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In London, you’re spoilt for choice. Some of the world’s most famous hotel chains have their flagship properties here, and it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the variety on offer. Some of London’s best kept secrets can be found down discreet side streets in the more exclusive districts. The Halkin is a superb example as Philip Tetley Jones recently found out.
Tucked down Halkin Street, a few minutes stroll from Hyde Park Corner, the Halkin doesn’t go out of its way to wow you from the street. The Georgian style façade of weathered bricks, Portland stone and arching windows gives little away. But appearances can be misleading, because this is one of those establishments favoured by those in the know. Without dropping any names, it’s a fact that certain supermodels and international tycoons favour the Halkin as their London base. With just 41 rooms and suites, it offers all the sophistication of much larger establishments, but with an intimate style of personal service that can’t be easily replicated in more grandiose environments.
Developed by the Ong family, who are also behind the legendary COMO resorts in Asia, the Halkin displays a captivating blend of European and Asian influences. Staff wear a stylish uniform, designed by Armani; and Mrs Ong personally chose the oriental antiques that decorate public spaces. There’s a sense that every detail has been subjected to careful deliberation and unwavering quality standards. To give just one example, the bed linen is 300-thread-count Egyptian cotton, giving a natural but distinctly luxurious touch to your night’s sleep.
Our Halkin experience began with a warmly personal greeting at check-in and the offer of complimentary fruit delivered to our room. The room itself was decorated in soothing tones of pale cream fabrics and honey-gold marble, with warm wood panelling adding a classic touch to the surroundings. In-room entertainment was delivered via 36” flat screen Sony Bravia TV, with wireless Internet to hook you up to the Web.
The bathroom was a delight to the eyes – and most of the other senses as well. It’s a generously proportioned, all-marble environment with a deep tub, separate walk-in shower, anti-mist mirrors and generous supplies of COMO Shambhala toiletries. These are exclusive to the COMO group and provide a subtle reminder of the health-giving philosophy that underlies the hotel’s hospitality.
As always, it was the extra touches that captured the essence of 5-star luxury. Returning from late night drinks at the trendy Met Bar (another COMO property), we noticed that lights had been dimmed in our room and slippers had been placed on a small mat by the bedside. No need to rummage in the wardrobe! Another example: on requesting laundry service for some business shirts, these were returned the same day, pressed, pinned and folded as if they were brand new. There is nothing quite like putting on a crisp new shirt, and this level of service makes one feel like a million dollars.
Breakfast was served in the ground-floor restaurant and included an assortment of organic variations on English and Continental themes. I enjoyed the delicious homemade muesli and fruit selection, and also tucked into some perfectly poached, organic, hens’ eggs. The Halkin is also home to one of London’s finest Thai restaurants, Nahm.
We were impressed by the Halkin’s fusion of European and Asian style, and completely won over by the service. The Halkin offers travellers a superb base from which to explore the cosmopolitan delights of London, with a relaxing ambience that makes one want to stay for weeks. Without spending a cent on advertising, it has attracted a devoted following who return to its suites time and time again. Understated yet luxurious, this is high modern style in the best possible taste.