The Londoner hotel is no predictable paean to red buses, Beefeaters and other capital cliches but a far more accurate portrayal of a Londoner: multi-accented, multi-faceted and modern-minded. Its basement houses a serene spa, its rooftop a skyline surveying Japanese restaurant and bar. In between you'll find a sweeping champagne lounge, a further French-Mediterranean restaurant, a series of sought-after event spaces, an enviable art collection and some of the city's most generously appointed suites. Oh, and it even has its own pub. So as the old refrain goes: 'Maybe it's because I'm at the Londoner, that I love London so'.
Noon. Earliest check-in is 3pm. Subject to availability, early check-ins and late check-outs are available too.
Double rooms from £512.10, including tax at 20 per cent.
Rates do not include breakfast, but a bounteous buffet is served at Whitcomb's each morning for £39 per guest, or treat yourself to a champagne brunch at the Stage.
There are eight rooms adapted for those with mobility issues, just enquire when booking.
At the hotel
Spa, pool, steam room/sauna, hair/nail salon, gentlemen’s barber, 24-hour gym, private guests-only areas, ballroom events space, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: Nespresso machine, minibar, Dyson hairdryer, Roberts radio, Smart TV with Google Chromecast, handheld steamer, Miller Harris bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Some of the capital's most spacious suites occupy its floors, contemporary in style and bedecked in neutral tones and tactile fabrics – with particularly fetching aquamarine tiled bathrooms (and smart, energy-saving, Japanese-style toilets). Many have skyline views, too. Notable mention goes to the Tower Penthouse suite which comes with a laundry list of added perks, including use of a secret VIP entrance, your own in-room mixologist, your own set of Olivia von Halle silk pyjamas, even a none-more-London Burberry mac to keep the rain off during your stay.
It's one of the Londoner's biggest draws that you can wander in from the bustle of Leicester Square and be doing laidback laps in a placid 12.5m pool within about 90 seconds (depending on how quickly you get changed, of course). There's a hydropool in one corner, cosy cabanas line the side and an ambient soundtrack heightens the tranquility.
The Retreat is an impressive subterranean space which offers an instant salve to inner-city pressure as soon as you step out the lift. First to greet you is that aforementioned pool, beyond which lies a gents' barbers, a hair and nail salon, and two bespoke rooms where massages, facials, even acupuncture sessions and tailored-for-men treatments can be arranged. You'll also find Refuel, serving superfoods, smoothies and body-boosting juices can pep you up for the day, or help you further unwind post-spa session. A trip to a basement has never been this restorative – although if you prefer a bit of exertion, there's a state-of-the-art Technogym open around the clock.
It's not something you'd expect to find under Leicester Square so we'll remind you to pack your swimming gear if you're likely to be tempted by some peaceful pool time.
As well as numerous event spaces, the hotel has its own ballroom, home to A-list events for London Fashion Week, Frieze, the London Film Festival and other high-profile cultural happenings.
Children are welcome, but you'll need to book separate rooms, as extra beds cannot be added to rooms; there are designated child-friendly swimming hours at the pool – but this is a hotel much more geared towards grown-ups.
For such city-centre real estate, there are some seriously commendable eco endeavours here. A sensitive transformation from its previous iteration into the Londoner was backed by a special (and strictly stipulated) green loan. The result: a certified 'Excellent' rating by the scientifically calculated BREEAM method, owing to such innovations as smart food-waste stations, close temperature monitoring systems, a genius non-toxic, biodegradable liquid pool cover, and carefully considered sustainable suppliers.
Take a corner table at the rooftop restaurant for the best skyline vantage point.
There's a distinctly London-appropriate anything goes attitude, but something showy by Junya Watanabe, Yohji Yamamoto or Comme des Garçons will echo the numerous Japanese influences.
Let's start at the top, shall we? 8 at the Londoner occupies prime panoramic territory on the titular eighth floor, and its menu of modern Japanese fare is served with a flair befitting its skyline-spying surroundings. It riffs on the izakaya tradition (literally 'stay-drink-place') with artfully plated tataki, tempura, succulent cuts of wagyu and various robata-grilled delights – with plenty of well-recommended sake pairings. (You can order food til 11:15pm, too, which is a decadently late dinner by local standards.) Back on ground level, you'll find your other options. The very literal centre stage is given to the Stage, the hotel's generously proportioned lobby bar-cum-lounge serving champagne breakfasts, champagne afternoon teas and, well, a whole lot of champagne – often to the accompaniment of a live pianist. To its right, you'll find Whitcomb's, a light-filled, art-enlivened space where things take a French turn: sea bass marinere, tuna tartare, herb-crusted lamb, Brie de Meaux salad, tarte au citron – there's a whole végétalien menu, too…
Upstairs at 8, the ingeniously indoor/outdoor bamboo-enclosed Shima Garden – an invitingly modern take on communing round a campfire – is the place for sipping sublime sake, Japanese whiskies and cleverly crafted cocktails. If you prefer your whiskies sipped in cosier confines, seek out the secret second-floor whisky room and its museum-worthy collection of bottles. And of course, no Londoner is complete without a local pub – here Joshua's Tavern complies amiably; a fully functioning, pint-pouring, gin-stocked, snack-serving, brass-pipe adorned pub, named after 18th century portrait artist (and Leicester Square local) Sir Joshua Reynolds. There's a further guests-only lounge with full bar service, free soft drinks and tea and coffee, too. You won't go thirsty, basically.
Whitcomb's and Joshua's Tavern serve until 10pm, the Stage and 8 at the Londoner until a respectable 1am (Tuesday–Saturday; Thursday–Saturday at the Stage, otherwise it's midnight).
A note to first-time visitors: London closes much earlier than a lot of cities. Thankfully a full room service menu is available 24 hours a day.
The Londoner stands tall on the south-west corner of the legendary Leicester Square
Airports big (Heathrow) and small (London City) are both a 50ish-minute drive and Gatwick is easily reachable by rail. The hotel can arrange transfers but costs vary.
For getting around town, Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, Green Park, Covent Garden and Charing Cross are all within easy walking distance. Charing Cross is the nearest national rail station, serving much of Kent and Sussex (should you fancy a trip to the coast).
If you want to make like a true Londoner, rely on the tube, the trains, the taxis and your own two feet to get you around. But if you are arriving on four wheels, there's a nearby car park for £45 a day, or hand your car keys to a valet for £70.
Worth getting out of bed for
If you're lucky, you can walk straight out the hotel and onto a red carpet – most of the capital's major movie premieres take place in one of the neighbouring cinemas on the square. (You'll find crowds, too, outside the square's bafflingly popular M&Ms World which we suggest you avoid at all costs unless you have a particular penchant for anthropomorphised chocolate peanuts.) The National Gallery is practically within touching distance and it houses the country's finest collection of 13th-19th century art. The Royal Academy of Arts, off Piccadilly, offers a more eclectic selection through the ages. For artistic expression in fashion, head to Dover Street Market (confusingly now on Haymarket) for an expertly curated collection of contemporary designers. If you've eyed up the art books on display at the hotel, Maison Assouline, the flagship HQ of the renowned publishers, is a Lutyens-designed haven for aesthetically minded bibliophiles a few streets away. For casual strolls – and people-watching par excellence – head north to Soho and Fitzrovia, or west to Mayfair and St James. Plenty of cafés, pubs, boutiques and green spaces will distract you en route.
Being in pinpoint central London means you're in walking distance of some of the capital's very best menus. Some classics: seafood at J Sheekey, British staples at the revered Rules, a roast from the carving trolley at Wilton's. Some contemporary charmers: modern middle-eastern at the Palomar, North African small plates at the Barbary, intimate counter dining at Evelyn's Table, seasonal specials at Hide. Notable mentions: Italian favourites at Bocca di Lupo, contemporary Cajun at Louie, French brasserie fun at Zedel, and supreme steaks at Hawksmoor. Plus, Chinatown is round the corner – for what it's worth, our go-tos are the fresh, made-in-the-window dumplings at the wedge-shaped Jen Café, the spicy Sichuan fare at Food House, and the no-frills comfort of Café TPT.
If you fail to get a booking for the counter at Evelyn's Table, take solace in the fact it has an excellent pub – the Blue Posts – upstairs, and an intimate cocktail-and-wine bar – the Mulwray – above that. If natural wine is your thing, you'll feel right at home at Bar Crispin, and wine in all its guises is the raison d'être at Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels in Seven Dials. Bar Termini, on Soho's Old Compton Street, is a cocktail-crafting classic.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this forward-thinking feature of Leicester Square and told us of their newfound love of Japanese whisky, a full account of this slick city stay will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside the Londoner…
London might sleep a little more than its contemporaries, but that's never dampened its enthusiasm for reinvention. In that regard, the Londoner is something of a totem. The owners of the hotel that occupied this corner had always dreamt of something bolder and so, after years of planning, in 2018 a commendably rigorous green loan meant that dream could become a reality. The existing building was carefully dismantled over recent years, materials reused and ultra efficient systems installed as they went, and so the Londoner took shape. And the shape it took was that of a dynamic, cosmopolitan, multi-hyphenate resident – a bold move given its Leicester Square neighbours are more of the tourist-trapping 'red phone boxes and Hugh Grant movies' kind of Londoners. But maybe, just maybe, the diversification of the square starts here…
Inside, the only overt nods to the Big Smoke we spotted were the vintage opera glasses and duck-head-handled umbrella in our room. Its other references are more subtle; the rippled walls lining the Stage to evoke the curtains in Theatreland, the embellished backstory of Mr Reynolds adorning Joshua's Tavern, the artistic links to the many neighbouring galleries. And its passion for food, drink, wellbeing, and fashion (Vogue's prestigious Fashion Week party was hosted here) is one of a committed urbanite. Whichever of those is your preferred passion, it will be expertly facilitated with first-class service – the Residence is the collective noun given to the three private guests-only spaces which heighten that 'I'm really being looked after' feeling – and the spacious, neutral-toned rooms will ensure you're well rested. So next time you're in town, we'd like to introduce you to this particular Londoner – you're going to get along famously.