The first time I found myself in a hotel corridor in my bathrobe I had stepped out for my morning paper without my key and let the door close behind me. I padded the corridors for a while, hoping to run into a member of staff. After ten panicked minutes an amused maid rescued me, just as I was about to make an undignified dash to Reception.
I find myself in this situation once again, though this time it’s deliberate. I’ve stepped out of the door of my room in the Corinthia – one of London’s newest luxury hotels – resplendent in fluffy bathrobe and slippers and I’m making my way towards the designated lift, which delivers me straight into London’s largest spa; ESPA Life.
The Corinthia sits just yards from the banks of the Thames and I can’t help but feel like I’m descending into the bowels of the city as the lift ticks downwards. The award-winning spa is located deep in the building’s basement and it’s easy to imagine the murky waters of the river cocooning the space.
Where else but in a basement can you put a mega-spa in London? There’s not much spare space in the city and expansive spas are tricky since the cost of a square foot of premium real estate in London is enough to knock anyone out of their zen-like state. As such, even the city centre’s most luxurious hotels often settle for what amounts to a fancy swimming pool with a few trimmings.
Not so the Corinthia, which devotes a whopping four floors and 3,300 square metres to pure pamperisation. I descend with high hopes and my sybarite of a sister to help test the healing waters. Ping. The lift opens and we’re met with a wall of scented warm air. This place feels expensive. After all, four floors of glossy black marble can’t be cheap. It also seems pretty serious. While all I wanted to do was waft around breathing the sweet air and flit between the calmingly dark steel pool and the glass box sauna, the therapists here tackle everything from detox programmes to fertility treatments.
My visit has a relaxation focus, however, and I quickly realise that if you can’t unwind in the cosy cubbyhole sleep pods, you can’t unwind anywhere. I get my own dark little comfy nook in which to relax by a fire and listen to music on headphones. Bliss.
Beyond the rather special spa, this is a hotel which means business. The building was used as Ministry of Defence offices until it was given a £300 million makeover and transformed into a hotel in 2011. It’s super-central; close to Trafalgar Square and a minute from Embankment Tube station. The Houses of Parliament, Buck House and Downing Street are all within strolling distance.
It has all the hallmarks of a grand London hotel without the pomp. When I arrive, the lobby is brimming with flowers, but they’re clustered together modestly in individual vases. A Baccarat chandelier hangs overhead, but it’s restrained. A table is piled with colourful cakes beneath individual glass domes, like a very fashionable Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.
London has its fair share of grand dames jostling for attention. From the Dorchester to the Wolseley, these are the sorts of places where nothing has changed since the war. Then there are the well-heeled young rebels; the hotels where doormen have clipboards and the lobby has a DJ. In the Corinthia I found the best of both worlds; it fuses the familiar warmth of tradition with the excitement of the new. Rooms are chic but not intimidating, luxurious but not gaudy. Staff are warm, but not stiff – and no one bats an eye if they see you wandering the plush corridors in your dressing gown.
East Coast trains operate fast services between Edinburgh Waverley and London King’s Cross with standard returns starting from £34, tel: 08457 225225, visit www.eastcoast.co.uk for details. A double room at the Corinthia costs from £450 per night with breakfast, 0207 930 8181, www.corinthialondon.com