Housed in a listed 1950s building near Oxford Street, you could easily be forgiven for thinking that behind the understated white exterior lie floors of offices containing grey-suited workers quietly tapping away at their keyboards.
But as soon as I catch sight of a highly photogenic pouting red lips sofa, just inside the vast, theatrical lobby, I know this is going to be no ordinary hotel.
Sanderson London was originally a textiles factory, since transformed with flourishes from designer Philippe Starck into a “surreal Cocteau-like dream world” – in what’s billed as the “original design hotel”.
Hidden in London’s West End its compelling combination of relaxing luxury and dazzling Technicolor touches have given it a reputation as a celebrity haunt, playing host to the likes of Nicole Kidman and Mariah Carey.
On arrival I head over to the reception, in front of theatrical curtains, and catch glimpses of the Billiard Room, decorated with spectacular stained glass windows, and an architecturally classified Heritage Garden, no less – one of the stunning eating and drinking spaces available.
Even the lift adds to the experience with walls and ceiling covered in a digital screen showcasing a dark star-clad sky.
The hotel has 150 rooms, suites and a penthouse. My room is a surprising contrast to the bright colours seen downstairs, mainly decorated in white; the work of interior designer Tim Andreas of Banjo. The star of the show is the enormous freestanding silver-ended sleigh bed with the most immaculately crease-free bed linen I’ve ever seen.
There’s a Lavazza coffee machine, a table and small sofa, while the large bathroom has a huge freestanding tub and Ciel Reserve products.
Wining and dining
Among the hotel’s many eating and drinking areas are Berners Terrace on the ground floor, a surprisingly quiet spot given its on-street location.
There’s also the Purple Bar, a bijou cocktail joint fusing purples, lavenders and violets – and dark enough to surely appeal to A-listers seeking a glam but under-the-radar drinking venue, while it also does cocktail classes. Then there’s the 80-foot glowing onyx Long Bar lined with white chairs each decorated with a large eye on the back giving you the feeling of being on the catwalk and the focus of attention as you walk in.
But in the evening I head to the adjacent courtyard, which soon climbs the list of the best eating and drinking venues I’ve ever visited in London. It’s tranquil apart from the quiet chatter of other tables and relaxing background noise of the water features, while the green foliage is offset with pink lighting. It’s an excellent setting to tuck into the hotel’s famous Mad Hatters Tipsy Evening Tea, which invites guests to “tumble down the rabbit hole”.
I’m an afternoon tea veteran but this is something else – sweet treats such as red and white toadstools fashioned from marshmallow and a cube of layered chocolate cake decorated with a chocolate mini chess pieces and board. Curiouser and curiouser is the savoury theme of the scones. The whole experience comes with a selection of Alice-inspired cocktails.
Worth getting out of bed for
The British Museum is a few blocks away, while both Marylebone and Regent’s Park are also within easy reach. Nearest of all is Oxford Street, and you could do worse than hit the shops before coming back for afternoon or evening tea and cocktails. I’m up early the next day to head to Heathrow, and thanks to an alarm call I’m not “late for a very important date”.
Budget or boutique?
The ne plus ultra of boutique, the Starck touches extend to my room with a couple of artful but practical silver dumbbells sitting on a shelf. I’d work out a lot more often if it was this fashionable.
My bedroom also has items such as men’s and ladies’ razors and shaving foam, for a charge – but, more excitingly, in the lobby I spot one of the cast of EastEnders who has ventured into the West End for the evening.
A compelling mix of decadent theatrics and spa-style sanctuary, Sanderson may have moved away from textiles, but it now has a plum role as a dazzling flash of sequins in the varied tapestry of London’s hotel scene.
Double rooms at Sanderson London start from £239 per room per night. 50 Berners St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 3NG (020-7300 1400).