Review: Hotel 41
A suite at the hotel
As a Londoner, and one who enjoys constantly exploring the city I live in, there's nothing more intensely satisfying than chancing upon a secret hideaway on a road that I've walked down hundreds of times before. In fact, the labyrinthine streets in the older parts of the city are known for this particular delight. So imagine the pleasure I took when, barely moments away from the MSN office in Victoria, I came across Hotel 41.
It shouldn't be a surprise that I hadn't noticed the hotel before - it sits next to its slightly dowdier sister hotel, The Rubens, which advertises its position in big, bold lettering. Hotel 41's entrance is far more unobtrusive - you might not notice the black and gold flag outside the front door.
But, then again, with a boutique hotel experience, you want an unobtrusive hotel, and it's no mean feat to create an experience that is so far removed from the hubbub of central London, when you're mere moments away from Victoria station and Buckingham Palace.
The five-star hotel also won a TripAdvisor's Travellers' Choice award last year for top 25 hotels in Europe (and by default, was the best in the UK as it was the only winner from Britain), so I was keen to see if it matched up.
The lobby provides a taste of what is to come in the rest of the hotel, and my, isn't it pretty. Gleaming black-and-white chequered tiles cover the floor, and a corridor panelled with ornately carved dark wood stretches away as one might expect in the entrance to a manor house. There is no reception desk, but a polite young lady manning the desk by the door kept me company while guest relations came to collect me.
Hotel 41's executive lounge
And so up we went, to the executive lounge. The name may make it sound like a dreary businessman's hangout, but that couldn't be further from the truth. A vast glass ceiling floods the room with light during the day.
Opulent touches are everywhere - gilt flourishes, black marble tabletops, heavy, studded leather chairs. The fireplace is beautiful - framed in mahogany - and a much-coveted spot during the winter months.
In the evening, Hotel 41 indulges in a practice I heartily approve of - an endless free supply of snacks and La Boucher chocolates.
As the hotel is tiny - it has 30 individually-designed rooms - it has to be canny about how it uses the space and what it offers. It doesn't have a signature restaurant because not only does that take time and investment, but also guests here are likely to eat out a lot in the city because the location allows them the convenience of doing so.
Any food and drink is served in the executive lounge and while it might be slightly frustrating that dining here won't be anything more than an informal option (we ordered two very nice burgers), it is better that the hotel concentrates on the other services it does so well.
One of which is customer service. A quick peek on TripAdvisor's site will tell you everything you need to know - staff are friendly, easy to chat to, and it never feels forced. They are helpful and, one of the best aspects of a small hotel, because there are no egos in the kitchen, flexible to what you want when it comes to dining.
Moreover they remember what you like to have, when you like to have it. And, although we didn't see any little darlings running around, for those travelling avec pets, the hotel even has a pet concierge.
Champagne was pressed into our hands on arrival, and we were shown to our room, a junior suite. The logo is monogrammed on everything - which is a design detail that might appeal a lot to American guests who make up a lot of the clientele who stay here.
But although the Americans apparently gripe about the size of the rooms (too small, they say), I think that for a centrally-located hotel, the space is not bad at all. Our room was split-level - downstairs sat a desk and minibar, while upstairs was dominated by a double bed, offset by a dressing area (I can sense a woman's touch in the inclusion of a full-length mirror) and a vast bathroom, all dressed in signature black and white.
A cosy fireplace on chilly nights
Certain parts of the décor do evoke the sense that you're staying in a Russian oligarch's house - particularly the white and black animal print cushions and chairs - but don't underestimate the loyalty Hotel 41 has to celebrating all things British.
It has even created a special package that involves a two-hour tour in a black cab, afternoon tea and, wait for it, a tea masterclass with the hotel's tea sommelier.
We went to the Cavalry Bar of The Rubens next door which, despite the friendly bartenders, slightly feels like the bar that time forgot, but drinks and dinner back in the executive lounge of Hotel 41 was a cosy affair. Bellies full, we lurched back to the room to find that a mysterious pixie had sprinkled it with rose petals.
Dipping back into the real world of honking horns and curious tourists the following morning was a very interesting experience, and highlights how quickly you acclimatise to the protective bubble that the 41 encloses you in. Still, for a quiet haven, the 41 is on my list the next time I need to escape the city.
Sort it: Hotel 41, 41 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 0PS. Rooms start from £349 a night. For reservations, call 020 7300 0041 or visit the website.