By Mark Captain
A lot of people steer me clear of chain hotels and say they lack character. This misconception is blown out of the water by the five star London Marriott County Hall. This stunning property oozes character, charm and some of the best views in all of London. We were lucky enough to spend a night in the Westminster Suite, a 135 square metre one bedroom presidential suite of the very highest order.
Driving into the Marriott County Hall is where the wow factor starts. A discreet entrance by Westminster Bridge leads you to a grand courtyard entrance where you can also park – a rarity in Central London. With complete river views throughout this beautiful property, the unbeatable South Bank location means you can also enjoy views of the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the London Eye.
As well as the opulent Westminster suite, London Marriott County Hall boasts 10 other room categories so there is plenty of choice. What makes this property so unique is simply its unrivalled views of London’s most iconic monuments and the selection of suites embody this. The 12 suites represent the ultimate in five-star retreats and boast stunning views with seven of the suites featuring private balconies.
The show-stopping Westminster Suite felt like that ideal London show home. We were welcomed with mosaic flooring, dating back to the building’s early 20th century style and wallpaper featuring a historic map of London from the era of the building’s infancy. Another little touch we found was a unique orange armchair, a tribute to the orange and red leather-upholstered seating used in the former London Council chamber. The Westminster Suite faces West and captures that evening sunset over the river so don’t miss out and set your alarm to head back for sunset.
As you enter the living area, a large dining table set for 12 is great for entertaining or even to recreate a scene from a royal palace where just two of you sit at either end! The other features we loved were: a guest bathroom, separate fully fitted kitchen, a lounging area with a view, a TV relaxation area and a desk area complete with mini library. Five different lighting settings in the living area set the mood for all times of day.
Through to the bedroom, thick lush carpets envelop your feet and electronic blinds blocked out light well and ensured a comfortable sleep.
The bathroom featured two sinks (naturally), Japanese toilet (the one with all the options!) gorgeous Floris toiletries and proper robes, the ones you could lounge in for days on end. If you are staying longer, there is a large walk in wardrobe with everything you would expect. One of the most important points is that this is a very private suite – not only can you not see other rooms but you also can’t hear any noise.
On the same floor as the Westminster Suite is a very well-appointed spa and gym area known as The Club. Well, it’s more of a fully fledged multi level state of the art gym with an indoor (perfectly heated) 25 metre pool lined with trees and natural daylight! A 6,000 square foot gym is complimented with almost secret balcony areas with yet more views that are worth the trip for. Monthly membership of The Club is also available.
There is no greater reward after all that exercise than an evening at Gillray’s Steakhouse and Bar on the ground floor. Start in the oak panelled bar where you will find a selection of over 100 gins and a list of Gillray’s signature cocktails. My favourite was Doctor Sangardo, a truffle gin martini (using amazing Cambridge truffle gin) smoked with oak. Theatrical, punchy and so elegant, finished with a pickled quails egg garnish. It’s one of those wow cocktails you don’t forget. So good we uploaded a video of it!
Our table facing West started with a dramatic red sky sunset over the river. There is a focus on steak but also a wide variety of options including a delicious blue cheese celeriac mousse and a very fresh garden salad. My 45 day aged fillet was cooked just right accompanied by moreish bone marrow and delicate bacon jam. Service was knowledgeable, friendly and moreover naturally charming, full of warmth and genuine smiles.
It’s all about the ingredients too which are sourced from UK farms. Known for bespoke butchering and ageing, Gillray’s use O’Shea’s for their meat. Eighth generation butchers select quality free range and organic beef from their own farms to supply the restaurant. Look out for tempting special offers which include £5 gin and tonics, Sunday roasts and much more.
Breakfast (also taken in Gillray’s restaurant) is well worth waking up for. Expect eggs cooked to order, real smoked salmon and sweet treats like buttermilk pancakes with banana and salted caramel. Afternoon Tea was also an experience when we visited the week after (yes we just had to come back!). Served in The Library, expect original oak bookcases and more spectacular views over the River Thames and Big Ben. The array of breads used for sandwiches made things interesting and there was a wide choice of traditional cakes, pastries, sweet and savoury scones. To drink, a flowering tea went alongside some champagne.
Overall, this Marriott felt different. Not that a Marriott should feel a certain way but there is a little magic in the air here that gives the London Marriott County Hall an edge over other hotels in the area. A night in the Westminster Suite is extravagant and luxurious for all the right reasons. This is somewhere you would want to truly relax and celebrate life.
For more information on London Marriott County Hall and their range of suites, visit their website.