the UK Dining Guide

One Aldwych

Restaurant openings in London have been commonplace. How blasé can you get, I wonder. But it's true, they're popping up all over the place, it's hard to keep up. A new luxury hotel - now that's rather different - we don't see so many of those.

Roll up the red carpets, auction off the filigree fittings and the roccoco ornaments, in the words of hotelier Gordon Campbell Gray One Aldwych is all about "stealth wealth". He wants to "pare back the superfluous trappings of luxury, which now seem dated and unnecessary and concentrate on what really makes a hotel work - highly professional service and great comfort.

At this point I was in danger of being confused; to me superfluous trappings equals great comfort. But read on.

It's really all about style. Yesterday's comforts are superfluous trappings, but today's comforts are sharply focussed, leaner, fitter and no bloody chintz to be seen. Well that's a relief! Looking at some pre-opening photos of rooms, I noticed with satisfaction that the pillows looked very sumptuous, and there's even a French Horn mouthpiece for you to bark orders through to room service. Sorry, sorry, my sub-editor has just pointed out that it's not a mouthpiece at all but a very high-tech sharply focussed little reading light. Silly me. Anyway, I've since been along and had a sneaky look for myself and I wish I could afford to stay there. It all looks absolutely super.

Little did the architects Mewes and Davies think, when they built Inveresk House at number one The Aldwych for a newspaper in 1907, that ninety years later it would end up a hotel. It seemed that since the Anglo-French partnership had been so successful with their designs for the Ritz Hotels in London, Paris and Madrid, One Aldwych simply had to follow suit. It lies on a triangular site at the junction of the Strand and the Aldwych, with the West End and theatreland on its doorstep but with the City rather more accessible than most other luxury hotels.

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Some facts: There are 105 bedrooms including 12 suites, two with private gymnasia (see what I said about leaner and fitter). There are two restaurants called Axis and Indigo, a high energy espresso bar, a screening room (where undesirables can be filtered out?), conference rooms, a florist (flowers in the hotel wil be changed and refreshed daily) and a health club with an 18m pool. The bars are already extremely popular and it's not just people celebrating or commiserating after sueing each other for large sums of money in the Law Courts just down the road.

Two of London's most talented young chefs have been recruited to put the new restaurants on the map. Julian Jenkins is the hotel's Executive Chef, responsible for room service, private dining and the Indigo Restaurant. Jenkins comes from the Ritz, having been trained at the Savoy under Anton Edelmann. At Inigo you will find deep fried oysters, grilled fish, lobster salad amongst other things, with dinners costing aroung £25.00 a head for two courses.

Mark Gregory is the head chef of Axis the more formal restaurant. He comes from Brockett Hall in Hertfordhire where he was executive chef. In 1997 he won the coveted award of Meilleur Ouvrier de Grande Bretagne from the Académie Culinaire de France. He favours seasonal dishes like poached haddock and cheese sufflé tart, caramelised loin of Norfolk pork with cider apples and creamed potatoes followed by elderflower jelly with champagne sorbet. Dinner from £30 per person for two courses.

There's definitely room for a stylish new contemporary hotel in London, and with its combination of location and facilities, One Aldwych looks as though it's heading for a great new career.

1 Aldwych London WC2
Tel: 020 7300 0400

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