Occupying a vast, prime stretch at the more easterly end of key London thoroughfare The Strand, this hotel has historic roots, having first welcomed guests in 1909, but it now offers a modern take on elegant luxury after undergoing a major revamp. That included upgrading all 785 bedrooms plus its public areas, and the installation of a new restaurant and bar.
Its history includes providing accommodation for American servicemen during World War II, during which the hotel’s regular dances apparently continued. Other milestones include in the 1920s expanding and taking over the neighbouring Haxell’s Family Hotel, and in 1981 being passed by Princess Diana and Prince Charles on their wedding day. With the sun out the day of my check-in, I decide when I arrive into London King’s Cross to snub public transport and instead walk to the hotel - a nice, straightforward route of about 40 minutes, and including walking on Fleet Street’s hallowed paving stones. I then enter the large, brightly-lit reception area, with check-in brief and efficient.
My room has a simple, classic design, modelling a white/black/brown colour palette, including a table and two latte-coloured chairs, while the bathroom has complimentary toiletries from The White Company. The space is also unbelievably quiet considering it faces onto The Strand, and indeed the building was originally designed to be noise-proof.
Wining and dining
The hotel has in-house restaurant Haxells, which serves breakfast (and therefore involves some queueing at peak times), as well as lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, and whose walls include items from the property’s long and fasinating history. I have lunch there when I arrive, an ultra-fresh chicken Caesar and bacon salad, and side dishes of fuchsia-coloured Suffolk salami and a deliciously light bread dotted with black olives, followed by a selection of tangy fruit sorbets. Strand Palace also houses Joe Allen, which dates back to 1977 with a longstanding reputation as the “West End’s canteen” and decorated with stage show posters. Its food and beverage offering has been given a facelift by the likes of Polpo co-founder Russell Norman and ex-Ivy executive head chef Gary Lee.
Budget or boutique?
One of the historic items on display in Haxells is a poster previewing the hotel’s original opening, saying Strand Palace “will provide visitors to London with the luxurious comfort and magnificence of a modern palatial hotel at a price that has hitherto been considered impossible”. More than 100 years later, it keeps a very decent price point/hotel standard balance.
Worth getting out of bed for
I potter around Covent Garden, which is right behind the hotel and always worth a visit, and the Palace is near a host of theatres if you fancy checking out a show. You could also head west to Trafalgar and Leicester squares, mere minutes away, or south over Waterloo Bridge to the South Bank. If you’re in the mood for some art, Somerset House to the east houses the artworks of The Courtauld Gallery. Or perhaps a boat trip along the Thames? After breakfast I hop on a bus that goes past Piccadilly Circus, on to Selfridges and then past Abbey Road and up to Hampstead - a delight.
Rooms have a free mini bar with water and other soft drinks, but also, say, cans of Camden Town Brewery Hells lager, while also on offering in the lodgings to borrow is a guidebook titled Strand Palace’s 500 Hidden Secrets Of London. If you need more bespoke guidance, the hotel can arrange theatre tickets and/or sightseeing tours and more, while if you feel brave enough to see the city on two wheels, you can rent bikes from the lobby.
Additionally, I stumble on a genius offering in one of the communal areas - vending machines for items like painkillers, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and phone chargers - very handy if you’ve forgotten something after the shops shut. I think I’ve forgotten most of the items on offer at some point during various hotel stays over the years.
Guest book comments
A blissfully quiet sanctuary in a location that could barely be more busy and central, offering plenty for every kind of London visitor, from wide-eyed newbie to seasoned veteran.
Prices – Rooms at Strand Palace start from £118 per night.
Strand Palace, 372 Strand, London WC2R 0JJ, (020 7379 4737, strandpalacehotel.co.uk)