This swanky London stay with great service and top-notch
A room at the Hospital Club, London.
It is 7pm and a very nice man called David is wheeling a cocktail trolley into my bedroom. He wants to make me an (excellent) old-fashioned before dinner. True, it feels a little awkward. I dont have staff. What is the etiquette here? Can I carry on unpacking? Would phoning my wife to gloat be poor form? But as the small talk flows (easily, actually), I decide: OK. Bit weird. But I could get used to it.
Such pampering can cost a pretty penny, of course. Not least at the Hospital Club, where the larger rooms (for the record, some of the most modishly handsome, comfortable and smoothly functional I have seen), can top 200 or even 300 a night. However, if you can bag one of the five starter rooms (these include two sleeper bedrooms with no natural light), you will by central London standards, where prices frequently spiral off into the stratosphere have a relative 124-a-night bargain.
Indeed, if you lie there considering endless Ren toiletries, your sumptuous bed or the macaroons and newspapers (albeit the Times) that appear at your door unbidden, you may find yourself, for the first time ever, praising Dave Stewart, of Eurythmics fame. He and Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, opened the Hospital Club on the Covent Garden/Holborn border in 2004, as a hub where creative and media types could cough! Create. Connect. Collaborate.
Today, over seven floors, it variously contains a TV studio, a cinema, an art gallery and a private members club, comprising a restaurant and several bars, which guests using its 15 bedrooms have access to.
The Bellini lounge and bar
Now, I dont much like private clubs. And if you have ever wondered why the British media is such a metropolitan bubble, echo chambers like this cannot help. However, if you are imagining some hellhole of braying Nathan Barleys, that is not The Hospital Club. For a start, it isnt that bohemian. Yes, there are a lot of broadcasting and theatre people here (including several vaguely recognisable TV faces) but, on the Thursday I visit, the crowd is middle-aged, wealthy and groomed. These people look like the business-exec end of the film, fashion and digital media worlds, rather than the emerging talent. There are a lot of men in suits and a lot of expensive cocktails being drunk in the Martini Bar. Clearly, all the cool kids are off being skint somewhere in east London.
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The main lounge is a cosier, more laid-back vantage point on this action. You can also explore the buildings art collection or, if the in-house Little Book Of Creativity hasnt inspired you (its banal tone is more Hallmark than Hegel), attend one of the talks, workshops, comedy gigs and other events that happen here many of them free.
What I certainly wouldnt do is eat here again. On this evidence, the restaurant is trying way too hard to impress. The cooking is technically adept, and individual components are cooked accurately, but my dishes are full of tricks and unnecessary reinventions which mystify me. A 10.50 starter of pork belly, scampi and crisped fish skin (the advertised scratchings, presumably) sits in a bisque that muddies the dishs impact. Monkfish kedgeree (22) is served as medallions atop curried wild rice, threaded with preserved lemons, which trample over the other flavours on the plate. These include slices of raw cauliflower.
My breakfast, eggs Benedict (9), meanwhile, is just poor: ho-hum hollandaise, thin, characterless ham and damp muffins. Come, luxuriate, relax. Just dont expect a Chelsea Hotel vibe. Or a fantastic breakfast.