Review: One Aldwych

Review: One Aldwych

The Covent Garden hotel that’s doing things a little differently…

Nestled in the thriving streets of London’s Covent Garden, there sits a rather curiously shaped building. Narrow and triangular, it’s a distinctive fixture of the ancient square. Once upon a time, it was the site of the printing press for the Morning Post – the paper that would later go on to become the Telegraph. Now, though, it’s a luxury 5-star hotel.

One Aldwych sets itself apart from many other sites of luxury in the city. Located as it is between the iconic areas of Covent Garden and Soho, the hotel makes an effort to curate an interesting and engaging cultural experience for its guests. Through its partnership programme with four specialist cultural curators from the neighbourhood, guests can embark on an experience of off-the-beaten-track discovery throughout the area.

The Curators Programme was what drew me to the hotel. I arrived for a weekend stay midday on a Friday, carting my suitcase into the stylish and artfully decorated lobby bar. It’s a modern design, pops of colour emerging with an orange sofa here and a flower arrangement there. The sleek bar is distinctive for its giant statement art piece, a huge bronze bust of a boatman, with oars stretching to the ceiling. Later I learned that the hotel owns over 200 pieces of art, an impressive feat that speaks to their commitment to doing things a little differently.

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I was set for a full itinerary. I was there to try out the full curators experience, meaning three days of packed activities with four very different but equally interesting people. Two of whom have been working with the hotel since 2020 – Silvia Melchior, fundraising director for nearby theatre Donmar Warehouse, and Dr Matthew Green, a historian and broadcaster famous for his walking tours. Joining them this year are Victoria Broackes, an exhibition curator most famous for her V&A exhibition David Bowie Is… and Charles Burns, a silhouette artist who has cut portraits for Queen Elizabeth and more.

The first item on the agenda was a walk through Soho with Victoria Broackes, focusing on David Bowie’s life and history. Victoria, currently director of the London Design Biennale, is a fountain of music history knowledge, and brought the pop history of Soho to life with her 60s and 70s ‘Swinging London’ tour. In the evening we met with Charles Burns, who has been cutting silhouette portraits for over 30 years. His roots begin in Covent Garden, where he worked for years as a self-taught street artist cutting Regency-style portraits for tourists and passers-by. I had my silhouette cut – something to take home and remember the experience with!

Victoria Broackes / Charles Burns

The hotel takes its commitment to being a patron of the arts seriously, and this reflects best in its working relationship with prestigious independent theatre the Donmar Warehouse. On the second day of my stay we met with Silvia Melchior, who explained to us the long history of the relationship between One Aldwych and the Donmar. Through the hotel, guests can book tickets to any of the plays running at the theatre and get an exclusive behind-the-scenes experience with Silvia. We caught the penultimate performance of the adaptation of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard – a brilliant matinee.

Sunday was our second walking tour. Dr Matthew Green hosts immersive walking tours of the City of London, with a focus on the things that may surprise you and secrets hidden in plain sight. This includes a tour of how 17th-century coffee houses transformed the city, and a ‘Five Drinks’ tour which explores how five drinks – ale, wine, coffee, chocolate and gin – forged modern London.

Taking us through the winding alleyways and hidden nooks of the City of London, Dr Green uncovered secrets before our eyes. A nondescript-looking grate cut into an old wall turned out to be a site of holiness from the Middle Ages. A boarded-up shop behind a hidden wall turned out to be one of history’s first coffee houses. A random patch of grassland turned out to be a medieval vineyard-turned-plague-pit. With this tour, you learn to look at London with a fresh perspective – how many layers upon layers of history are woven atop each other. Look up to the skyline and see an ancient spire beside the grand glass nose of a skyscraper. London’s history is a living thing and it’s always changing, reflected in the landscape, the pieces left behind of each era.

Silvia Melchior / Matthew Green

The hotel itself is an experience all its own. The rooms are lovely, airy and elegant, with windows overlooking the old and bustling streets of Covent Garden. My friend and I were in a deluxe room, painted with a lovely wash of gentle blue and a spacious conjoining bathroom. One of the hotel’s vast collection of contemporary art pieces hung above the beds. The overall design is one of understated elegance, with simple subtlety allowing for a charming and refined look. There’s also 24-hour room service on offer for every guest, as well as laundry services, shoe shine and a full concierge service.

One Aldwych clearly prides itself on world-class hospitality. Breakfast in Indigo, the hotel restaurant, was gorgeous. I enjoyed a divine vegetarian cooked breakfast: scrambled eggs, a gorgeous cheddar and spinach sausage, field mushroom and vine tomato, the best hash brown I’d ever tasted, avocado, baked beans and lots of toast. There was also a selection of homemade healthy juices on the menu; I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried a juice with turmeric and cayenne – a bracing, though delicious, morning kick!

Our first evening we enjoyed a light dinner and cocktails in the lobby bar. The cocktail list is extensive and inventive, each drink individually inspired by one of the hotel’s famed art pieces. On the Saturday evening we returned to Indigo for dinner. The menu, curated by executive chef Dominic Teague, is a delight of seasonal British cooking. You can choose from the a la carte selection or the tasting menu – the latter of which my friend and I opted for. The tasting menu is a great option for those who want to sample the variety of dishes on offer – my highlights were definitely the seared Orkney scallop cooked in basil and fennel pollen and the lemon sole with bouillabaisse and saffron mayonnaise. The dishes are simple but elegant and tasty. You can pair the tasting menu with a selection of wines curated by the sommelier team, or choose from their extensive wine list for a bottle.

The Lobby Bar / Exterior / Indigo

The hotel is a treat for both tourists looking to immerse themselves in London culture, and London residents looking to experience something a little different and learn more about the city they love. Guests can book any of the curator experiences along with their stay. It’s clear One Aldwych pride themselves on providing more than just the average hotel experience – and provide they do.