Do I want to be enveloped by Sir Winston Churchill (shown) or orchestral conductor Paolo Mantovani? That is the dilemma at Corinthia Hotel London.
Corinthia Hotel London has seven signature suites named for notables, so I can stay a week and room-hop every 24 hours. I think I would start with Mantovani and tinkle the keys on the suite’s grand piano. Tomorrow would be the two-floor Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Suite, with masses of filled bookshelves, more of which I would find the next day, in the Sir Winston Churchill Suite, with a real-look working brick and stone fireplace. After this would come the sleek, Hollywood-style sophistication of the Lady Hamilton Suite, looking straight out at a statue of that lady’s love, Nelson, atop his column in Trafalgar Square. Still on the list are the Frederick Simms Suite, the Sir Henry Irving Suite and finally, the largest of all, the 5,000 sq. ft. Royal Suite, with dining for ten and a private gym.
But even the basic lodging at this 294-room hotel is stupendous. Room 447, at a mere 460 sq. ft., is superbly comfortable, with a walk-in closet and a bathroom with the electric towel rail that has long been a necessity in the best English homes. I luxuriated in the minibar’s Harrods snacks (Harrods has an in-hotel boutique, again a first, and Corinthia is taking over the signature store for three weeks in March 2012). An eight-inch silver Maserati with rubber wheels is a reminder that the first London to Brighton motor race started from this building in 1896. The wedge-shaped building set near the Thames and squeezed in between Whitehall Place SW1 and Northumberland Avenue WC2, opened as Hotel Métropôle in 1885. It was later occupied by the Ministry of Defence, and it opened as the Corinthia Hotel London in April, 2011.
From the circular central lobby’s glass cupola roof hangs Chafik Gasmi’s glimmering ball-shaped fire burst, 13 ft. in diameter and formed of 1,000 colorless crystals and one red Baccarat. David Collins designed the Bassoon Bar (lots of fun), and the fabulous Massimo Restaurant and Oyster Bar. Someone has somehow persuaded Rome’s culinary heartthrob Massimo Riccioli to leave his La Rosetta back home and relocate here. This is down-to-earth, real Italian food, nothing pretentious, tall oyster platters and pasta with love. The adjacent all-day Northall offers English and international food.
The ESPA Life spa stretches over 30,000 sq. ft., with wavy walls of shiny, metal-dripped Lucite Kinon (or so it seems) and some white gold leaf ceilings. There are 15 treatment rooms; a glass-walled, semi-sunken sauna that must be 20 by 15 feet; a vitality hydrotherapy pool of similar proportions; a massive steam area, and a 30-foot stainless lap pool. The tennis court-sized 24-hour gym has LifeFitness and those grueling TriXter bikes that Sir Richard Branson loves. And, by the way, so do I.