It wasn’t quite what I expected – when I first heard that the Waldorf Astoria group had opened a hotel at Syon Park in London, I thought the Duke of Northumberland, whose other home is Harry Potter’s castle, had redeveloped his London home into a fabulous country house hotel. What has actually happened, and it’s my fault entirely for not reading the marketing bumpf or looking at the website before I went, is that actually it is a purpose built, barn conversion-style property that from first glance might seem more akin to a travel lodge than the grand old Waldorf Astoria in Midtown NYC.
My wife gave me one of those, “Darling, are you sure?” looks as we pulled up, and to tell you the truth, at that point I really wasn’t.
London Syon Park opened in March 2011 and is the first purpose-built Waldorf Astoria in Europe – the concept of the hotels is playfulness – it’s about work, rest and play, or so I’m told. During the week the hotel is a much-used business hotel, almost equidistant between Knightsbridge and Heathrow and is the perfect conference venue and set up accordingly. The decor is more Versace than Victoriana – the bedrooms are essays in black and silver and brightly-coloured furniture fills the public spaces. I tend to be a little more on the shabby side of shabby-chic and it was all just a little too chichi. Don’t get me wrong, it is all wonderfully comfortable, the beds are the right sort of orthopedic, the pillow menu extensive and the rooms stuffed with Apple TV, flatscreens, minibars, balconies etc.
If you can slightly put the decor to one side everything else is wonderful – the staff is tirelessly friendly, charming and helpful. The attention to detail is exquisite – the gregarious Leno Marchese, bar manager, is a cocktail connoisseur and has worked in some of the top hotel bars in London during his career – and his cocktail list is an ode to perfectionism. He makes his own Vermouth to create the perfect Manhattan – his unique cocktail list reflects seasonality and his cocktails are produced with a showman’s flourish. Besides which, they taste dangerously delicious.
The Capability restaurant takes up the British revivalist menu, again reflecting seasonal, local produce and the paired down menu is beautifully executed and presented.
London Syon Park misses the mark as a country house hotel, but if you want to get out of London for a night at the last minute, pamper yourself, eat well and get a really good night’s sleep then it’s just the ticket.