13 May
Europe’s flagship W opens in London, but can the transatlantic cool of the brand be translated?

The second edition of our Checking In series, Lost In A Supermarket’s quest to cover all things we hold most dear (see our review of the gleaming new Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Hong Kong). In this review we jump continents from Hong Kong’s Ritz — now the highest hotel in the world — to the W Hotel in London, Starwood’s biggest gamble…

W is a heralded brand for Starwood. It stands for youth- and design-orientated hotels, which have created a loyal market for themselves in America and Asia. But in Europe, the brand is very new, so this hotel is a big step to defining the planned rollout across the continent. The W London is being seen as the sister hotel to the W Times Square in New York and this is an accurate description, particularly with its location.

The entrance is refreshingly modest — a large lit-up W sign pointing the way into the dark black lift lobby. The small reception area with three welcoming pods is on the 1st floor, and this leads into the smart lobby lounge with free wifi and the main bar area that can get busy. Indeed, the whole floor is much more like a club than a hotel when things get into full swing. We were on the 6th floor, but can’t help thinking what the noise levels are like at 2am on a Friday night if you’re on lower down.

Design: A new build hotel, with an ornamental exterior veil of glass, it comes into its own at dusk and night with a light show of LEDs. The interiors are all done by Dutch studio Concrete, and come across as a bit of a British theme park. Union Jack motifs in the lift and in the lobby give way to kitsch glitterballs on all the floors. It’s like being in the worst Royal Wedding themed party you can imagine.

Highlight: The bedrooms. They may not be that big, but we liked their unusual design

Location: Right in heart of London’s touristy West End — it sits on the corner of Leicester Square, with Soho, Chinatown and Theatreland a short stroll away.

Rooms: 192 Rooms and 21 Suites.

Our room: We had a ‘Spectacular’ room, which was divided into two parts: hard and soft. You enter into the hard half based around the Corian sink unit which also doubles as a main table and work space — unusual and controversial, but brilliantly executed. The toilet and bathroom are hidden behind mirrored doors. The soft half contained the supercomfy bed and chaise with drapes on the walls.

The minibar came with a cocktail shaker, condoms, a vibrator and a male Tenga egg sex toy. I thought initially it was a posh Kinder surprise. Then I Googled it: That was my surprise. And having expensive bottled mineral water for dogs — yes, dogs — is just plain pretentious.

Hit the Jump for more galleries, and to continue reading Checking In: W Hotel, London…


Best room: The ‘Extreme Wow’ suite, with a mammoth revolving circular sofa, a bathroom jacuzzi and a four-person shower.

Spa & Extras: The AWAY Spa features REN products, sauna, treatment and steam rooms, plus male and female lounges. The gym is on the 6th floor with good views.

Shopping: There’s a pokey and very misjudged W Store by reception, but why on Earth would you want to buy anything there, when you’ve got London on your doorstep? Otherwise, the upcoming M&M World retail park on the ground floor will become the world’s biggest candy store when it opens later in the summer.

Restaurants and bars: Lounge Lobby for daytime snacks, but the building also houses the London branch of Spice Market on the ground floor — another tie with New York.

The hotel bar is a convivial space, with one giant undulating Chesterfield sofa along three walls and circular fireplaces. It suffers from bad acoustics, but the drinks are good. A second smaller, guest-list only bar called Wyld is adjacent. Be warned: This is not operated by the hotel, so don’t expect entrance unless you call in advance. Our experience with room service was awful — spaghetti with what tasted like cheap canned sauce.

A look at the various rooms available, including the premium Extreme Wow Suite (first 4 pics), W Rooms (next 3) and Spa Suite (last 3) options…

Entertainment: There’s a small screening room, which you can also hire out for personal movie or gamestation parties.

Price: From $450 to $8,300.

Downer: The hefty bouncers at the entrance at night time — a hotel should have welcoming smartly-attired doormen, not club bouncers. And then there’s the stupidly expensive wifi charge in the bedroom = $26 for 24 hours. Listen W, the Internet doesn’t cost that much to run, Ok?

Final word: It tries very hard, but ultimately fails to capture the modern essence of British coolness. With the exception of the great bedrooms, it’s a bit tacky. But for tourists, although expensive for what it offers, it really is in a superb location and is still kinda fun in a silly holiday way.

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