After all, it’s been a while for most of us. Those weekend breaks we used to take for granted have a special meaning these days. Yet it was not without a little trepidation that I, along with my partner, boarded a train for the first time in 18 months, fully masked up and sterilising everything in sight, to make our way into the city.
An hour or two later and a very different London welcomed us with open arms. This a city still devoid of the hordes of international tourists, replaced by determinedly masked pedestrians and cyclists, balanced out by the determinedly-not. But with lockdown ending, freedom and hope was in the air with theatres about to reopen and the chance for all to operate at a fuller capacity.
And the city was putting on a show. Blue skies were on display as we emerged blinking from the tube station and bright sun beat down on our shoulders as we trekked, dragging wheelie suitcases, round a proliferation of street-cafe chairs and tables to Westminster.
Home for the Friday night was The Guardsman on Vandon Street facing Buckingham Gate, its windows suitably upright and, as befits a building when your near-neighbours include the Queen at Buckingham Palace and you are near the Houses of Parliament, edged in gold.
The hotel is pretty much brand new, as it had a soft launch in October 2020 then post lockdown number two, re-opened in May. Now it’s welcoming guests again to stay in its 53 rooms.
The hotel has an incredibly intimate home-from-home feel, and we were welcomed into the chic yet incredibly comfortable lounge with cocktail and nibbles by friendly staff who seemed delighted to see us.
The Guardsman has Instagrammable, art deco-inspired, features by the bucketload from clusters of comfy sofas, the oh so chic fireplace to the incredible brass and wood spiral staircase that takes you down to the basement level restaurant where I was coveting the beautiful bar stools.
We had taken the opportunity to invite some family along for dinner, a post-lockdown reunion, and what a place to have it. The restaurant feels like a cocoon and it felt, in fact was, our private dining experience for the entire evening with just one other family there before us. The restaurant is open to guests and their invited friends only. As a little aside they were also extremely understanding about my nut allergy – no stressed faces pulled – they were confident in their delicious modern-British menu.
Our room was an absolute joy for the travel weary. Bang on trend with a glorious free-standing bath combined with traditional herring-bone flooring. You could roll back the bathroom walls in our room and bathe or close them for more privacy. It also passed the toiletries test; these were from a firm called Noble Isle with high sustainability credentials.
The blackout curtains ensured a cosy night before we emerged from our cocoon for a delicious breakfast back in the restaurant, where nothing was too much trouble. We could have stayed all week but we had London to explore.
After a friendly farewell we moved from The Guardsman to the Middle Eight hotel in Covent Garden via tube and managed to check in early. This hotel, despite sharing owners – Siva Hotels – is bigger and livelier and we were in for a treat.
A luxurious suite no less, something that was heartily appreciated by the other half on the day of a certain football match and no less by me as I could escape it with a book and a glass of something sparkling into the main bedroom, where I sank into the enormous four-poster with its super-soft Egyptian linens. I could even watch my own Wifi-enabled Chromecast telly – this suite is bigger than most London flats.
The bathtub deserves it’s own paragraph, once again a standalone masterpiece with optional doors set in the marbled opulence. It’s hard to leave.
All the suites are named after pieces of music with a middle eight bridge (we were Beat suite – Beat Surrender by The Jam), even the thoughtfully-selected books carry on the theme.
After heading out into bustling Covent Garden for the day we returned to try out the Italian-themed Sycamore Vino Cucina all-day restaurant and bar, including ceiling strewn with metallic leaves, where we feasted and enjoyed a tipple. The bar was lively and some unscripted joyous dancing broke out – quite the night.
Thank you London for welcoming us back.
1 Vandon Street, Westminster, London SW1 OAH
www.guardsmanhotel.comRoom rates: From £250 per room and £750 per suite per night
Nearest station: St James (underground) Victoria (mainline
The Middle Eight:
66 Great Queen Street, Covent Garden WC28 5BX
www.middleeight.comRoom rates: From £250 per room and £600 per suite per night
Nearest station: Holborn (underground)
Parking: Available off site