From Noël Coward’s Private Lives, partially set at a hotel in Deauville, to Terence Rattigan’s Separate Tables, playing out in a run-down residential hotel in Bournemouth, the proof is in the playscripts: hotels provide an ideal setting for drama to unfurl.
There’s an innate theatricality to these havens of hospitality: consider the Fosse-esque flick of your server’s wrist as they graceful place your eggs benedict on the table at breakfast; and the exaggerated staircases which, shy of demanding a chorus-line procession to appear on their steps, beckon guests to descend à la Dolly Levi. Now, a new crop of hotels are taking their cues from the city’s dramatic landscape and adding a splash of pizzazz to proceedings. So, scene set, here’s where to stay in London…
BEAVERBROOK TOWN HOUSE
For aspiring thespians
The press baron, wartime MP and socialite, Lord Beaverbrook relished attending West End shows with his artistic coterie. Reimagining his colourful life in London, each of the Beaverbrook Town House’s 14 suites have been named after a famous London theatre – the Garrick, the Royal Opera House, the Old Vic, the Savoy, and so on…. Bedecked with playbills and framed pictures of stars of the day, each theatrical boudoir (designed by Nicola Harding) is kitted out with half-tester and four-poster beds, bedside tables in jewel-box hues, and sumptuous, theatre-style curtains. Spread across two Grade-II-listed Georgian townhouses, inspiration for the hotel’s interiors spans playhouses to cultural attractions, with reference paid to Art Deco as well as Japanese art. No doubt, Sir Laurence Olivier (one of Lord Beaverbrook’s illustrious friends) would have felt quite at home here.
Most theatrical flourish Taking a leaf out of Eugene O’Neill’s playbook, the Fuji Grill’s omakase menu is an epic 20 courses. Head here for lengthy post-theatre debriefs… you’ve got ample time.
Closest to The Royal Court Theatre on Sloane Square. Championing new writing, the Royal Court is a leading force in world theatre. The Jerwood Theatre Upstairs used to be a nightclub, but today the Royal Court’s Bar & Kitchen is the place to be seen and convene with aspiring writers and creatives. Pick up a playscript from the Samuel French Bookshop on your way out.
For west-end wanderers
10 years of planning and a £500m investment later, the Londoner is akin to a mega musical. Plotted on the south-west corner of tourist-laden Leicester Square, the super-boutique hotel stands apart from its chain neighbours (All Bar One, McDonalds, et al) and seeks to rewire people’s perceptions of the piazza. Playing into Leicester Square’s roots as London’s historic theatre district, the hotel’s 350 guestrooms and suites, brought to life by designer Yabu Pushelberg, teeter on the right side of OTT, featuring floor-to-ceiling windows, strong colour palettes and bold artwork. After a matinee, or before a 7.30pm curtain, Whitcomb’s offers a tempting pre-theatre set menu.
Most theatrical flourish The Stage. The decadent lobby bar, designed to mimic the backstage of a show, pays homage to neighbouring Theatreland. Avant-garde and opulent in design, the Stage’s reserve collection of Champagne takes top billing, with more than 35 bottles to choose from.
Closest to Looking for last-minute theatre tickets? There’s a booth right across the street. Positioned at an equidistance from Shaftesbury Avenue and Covent Garden, there are few central theatres you won’t be able to reach from the Londoner within 15 minutes of curtain up.
HAM YARD HOTEL
For Broadway broads
There’s a long-established interchange between the Great White Way and the West End. Both world-famous destinations for entertainment, New York and London have many similarities; Firmdale hotels being one such parallel. With Great Windmill Street as your (temporary) home address, you’ll be right in the heart of the action – the Piccadilly Theatre is next door on Denman Street, while the hotel’s restaurant affords a view of the stage doors of both the Gielgud and the Lyric. There are pre-show menus – two courses at £35 per person, or three courses at £40 per person, both including a glass of Champagne – available until 6.30pm everyday (Sundays until 4pm). Looking for a dinner conversation prompt? The Opéra de Paris costume artworks hanging on the dining room’s walls are a good starting point.
Most theatrical flourish The design language at Ham Yard is rather hyperbolic. Eclectic and wonderfully colourful, its dizzying design beguiles guests on arrival. Take a bow Kit Kemp.
Closest to Shaftesbury Avenue is right behind you, making the Gielgud Theatre, the Lyric and Palace Theatre some of your closest playhouses.
For ingénues and impresarios
Sitting adjacent to the Royal Opera House, the much-anticipated NoMad London took up residence at the historic, grade II-listed building, formerly the Bow Street Magistrates’ Court and Police Station in 2021. An amalgam of old and new, interiors (designed by New York-based design studio Roman and Williams, who are known for their theatrical, transportive spaces) are perhaps best summed up as: dramatic and debonair, with punctuations of femininity and glamour.
Its 91 rooms, including 21 suites, are a medley of richly textured fabrics, considered lighting, ethereal paintwork, and freestanding baths – the Royal Opera Suite has a bath in the bedroom itself for those keen to act out a luxed-up version of La Bohème. From the light-filled atrium restaurant, overseen by executive chef Ashley Abodeel, to the Library (the living room of the hotel where you’ll spot paper theatre sets, old stone mouldings of Thalia and/or Melpomene and large theatrical prints, selected by be-poles studio, dotted about the place), NoMad London is a major scene.
Most theatrical element of the hotel Without doubt it’s the late-night lounge, Common Decency – its name is a nod to Oscar Wilde, who was tried for ‘an affront to common decency’ in said courtroom. Decorated by scene painters from the Royal Opera House, this after-midnight spot centres around a playful cocktail programme.
Closest to The Royal Opera House is across the street. Pay a visit to the Main Stage and catch the house’s latest ballet or opera production, or head downstairs to the Linbury Theatre to enjoy something totally new.
For a play-ful stay
Charming Covent Garden has enjoyed a Renaissance of sorts of late and Henrietta Hotel, which opened here in 2017, has played a key role in the area’s zhuzhing up. Inspired by the streets of Covent Garden, the hotel’s 40 bedrooms are small but considered, designed by French interior designer, Dorothée Meilichzon.
Off-kilter and a little zany, spaces are playful and easy-going. Despite its central location, Henrietta Hotel manages to: a) avoid becoming a tourist trap and b) somehow remain fairly priced. In the heart of Theatreland – it’s a matter of yards from the Savoy Theatre – the hotel is at its best come evening. Owned by the Experimental Group, which manages the Experimental Cocktail Bar in Chinatown, the drinks at the hotel’s ground-floor bar warrant a round of applause.
Most theatrical element of the hotel The restaurant, Da Henrietta by Italian Supper Club, is quite the showstopper – note the Tyrrhenian menu and harlequin-style tiling. A pre-theatre menu is available from 5-6pm daily; make sure you book – it gets busy.
Closest to Skirting Covent Garden and the Strand, from the Lyceum to Wyndham’s, in this part of town boards are always being trodden.
ARTIST RESIDENCE LONDON
For creative types
Shows like Hamilton and Wicked bring crowds in their throngs to this part of the city, but finding somewhere lovely to stay nearby requires, well, a little creative thinking. The exception: Artist Residence, a 10-bedroom hotel in prim Pimlico. Entry is through the restaurant, Cambridge Street Kitchen. Expect chic interiors with boho-feel vintage furniture and exposed brickwork, complemented by period features. Set across three floors, bedrooms range from small and medium rooms to the spacious Loft and suites; those with artistic leanings will feel right at home here. Thinking of going on tour? You can find other Artist Residences in Brighton, Penzance, Bristol, and Oxfordshire.
Most theatrical element of the hotel Ideal for a post-show tipple, the bar, Clarendon Cocktail Cellar, is a gorgeous speakeasy-style space in the hotel’s cellar and merits a visit whether you’re staying at the hotel or not.
Closest to It’s a 15-minute walk to both Victoria Palace Theatre, where Hamilton is currently showing, and the Apollo Theatre, where another big-ticket musical, Wicked, has played for 15+ years. The Other Palace, a dynamic playhouse recently acquired by Bill Kenwright, is also within walking distance and worth a look. Vivien Leigh fans: take a 10-minute wander to the actress’s former home at 54 Eaton Square.
For a more intimate kind of theatre, read our incomplete guide to the world’s best date-night bars