Corinthia Hotel, London’s best contemporary luxury suites

The Corinthia London is a historic luxury hotel and former British Government building, located on a triangular site between Trafalgar Square and the Thames Embankment. Originally built as the Metropole Hotel and later used as an administrative building, the hotel has undergone 400 million dollar renovation and careful restoration which started late 2007.

Opened one year ago, I have to admit the Corinthia London has been the most pleasant surprise, exceeding all my expectations in terms of facilities, decor and fittings – surpassing all the other 10 Corinthia hotels run by the Pisani family from Malta. The amount of investment is stunning, with the very best of materials and equipments installed. From the immense custom made Baccarat chandelier in the lobby with LEDs (the largest ever Baccarat chandelier created with 1.001 crystal balls) which adorns the lobby, the 22-foot-long piano which also serves as a bar table in the Bassoon Bar, the lavish SPA on four floors (the largest luxury SPA in central London) to the magnificent ballroom which has been fully restored to its former glory showcasing stunning original Victorian grand columns, the Corinthia London is GRAND in every sense !

Rooms are among the largest in London, some bathrooms with natural light (all marble bathrooms with separate bathtub and walk in shower. Design is contemporary, yet warm, cosy and welcoming, with extensive use of wood, including wooden floors and thick carpets. All rooms are equipped with the latest high-end Lowe LCD TVs and Lucent touch screen phones to control various services. Beds are heavenly! The only downturn for the rooms is the lack of view, except those on the top floors that might have partial views of the Thames and London skyline.

But when it comes to suites, the Corinthia in London probably has not only the largest number of suites among any other central London luxury hotel but also the most beautiful signature suites, especially the Penhouses which come with their own private elevator and terrace with stunning views of London. All River Suites have panoramic views of Thames River and London Eye – most beautiful views in the evenings.

Among the Penthouses, my favourite is the Writer’s Suite. The custom-designed and crafted from dark walnut, the two-metre-long writing table is the centre piece within the library-like lounge. Around the walls, over a thousand books add to the literary ambiance, complemented by artwork featuring handwritten letters. Other exquisit details include a bespoke Makassar ebony cocktail cabinet, leather-lined drawers and a limestone fireplace. Like all the bathrooms in the Penhouse Suites, the one of the Writer’s Suite is opulent and sumptuos in every sense with Fior di Bosco marble and impeccable lighting.

The Lady Hamiton Penthouse Suite has one of the most beautiful bedrooms of all suites – it almost makes you feel you stepped into a suite designed by Dior or Chanel… As for the terrace, The WhiteHall Penthouse Suite has an incredible view of London, 180 degrees, with direct views of Big Ban. No details are overlooked in the suites, from the set up of each terrace (for instance the terrace of the Whitehall Penthouse Suite has oversized pieces of chess, while the terrace of the Musician’s Penthouse is a perfect roof top garden setting with spectacular views of London Eye and City of London.

The Food & Beverage offering of the Corinthia can rival any top luxury hotel worldwide, with an exquisit Italian restaurant by Chef Massimo Riccioli who runs the iconic Rosetta Restaurant in Rome and Northhall, focusing on seasonal produce supplied by artisanal producers from around the British Isles, offering a more informal setting. One of my favourite dishes Chef’s signature crudo and oysters at Massimo Oyster Bar.

The much talked about Harrods boutique at TheCorinthia London, the very first harrods boutique in a hotel (besides the flagship store in Knightsbridge, there are only several airport corners and shops), is merely a small gourmet and gift shop, with a very limited selection. The beautiful side of the Harrods corner was the flower shop, with a wonderful selection of fresh cut flowers which the florist could make into the most stylish arrangements or even installations.

Although impressive in facilities and spread over 4 floors, the SPA which is branded ESPA does not have any treatments using organic products, which I find unacceptable at this level. Also, the water experience areas as well as the sauna and whirlpools were hardly a luxurious experience as it is probably the size of the facilities which motivates management to attract as many guests from outside the hotel as possible. At the time I visited, there were two very noisy couples, speaking loudly at each other and ”diving” into the whirlpools – while none of the attendants would draw their attention. Actually, during my one hour at the water experiece area I could notice only one attendant who had a very fed up attitude.

While at the SPA, I learned ESPA was actually experimenting by introducing integrated complementary health programs run by expert professionals. I had a fascinating conversation with Hannah Yang, a certified Naturopathic Physician from the U.S. who shared with some amazing programs on detox, sleep disorders, losing weight etc. Reccommendations are based on functional diagnostic laboratory tests may which can be performed on site. This information is then used to tailor your personal path to wellness and oversee each step of the journey.

Unfortunately, when it terms of service, with the exception of Concierge and the Massimo Restaurant and The Bassoon Bar, I have experienced inconsistency throughout all other venues and departments, especially the lobby lounge, housekeeping, front office and breakfast. Service could be, at times, genuine at intuitive, however, at times, it was cold and almost ignorant. There were two occasions I was in the lobby lounge, once for the afternoon tea, which as a setting must be one of the best in London, and once for desert. On both occasions, I was unfortunate to encounter poor quality of service.

Given the impressive facilities of the hotel and the huge investment, I wonder why owners and management have not invested more in training human resources. Over half of the staff I encountered need to improve English (most of them are from Eastern Europe) and there has to be name recognition – during my stay, with the exception of Julius Anders (Front Office Assistant Manager) noone knew my name therefore it was rather annoying repeating my room number all the time.

I could not help but wonder how this hotel could aim for perfection, if only managed by an experienced chain such as Mandarin Oriental or Four Seasons….

Oliver Petcu in London