Monday, June 18, 2012

London Calling: My New Favorite Hotel in London

The Halkin: It’s the Chicest Place to Stay

Why do I love The Halkin?

Location, location. When I’m in London, I want to be in on a quiet street, in a pretty, central neighborhood, and within walking distance of chic and inspiring and thrilling things to munch, see and do. The Halkin fits the bill with dash and perfection. It’s close to everything I love—but it’s on a quiet residential street. No noise. Discreet.

The staff is lovely (very international) and a guest can come and go without a lot of fuss or fanfare. Perfect for me. 

I was in London recently—mostly to see the astonishingly good Lucian Freud exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery. London is looking its best now, with Jubilee fever, a great burst of pride in everything British, and still somewhat in the unknown future, the Olympics.

I spent weeks looking for the right London hotel. I always look first for a hotel in the right location. I want a quiet street with beautiful light, close to Cadogan Square and Sloane Street.

I love walking in London, so from my London perch, I want to be able to walk to John Sandoe Books (near Sloan Square), and to meet a friend at one of the cafes in Chelsea, or Fulham Road.

I want to walk over to Hatchard’s in Piccadilly to load up on (signed) books, and to pop next door to Fortnum’s to stock up on Earl Grey tea, and Sir Nigel's Vintage Marmalade Amphora, plus, oh, yes, Elderflower Jelly and Rose Petal Jelly. All shipped home. 

The Halkin could not be in a more perfect setting.

It’s steps away from the fragrant lilac-filled gardens of Belgrave Square, within calling distance of Buckingham Palace Gardens, and a brisk five minute walk to the Queen’s Gallery. And for a walk in the rose gardens at Hyde Park, it’s a quick stroll to Hyde Park Corner, and along the shaded paths. 


Opened: 1991

Designers: Laboratorio Associati – Design Studio of Lorenzo Carmellini and Rocco Magnoli of Milan, Italy

Uniforms: Designed by Giorgio Armani

Located in Belgravia, The Halkin is within walking distance of Hyde Park, Knightsbridge, Sloane Street, Piccadilly and and a 15 minute taxi ride from the City.

It has every service a traveler could need, and tech systems are excellent. Bathrooms: white/gray marble, with a large bath and an elegant shower.

Management: Kenneth Speirs, has been general manager of The Halkin since 2003. Under his leadership the hotel has recently won many awards—but it has still true to its style of quiet discretion and understatement. It speaks softly. 

The Halkin is modern, fresh, and wonderfully polished. It’s in a Georgian mansion. It’s twenty years old, and you have the feeling that Giorgio Armani might walk in at any moment and start plumping up the pillows.

With its crisp lines and soothing cream interiors, it’s very Armani. David Bowie loves the hotel, and Angelina Jolie used to pop in (before the kids). Fashion people stay there. No doubt, like me, they like the residential feeling there.

Several evenings, I returned to the hotel around midnight from dinner with friends, and would then go for a walk around Belgrave Square (to smell the lilacs). Yes, alone. There was no-one around, but I’d stop and chat to the police officers guarding the embassies that circle the neighborhood. Otherwise, residents were totally ‘lights out’ and London, here, was snoozing.

There are forty-one guest rooms and suites at The Halkin, all generously proportioned.

I asked for a little tour—and was happy to see a similar décor (cream, black) and concept in each room. I love this consistency and the cohesive approach to design.

The hushed rooms are reached from a striking corridor of black, corrugated-wood paneling, which flows in a powerfully sculptural curve on each level.

All rooms are furnished in an uncluttered and elegant style, with pale cream fabrics and burled Sapele Pommele wood with a dark tone.

My bed was a white cloud with an Egyptian cotton duvet, beautifully crisp plain white sheets, and a luxurious array of sumptuous goose down pillows. White beds! Nothing more wonderful when you’re traveling and you’re a little weary. 

Heading west, from the Halkin, it’s a brief and pretty walk along handsome white-painted Georgian terrace residences to the new Pierre Herme macaroon and chocolates emporium at 13 Lowndes Street, and beyond that Sloane Street (Hermes, Prada), to Harvey Nick’s, the V&A, and in the evening, it’s a five minute drive to Claridge’s where I have a date with the great illustrator, David Downton.

The Halkin Bar

Executive chef David Thompson opened Nahm restaurant in July 2001. The restaurant, overlooking a lovely garden offers traditional but very innovative Thai cuisine. Nahm was one of the first award-winning Thai restaurants in Europe, and it has been given a Michelin star. I loved it.

Lunch: Mon-Fri 12pm-2.30pm
Dinner: Mon-Sat 7pm-11pm, Sun 7pm-10pm

Nahm restaurant

Nahm restaurant

The Halkin is a purpose-built hotel – but the property’s Georgian-styled façade of weathered bricks, Portland stone and arched windows blends comfortably into its Belgravia surroundings. The contemporary and innovative design of Italian architects, Laboratorio Associati of Milan, has created a hotel where every detail is tailored, logical. The decor is low-key, tamped-down, tranquil. It doesn't call attention to itself...but let's you rest and recover.

The lobby is open-plan in design and flows into the hotel’s bar on the left and reception on the right, and ahead to the entrance to Nahm, the lovely Thai restaurant.
The Halkin is a COMO hotel, founded by Christina Ong.  I can’t wait to return. This is my new London base. See you there. 

News from COMO hotels: Punakha Valley in Bhutan, site of the future Uma Punakha

Uma Punakha, an intimate 11-room lodge, is scheduled to open in September 2012. It joins sister property Uma Paro for the second COMO outpost in Bhutan. The launch also creates a two-center opportunity to further explore the kingdom of Bhutan for guests seeking cultural discovery and physical adventure, such as Uma’s signature trekking itineraries.

Location:  The new property is situated on a hillside in the verdant Punakha Valley, a five-hour drive from Paro, home to the only international airport. The steep path to Uma Punakha boasts spectacular bird’s-eye views. A few traditional houses dot the vista, along with spreading jacaranda trees, known for their stunning purple blooms, and apple orchards. Bright green terraced fields spread out below, graduating toward a dramatic bend in the Mo Chu River. Famous for its pale blue glacial waters, the Mo Chu (female river) joins the Po Chu (male river) a few miles downstream. 

Punakha is one of the most important valleys to the Bhutanese because it is home to two of the country’s great historical attractions: the Temple of the Divine Madman — a 14th-century fertility temple dedicated to the Tibetan Buddhist Saint Drukpa Kuenley — and the Punakha Dzong, a fortress temple where the current King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk and his bride Jetsun Pema were recently married. Uma Punakha therefore offers a gateway to this important cultural region, as well as opportunities for white-water rafting, hiking, and cycling.

The lodge will also be home to a COMO Shambhala retreat. Located in a villa complex overlooking picturesque ruins and the valley below, the retreat’s two treatment rooms will include a hot-stone bath.

Design:  Cheong Yew Kuan, a Singapore-born, Bali-based architect, who designed COMO Shambhala Estate and Uma Ubud in Bali, designed this new lodge. True to Yew Kuan’s style, simplicity prevails, with natural light flooding interiors. The lodge comprises nine deluxe rooms and two one-bedroom villas. The look complements the established pared-back, traditionally-influenced splendor of Uma Paro: oversized beds, wood-burning stoves, and calming neutral color schemes punctuated with vibrant flourishes of traditional hand-painted Bhutanese wall designs. 

The COMO Group and COMO Hotels and Resorts
Headquartered in Singapore, The COMO Group represents Christina Ong’s unique vision of contemporary living. This encompasses the hospitality collection known as COMO Hotels and Resorts, the international luxury fashion retailer Club 21, the award-winning wellness concept COMO Shambhala, and the philanthropic COMO Foundation.

The Halkin
15 Halkin Street 
London SW1X 7DJ
Tel +44 (0)20 7333 1000
Fax +44 (0)20 7333 1100

Guest services:
- 24-hour room service
- Daily maid service and evening turndown
- Laundry, dry cleaning and pressing
- Shoe cleaning
- Express check-out
- Secretarial services
- Playstation 2 and other games for kids
- Valet parking
- Foreign exchange
- Limousine, car rental and airline reservations - Theatre ticket reservations
- Personalised shopping itineraries

Photography of The Halkin hotel, courtesy The Halkin.


Brillante Interiors said...

Diane, first of all I am so happy another book written by you will be in my hands soon. I will be in London for a day in August and certainly will check the hotel and surroundings (no lilacs then but still...)

Brad said...

That's a very handsome hotel.
I adore London. I hope to visit again when I'm able.


JMW said...

If I ever make it to London (which is a goal of mine), I want to stay at that hotel. What a work of art it is!

vicki archer said...

Hello Diane,
The Halkin is a fabulous destination for anyone visiting London.... I am a little biased because when I am in London, I am just around the corner! I do love David Thompson's food... I think that is the Aussie in me... it's one of the few places to really get a good dose of spice in London...
Great post as always... xv

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Dear Friends-

I've been in Big Sur, somewhat out of range for a couple of days--and I'm delighted to hear that you like the HALKIN.
ALBAROSA: Thank you for your lovely comment on ANN GETTY INTERIOR STYLE. It will be out in October. It's an in-depth look at the Gettys' private art and antiques collection, as well as the story behind all of their precious and unusual paintings, textiles, sculptures, Asian objets, and rare and wonderful things. It's also the story of Ann Getty's family's residence and the remote corner of California where she grew up, and recent interiors she has completed.

Jennifer and Brad--Yes, next time in London, this is the place to stay. It is quite, discreet and not fussy or overly Olde-Englishe. My room/suite was full of light, and the lovely white linen curtains made everything seem airy and light-hearted.

Vicki: yes...the neighborhood is divine. I walked around late,'s a wonder I didn't see you walking your dog (metaphorically...) or out for a walk. The lilacs all around Belgrave Square (now replaced no doubt by Philadelphus or other scented flowers) were so intense, I was in a dream.And then, a friend told me that at the end of the street (Constitution?) there was a bus stop with buses that would take me over to Kensington and Notting Hill. One evening, I jumped not he first double deck bus that came along--and went on a wild ride along Hyde Park, and it was like Harry Potter's flights as the buses are so enormous and high and the little village streets so places. Highly recommended. thanks for your lovely comment. And yes, to be noted that AUSTRALIANS discovered Thai food first and are great at making it come alive! Nahm is lovely and it also has a light-hearted feeling. I loved it all.

all best, DIANE