One Aldwych is a perfect blend of fun and relaxation.
One Aldwych is, from the outside, everything you could want from an Edwardian London aesthetic. A tall, proud building with large ornate windows, cornices and balustrade balconies, the building was designed by the same architects responsible for The Ritz hotels in both London and Paris (which explains the elegance) and begun life as the offices of a newspaper. The hotel is built in the angle between Aldwych and Catherine Street, just off Strand, and is crowned by a copper dome.
And while not much on this glorious façade has changed in the past century or so, the interior is transformed into a chic, five-star hotel with a contemporary feel.
The hotel’s Lobby Bar often appears in “Best of…” or “Top five…” lists – with good reason. It has high ceilings, low lighting and the sort of drinks that make you realise what you’d previously thought of as cocktails are merely a crude mixture of beverages.
Given that One Aldwych is in the centre of Theatreland, there is a fair amount of drama in the bar, not least its nods to Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. Entire afternoon teas are dedicated to Willy Wonka: trays of miniature candy-flosses and golden eggs emerged almost continuously from around 3pm.
There is even a cocktail counterpart: – the Charlie – a delectable but potent concoction of whisky, cherry liqueur, vodka and champagne, served in a transparent tea pot with dry ice billowing out of its spout. We ordered one and at least three people asked us what it was.
We also tried the Magic Gift, a mushroom (yes, mushroom) and whisky cocktail complete with a hand-carved ice ball and chocolate.
There are two restaurants to choose from: Indigo, overlooking the bar and Axis, which is a floor beneath it. We ate dinner in the latter: a modern space with double height ceilings and neutral lighting. It’s the more formal restaurant and while it lacks the atmosphere of the bar, the food is a true treat.
The menu is Modern British with exotic twists. All helpings are enormous and the wine list is extensive. We started with the artichoke soup with parmesan dumplings – quite simply one of the most delicious starters you could wish for: full of balanced flavour without being overpowering.
Sea bass in a clear oriental sauce with mushrooms and seaweed for main course was nice and light. Earl Grey crème brulee completed the meal: it was delectable but vast, and defeated us.
Retiring to a studio suite right in the angle of the hotel, which points into Strand is a joy. The suites here are pretty well circular and boast three windows, the central one offering a world-class view of the Thames flowing under Waterloo Bridge and the IMAX beyond. On the approach to the hotel from the river, after an evening stroll, it’s hard to believe that this is our room for the night. Despite being in the eye of a Saturday night storm, calmness reigned thanks to the tight glazing on all of the windows. The room is smart and comfortable: there are lovely orchids in the bathroom and a huge sofa to curl up on should you get bored of the bed.
In the basement is the hotel’s Health Club, at the heart of which is a long, chlorine-free swimming pool that is surprisingly biting: all the better for cooling off in after a baking sauna or invigorating steam. It even boasts underwater music. We opted for an oxygen facial, which is an indulgent a gift for your skin as you can possibly get. The therapist had seemingly magic hands and we can thoroughly recommend it: emerging as we did after an hour, glowing and ready for the day – although we hadn’t decided whether to exploring London or hunker down in a state of unparalleled comfort and relaxation!
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