Welcome in 2014 in style
The entrance to the Athenaeum
Since I got engaged 18 months ago, the one phrase that has struck terror into my heart (and is also, unsurprisingly, most frequently mentioned in conversation by my female friends) is 'hen do'. I've witnessed far too many drunken jamborees while on nights out, as groups of cackling women swaddled in pink feather boas lurched about ordering luminous green shots at the bar. Possibly the most memorable was actually being on a friend's hen do, trapped in the sweaty confines of a male strip club while screaming: "My eyes, my eyes!"
While the details of my hen do were kept secret from me, the one area I did want a say in was with regards to where I would be staying. London is undergoing a wonderful hotel renaissance at present in the lead-up to the Olympics, from the W hotel in Leicester Square to the painstakingly restored St Pancras hotel, to the highly anticipated Ecclestone Square Hotel opening this month - to name a few. What better city for pitching up in and enjoying the day?
But, while there were plenty of new hotels to pick from, my criteria - based on personal preference - was a hotel that excelled in customer service, leaned towards a more boutique experience and had generous suites that would allow me to relax in peace and entertain the girls for a few pre-party drinks.
The entrance to the apartment
The Athenaeum, located in Green Park, allowed me to do just that. A boutique hotel set on the classier end of Piccadilly, it has a legendarily friendly concierge and a doorman with the most amazing sideburns and a spiffy top hat. But, the real draw at present isn't the reception - which gleams with the hundreds of pearl buttons panelling the walls - or the theatrical doorman, but the newly refurbished luxury townhouse apartments tucked away on a side street next to the main hotel.
Side street is perhaps a bit uncharitable - it is a glorious sun-splashed road flanked with tall, red-brick houses framed in black cast-iron railings; all the houses boast floor-to-ceiling windows and classic door numbers. The Athenaeum's stated intention is that guests feel as if this is their own home.
Hotels often say that, but in this instance it actually feels like it as you have your own private entrance. Most Londoners (the ones who don't have a tycoon amour in their back pocket, that is) rarely see the residential side to central London, and this is a perfect way to reconnect with the centre, viewing it from a different angle.
The apartment living room
With Bond Street and Oxford Street nearby, there are plenty of opportunities for girlie shopping trips, and Mayfair's side streets are a treasure trove of good, old English pubs. Once you've settled in, be warned, however; the Athenaeum's gorgeous apartments are highly seductive - your own home will seem like a dank dungeon in comparison.
Clattering into the stone lobby, I head up in the tiny lift to my apartment. When the door swings open, there is a jaw-dropping moment - the living room is huge. All the interiors are dressed in soft taupe, mulberry, light grey and shoots of chocolate brown - everything is bathed in a flood of sunlight that enters through the immensely tall windows. To the right is a comfy sofa for guests, while in front of the main door is a sturdy, wooden dining table. In the main area, kick off your shoes and sink into the couch - there is a gigantic flatscreen TV or an iPod dock for those inclined to listen to some music.
One of my favourite areas is the kitchenette, which looks pristine with white fittings and Bosch appliances. The fridge is stuffed with complimentary drinks and fruit, and the mini-hob is great for cooking quick meals. And, although I have plenty of snacks onhand, it is reassuring to know that apartment guests have a hotline to Harvey Nichols' food hall in case they get peckish.
To the rear of the room is the bedroom, sealed off by a very heavy wooden door. Once inside, it is an absolute dream. Great care and attention has been given to the comfort of the apartment - note the tactile fabric sofas and comfortable chairs when they could've opted for stuffy Chesterfields and other pretty-but-pointless furniture. The bed is high, plump and very comfortable, and the dressing table is so adorable, I would spirit it away in my suitcase if I had the space. In the bathroom - where again, plenty of light floods in - REN products line the sink and bathtub.
Soon, there is a knock on the door - I'm almost disappointed that my alone-time in the apartment has been interrupted. It turns out the girls have kindly sent a masseuse to my room to de-stress me for the night ahead. As I take a final sip of champagne and lie down for an hour of relaxation, I reach the conclusion that the girls have actually done themselves a disservice. With such a plush apartment to play with and now this wonderful masseuse, they're going to be lucky if I even let them past the front steps...
The Athenaeum, 116 Piccadilly, London W1J 7BJ. Apartments start from £350 plus VAT. To book, call 020 7499 3464 or visit the website.
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