St. Ermin's Hotel

2 Caxton St, Westminster, London SW1H 0QW, UK - ☏ +44 20 7222 7888 - www.marriott.com

Marriot’s Autograph Collection portfolio usually includes highly esteemed properties with their own unique character, and the St. Ermin’s in London is by no means an exception. A towering set of 19th century mansion blocks enclosing a tree-lined courtyard at the heart of Westminster, St. Ermin’s is a hotel that boasts a backstory so illustrious one imagines it could certainly be elevated to the level of more internationally renowned (and more costly) hotels nearby. In it’s present form, St. Ermin’s functions as a perfectly enjoyable place to stay in the centre of the capital—albeit relatively expensive and lacking in imagination.

"At the height of WWII, the hotel became the stage for events of a more sinister kind when Winston Churchill arranged for an entire floor to be commissioned as the covert headquarters of the Special Operations Executive, with their colleagues from MI6 stationed two floors above. Such was the importance of their work, a secret tunnel is rumoured to have been built with under the hotel’s grand staircase, leading directly to the corridors of power inside Westminster."

These drawbacks are compensated for, or to put it another way, made all the more frustrating in the immediate sense of history as one enters St. Ermin’s. The building was first converted from private residences to a luxury hotel under the creative stewardship of the Victorian theatre architect J. P. Briggs, original elements of whose work are still much in evidence in the stunning theatricality of its public spaces. Three decades later at the height of WWII, the hotel became the stage for events of a more sinister kind when Winston Churchill arranged for an entire floor to be commissioned as the covert headquarters of the Special Operations Executive, with their colleagues from MI6 stationed two floors above. Such was the importance of their work, a secret tunnel is rumoured to have been built with under the hotel’s grand staircase, leading directly to the corridors of power inside Westminster. Its entrance is said to still exist in the lobby, and it’s a shame that this story and the many others feel less present within the actual guests’ rooms, the interior design of which is sadly generic.

In contrast, a major highlight of St. Ermin’s is its principal restaurant the Caxton Grill, whose brilliant head chef Adam Handling has unfortunately, at the time of this issue’s publication, now left to open his own restaurant, The Frog in Shoreditch. Based on the skill and ingenuity of his creations at the Caxton, Handling’s new venture is definitely worth making a note of; whether his former employers will continue to serve dishes up to the standard of his, or not, remains to be seen. Seated at a window table on a busy Monday night, we are again made aware that this location is built into the foundations of British history by the somewhat oppressive view of the New Scotland Yard police headquarters across the road. The sight becomes all the more glum as news of David Bowie’s death slowly filters through the restaurant—a sad reminder that history is still in the making. PK

This review is included in TTA11. Click here for more information about the issue.

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