Every year, during London Fashion Week, they have a unique ritual at Sanderson’s. A queue of people gather outside around mid-afternoon for a tour of this luxury, boutique hotel.
And with each year the queue gets longer and longer.
This year, however, the hotel had to make do with a slightly shorter version of this annual ritual. They couldn’t take their visitors up to see any rooms. The hotel was full and heaving to capacity. All rooms were booked. And with plenty of reasons too. If you stay a night, you will know why.
Sanderson’s is not just any luxury hotel. In the heart of the most fashionable quarter of London (a few minutes walk from Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road), the hotel gets it’s name from the wallpaper and textile giants of the thirties.
This 1950s building, which has been completely transformed inside into a quirky and surreal space, was once the flagship factory of Sanderson’s and is therefore Grade II listed. It’s rather austere glass, metal and concrete exterior however, doesn’t prepare you for what lies inside.
Salvador Dali’s plump red lip sofa, African fertility chairs, Louis XV oversized armoire, gorgeous Greecian urns cut out of truck tyres, Murano glass chandeliers – this is just the lobby.
The style, which might confuse you at first, is the brainchid of designer Philippe Starck. It’s bold, over-the-top, yet beautiful and sensitive. Because among the many French, Greek and African touches, the designer takes care to introduce two British favourites – the nation’s love of dogs and gardens, but in a way that you wouldn’t quite expect.
And this element of surprise, follows you around the building. Nothing is quite what it seems. The lift isn’t just a lift – step inside and it has the feel of a pod in a spaceship transporting you to another world.
The corridors are like a runaway at night, with floor lights directing you to your room. And the room itself...
Flooded with natural light on not a particularly bright afternoon, it seems a dream-like space. There is an abundance of white. But it’s not cold and clinical. Patches of bold ochre, purple and lime green cleverly positioned around the room on the back of cabinets, mirrors and in the inside of wardrobes light up the room with magical effects.
There is an enormous thick rug inspired by Voltaire’s handwriting and as you sink your head in on the pillow and look up, there is a small square landscape painting hung from the ceiling. I listened bemused as the well- informed concierge explained that was the image that Alice would have seen as she fell down the rabbit hole.
And it is true, your stay at Sanderson’s is a lot like Alice in Wonderland.
There are no internal walls, not just inside your room but in the 10,000 square-foot Agua Spa. Layers of sheer curtain – there are 17 miles of it around the hotel – define the space as you wish it to be. You can conceal or reveal the room exactly how you wish.
And this effect is heightened most in the spa. Fourteen sumptuous treatment rooms, all separated by diaphanous white curtains is the best tonic for those tired feet after an energetic morning on Oxford Street.
But the hotel is not just wacky and whimsical. It has kept the spirit of the old Sanderson’s factory alive. There are poignant reminders of its past glory around the hotel – the original 1950 stained glass window by noted British artist John Piper in the Billiard room, the courtyard garden and the classic 60s mosaic.
But don’t leave Sanderson’s without a meal. Between breakfasts, a drink and a bite and some ‘people-watching’ in the Long Bar, dinners at Malaysian Suka you’ll be spoilt for choice.
But my personal favourite is Mad Hatter’s Tea in the afternoon. Complete with blueberry lollipops and rainbow coloured sandwiches, the tea with leave you grinning like a Cheshire Cat.
But it isn’t just at Sanderson’s that the food stands out. Just 10 minutes drive from here is the sister hotel in the Morgan’s Group – St Martin’s Lane.
The restaurant there serves rather interesting fusion food – Asian and Cuban – at appropriately named Asia de Cuba.
Inside the warm, inviting space buzzing like the heart of a Cuban home, don’t forget to try the Calamari Salad, Crab Crocquetas for starters, Gambas Gigantes Mai Tai for mains and their Hemingway Thyme and Mango Mojito for cocktails. You will wish you had discovered this place before.
And if you need more reasons to be down in London for a capital break this year, nothing could be more fetching on a cold winter evening than a touch of cabaret. The Crazy Horse have set up tent until November end on the South Bank and their 60th anniversary special lives up to it’s name – Forever Crazy.
And if you are feeling slightly edgy in your seats as to what comes next, the opening number will give you a honest taste. ‘God save our Bareskin’ a creation of Alain Bernardin, the Crazy Horse founder in 1951, is a row of nine beautiful, identical looking, alabaster-skinned, heavily made-up women who perform a military routine wearing little apart from bearskin hats, military buttons and leather boots.
After that, the act for the evening is pretty much set. There are all the usual numbers – poles, chairs, chains, sofas as one dance follows another in at times, a synchronised monotony.
But for the best part it is an energetic show, with catchy tunes, sanitised dance movements and a brilliant light display.
However, the evening is not short of laughter either. Hand dancers Suzanne Cleary and Peter Harding put on a mesmerising display in full formal evening wear, black eyes and smudged red lips on their kitchen table that will leave you clapping your hands red. The pair alone are worth the full price of the tickets.