Hotel review: The groundbreaking Londoner dazzles in the West End

Our rating

4.5 out of 5


The Londoner bills itself as both "the world's first super-boutique hotel" and an "urban resort". Eight years in the making, and costing around $1 billion to develop, it spans 16 floors - eight above ground, eight below - with 350 rooms and suites, state-of-the-art events spaces and various food, drink and wellness temptations. Big on eco-friendly credentials, this sustainably-designed hotel boasts LED lighting throughout and generates its own electricity on-site.


No place for the camera shy, The Londoner is slap bang in the heart of the West End, shouldering a luxe new Odeon cinema on the south-west corner of Leicester Square, where red carpets are rolled out for film premieres and statues of William Shakespeare, Paddington Bear, Mary Poppins and Mr Bean attract selfie takers.


Award-winning Canadian-US designers Yabu Pushelberg have fashioned The Londoner's opulent interiors. Attentive international staff (some with movie-star looks) usher you into the seductively-lit lobby, which blends into The Stage, a champagne bar and afternoon-tea venue with regular live piano and soprano performances and artworks drawing on the hotel's Theatreland location. There are also guest-only lounges, where you can leaf through newspapers, play board games and enjoy complimentary soft drinks and antipasti.

Deep in the basement, The Retreat is a pampering haven with hairstylists, manicurists, gentlemen's grooming, a gym, pool, steam room and spa. I have a 60-minute ginger-infused, tension-relieving Back on Track treatment (£100 or $186), which comprises back and leg massages, compresses and exfoliation. The Retreat's "superfood clinic" plies vitality shots, tisanes (herbal infusions) and Ayurvedic ritual bowls.


Behind a lacquered door with a glass knob that reminds me of a giant diamond, my entry-level 23 square metre king room provides downtime with decadence. There's a pleasingly comfortable bed, hardwood floors, a swish salmon-pink velvet chaise-longue, Nespresso machine, Roberts Bluetooth radio and speaker.

An illuminated theatre-style vanity mirror rests between a dual shower-bathroom with Miller Harris tea tonique products and a W/C with a heated-seatToto toilet. I use the room's retro opera glasses to peek over Leicester Square - where an ongoing project is funking up the 17th-century piazza. Other rooms, including the super-lavish signature and penthouse suites, have even more cinematic London views.


You can breakfast (on both buffet and cooked-to-order options) at Whitcomb's, an elegant-casual French restaurant that also does prix fixe lunches and a la carte dishes, with an extensive wine list. Prefer sake, sushi and sashimi? Zoom up to 8, a swanky twist on a Japanese izakaya, with a heated terrace and garden with retractable roof.

At street level - the entrance is down the side of the hotel - patrons sup ales and gins at Joshua's Tavern, named after Joshua Reynolds, an 18th-century artist who lived locally.


There's something to beguile and intrigue in every direction, whether you're after historic sights, high culture, shopping, theatre or global cuisine. Chinatown, Soho, Covent Garden, Bond Street and Piccadilly Circus are all a five to 10 minute walk away.


So, too, is St James' Park, which leads towards the Queen's pad, Buckingham Palace. Just behind the hotel is the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery and Trafalgar Square.


It's no surprise this hotel has been well-received by critics. Fit for a film star, it's a dazzling addition to London's entertainment district, although it'll give your bank balance a hefty whack.


Rooms start from around £485 ($900), Wi-Fi included. The Londoner, 38 Leicester Square, London WC2H 7DX. See


My three-course dinner at Whitcomb's (£62/$115) is the best hotel meal I've had in ages: seared king prawns with garlic, chilli and olive oil, followed by filet mignon with chanterelle and aged Parmesan cheese, and sticky, flaky mille-feuille.


Leicester Square still looks a bit cluttered and messy, but it should improve as 2022 and its revamp evolves.

Steve McKenna was a guest of The Londoner and Visit Britain (