Scotland on Sunday travel
Don’t be misled by the name. There’s not a corrugated metal storage unit in sight. This stylish, modern hotel, in the heart of the South Bank’s cultural district, celebrates the golden age of transatlantic ocean travel, while embracing the history of the imposing building it occupies.
Dating back to the 1970s, the property takes its name from its first long-term tenant, marine transport company Sea Containers Ltd.
The hotel opened as the Mondrian in 2014 and relaunched as Sea Containers London in January, marking its new status as part of the Lore collection of independent hotels.
A dramatic handcrafted copper hull, sweeping from the reception area right through the lobby and into the restaurant, is one of a number of grand nautical features.
Budget or boutique?
It’s a large hotel, busy with corporate guests as well as tourists and leisure bookings. Despite its size and the building’s brutalist architecture, it’s a one-off whose contemporary elegance lends it a boutique feel – well worth the extra cost.
We’d hoped to see the
Thames from our room, but we hadn’t expected to feel we were actually floating on it. Emerging on to our fifth-floor balcony overhanging the South Bank’s riverside walkway was akin to stepping on to the deck of a ship.
After that brief woozy moment while the brain confirms it’s the water that’s moving - and not the hotel - the city skyline comes into focus, dominated by the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral.
All 359 rooms and suites are inspired by ocean liner cabins, many enjoying river and city views. From standard to deluxe, the accommodation features rainfall showers, pristine marble bathrooms and one-off artworks, incorporating metallic and brass fixtures for added seafaring effect.
Wining and dining
With its own expansive restaurant and two bars, popular with hotel guests and walk-in visitors, Sea Containers is an established part of the South Bank’s eclectic food and drink scene.
The exclusive rooftop lounge and terrace, 12th Knot, offers a club vibe, with DJs, live music and panoramic views.
On the ground floor, acclaimed barman Ryan Chetiyawardana (aka Mr Lyan) is the driving force behind glamorous cocktail bar Lyaness, which does away with the traditional cocktail menu, encouraging guests to choose their own ingredients.
An aperitif here sets the mood for dinner in the rather glitzy Sea Containers Restaurant, notable for its large open kitchen and friendly, upbeat staff.
From a selection of small and large plates designed to share, we chose roasted squid, crab on sourdough with jalapeno and coriander, and whole sea bass in lemon and herbs. The bill for three, including sides, desserts and a cheeky Sicilian white wine (recommended by our cheeky Sicilian waiter) came in at just under £150.
Alfresco riverside dining with a seafood-centric menu can also be enjoyed on the hotel’s Laurent Perrier Terrace.
Breakfast in the restaurant is an extravagant hot and cold buffet affair, with lots of tasty made-to-order options for the avocado brigade.
Worth getting out of bed for
St Paul’s cathedral, last resting place of Lord
Admiral Nelson, the Duke
of Wellington – and its architect Sir Christopher Wren – is only 10 minutes’ walk away and certainly merits a visit.
Heading east along the Thames walkway, Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe and Borough Market are all within strolling distance of the hotel. Head west for the National Theatre, Southbank Centre, the London Eye and Westminster.
Guest mini bars all feature a selection of pre-packaged cocktails mixed by Mr Lyan. The hotel also has its own 56-seat cinema showing leading arthouse films.
Guest book comments
This place is fun, funky and very sociable. Just check in and go with the flow.
Room rates start at £195 per night, plus VAT and excluding breakfast. Rates for the riverview balcony suite start at £650, including VAT and breakfast. Sea Containers London, 20 Upper Ground, London SE1 9PD; www.seacontainerslondon.com