ANYBODY who wanders through the West End for any amount of time is taken with the stunning architecture, but many don’t get the opportunity to stay in these wonderful buildings. The new generation of serviced apartments, however, offers you the chance.
These are proving increasingly popular for those who regularly spend time in London for business but who don’t want to stay in faceless hotels on the one hand, or can’t justify buying a property in the capital on the other.
At the top end of the range are places like 47 Park Street, the only serviced apartment in Mayfair. An Edwardian townhouse, it was built in 1927 as a private residence for the 1st Baron Milford but has now been converted into 49 private residences, which offer a full concierge service, à la carte room service, in-house florist, valet service and twice daily housekeeping. It’s a mix of old English charm and bang up-to-the-minute mod cons, with DVD player, stereo, satellite TV and a kitchen with Villeroy & Boch cookware and china, Hepp flatware and Siemens appliances.
One of the benefits for frequent London visitors is a storage service, which lets visitors come back to pressed clothes hanging ready for them in the wardrobe – and they’ll even put out pictures of your family on the mantelpiece to make you feel at home.
It all works on a fractional ownership system, and for an initial outlay of between £110,000 and £260,000 depending on the size of the residence, you can stay for 21 nights a year. Extra nights cost less than £100. Interestingly, 44 per cent of new members who joined in 2010 live in Surrey.
Perhaps the best thing about all this is that you also get access to a serious concierge service. You can order in meals from nearby three Michelin-starred restaurant Le Gavroche, and it also has partnerships with the likes of the Royal Opera House – they can get you tickets not available to the public and behind the scenes tours – and Morton’s, an elegant private members club on Berkeley Square. You can also get deals on treatments at the nearby Spa Illuminata and use the gym and pool at the Marriott Park Lane hotel.
An alternative for those who want long-stay accommodation is the option offered by the Firmdale group, which as well as running fashionable hotels in areas such as Soho, Covent Garden and Knightsbridge also has a range of serviced apartments attached to some of its hotels.
The most traditional of these is the townhouse connected to its Haymarket Hotel, right next door to the historic Haymarket Theatre. Guests have access to private dining and meeting rooms, a drawing room, a concierge, valet parking and some exceptionally elegant rooms that offer something closer to home comforts than faceless international hotel.
The building was designed by John Nash, the man who was responsible for much of the lay-out of Regency London and designed some of the most iconic buildings in the city, including Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and Trafalgar Square. The interiors are designed in a sort of super-modern Georgian English style, with oak dominating the lobby and library. Guests also have use of the 18m pool and gym.
The hotel’s Bruno Brega says that most of the guests are “either media industry majors, such as film producers, actors or directors, and high income corporate clients, usually from New York and other US locations, Russia and Western Europe.” High demand for rental properties in London “has caused standard rental prices to rise significantly, bringing rental levels closer in line with the prices offered for full serviced apartment services”, he says, which is encouraging people to opt for serviced apartments. The group also lets out properties at its Soho Hotel as serviced apartments.
If such central locations aren’t your thing, then one alternative is the boutique-style Space Apart Hotel in Westbourne Grove. It targets “business travellers and corporate executives who come to London regularly on business who want a home from home experience or somewhere more private without having to pay a hefty price tag,” says Zeev Zi Pear, the hotel’s co-owner. As such, guests don’t demand some of the add-ons that the serviced apartments that work on a fractional-ownership basis do. “Our guests tell us that as they are international travellers they don’t need parking or personal shoppers, they just need high comfort, all mod cons and a friendly concierge,” he says.
The hotel prides itself on the attention to detail in the rooms, which are all individually styled, and when taken along with the Georgian architecture give a really classic-meets-modern feel. Although it normally has a 94 per cent occupancy rate, at Christmas they say that locals with overcrowded houses use it as classy overflow accommodation for in-laws.
47 PARK STREET
The Mayfair location makes it a big hit with the finance crowd – 35 per cent of members who joined in 2008/9 worked in the industry. The classic Edwardian stylings give it an air of traditional gentility, but it is bang up to date with all the trappings of understated, modern apartments. It’s popular with foreign guests, but also with Brits who spend time in London. It’s not cheap, with membership starting at £110,000, but you get serious bang for your buck, with a concierge and access to some of the top arts and entertainment venues in the capital. It’s hard to single out any one feature as the best, but perhaps getting food shipped over from Le Gavroche, which is practically next door, has to come pretty high on the list.
For membership enquiries
call 020 7950 5528, or email
If being slap-bang in the centre of the action is your thing, then you can’t do much better than the Haymarket Hotel, a stone-cold Georgian classic designed by John Nash. It has a separate building with suites in a townhouse next to the hotel, which can be booked out for long-term stays as serviced apartments. The rooms can be configured to give you anything from a one to a five-bedroom apartment – with prices for one room from £2,100 for the week, while the entire townhouse can be rented out for £31,000 per week.
See www.firmdale.com for more information.
Another beautiful Georgian façade, this time in Westbourne Park, this targets business travelers who are staying in London for one to two weeks. Modern comforts are the name of the game. 32in flat-screen televisions, DVD players with a free DVD library, iPod docks and high-speed internet access should keep you entertained when you are not enjoying the bars and restaurants in the area.
For more information, see www.aparthotel-london.co.uk.