Following the obligatory ‘LB flopping onto the bed’ photograph, I join him for the afternoon nap without which it’s impossible to do a hotel review full justice. The endeavour reveals a key fact: in our Executive Room at One Aldwych, we’ve been lucky enough to snare an elusive Goldilocks bed.
A Goldilocks bed: you know – not too soft, not too firm, juuuust right. So right, in fact, that we end us having to push back our dinner reservation due to oversleeping. Of course, it’s no problem. In a five-star hotel like One Aldwych, nothing is a problem.
Whilst LB calls for an iron to salvage his suitcase-wrinkled shirt, I perform the ‘curious hotel guest’ routine: flipping through the channels on the large flatscreen television; mentally calculating how many days’ attire I’d need in order to do the sizeable wardrobe justice; sniffing the fresh flowers delivered daily to each room; scoping out Theatreland from our sixth-floor window.
Spying two slender glass jars of gourmet nuts in the well-stocked minibar and fearing for LB’s appetite, I swiftly close the door and position the plate of shiny red apples rather more prominently on the desk.
His ’n’ hers sinks are a huge boon when speedy readiness is of the essence – as is the presence of both a shower cubicle and a bath. The latter is positioned just under the window and probably offers the bather a very relaxing experience were an increasingly glitter-strewn girlfriend not applying her makeup a mere foot away.
The bar’s the star
Suitably suited and booted (or bejewelled and well-heeled, depending on which one of us you’re looking at), we descend to ground level for a pre-prandial sharpener. Earlier we were shown the private Executive Lounge, niftily accessed via a hidden door by the entrance, but it’s Friday evening and so we opt for the buzz – and live one-man band – of the Lobby Bar.
We sit at the bar, because when the staff know their stuff (and here they do) you shouldn’t position yourself anywhere else. The Showtime Cocktail menu proves to be one of the most interesting drinks lists we’ve seen in ages; each of head bartender Pedro Paulo’s 17 quirky libations taking ingredient and serving vessel inspiration from a neighbouring West End show.
For him, a gin-based King Lear-inspired Three Reigns served in a globe-shaped glass perched on a wooden axis (and, of course, a small helping of sweet-spicy mixed nuts). For me, a Mediterranean Macbeth – a suitably bittersweet, rosemary-scented blend of gin, Campari, lemon and Champagne, presented on a board alongside a couple of pieces of parmesan.
Whilst LB Whatsapps his old City mates to let them know the bar’s as good as it was when they’d descend upon it with alarming frequency, I ogle the objets d’art scattered around the high-ceilinged room – including a rower with an enviable oarspan and a vast Dionysus head which also appears, in miniature, as a cocktail vessel.
That compelling cocktail list is one to work through, and we vow to return on another occasion to do just that. But for now, rumbling stomachs and ticking clocks alike tell us it’s time for dinner. Conveniently, we have to go no further than One Aldwych’s basement – home to smart modern Basque restaurant, Eneko.
Back to Basque
If our meal were a stage show, suffice to say it’d bring the house down. It might be underground, but with flowers on the walls, sweeping red-and-white banquettes and an airy feel, the dining room feels almost alfresco. Slick service is perfectly choreographed; thanks in no small part to head waiter Sebastian Ros, who would surely clean up in any front-of-house competition he could care to enter.
And the food. Oh, the food. Chef Eneko Atxa is exceptionally adept when it comes to refining classic country-style cuisine into Michelin-standard fare without losing any of its heart and soul (or, indeed, flavour). It’s a skill both rare and oh-so-valuable.
From a rich, multilayered duck and Txakoli wine-soaked apple parfait served in a ceramic apple through to a salted caramel mousse strewn with cookie crumb and served with sheep milk ice-cream, you’d swoon at every dish on Instagram – and, crucially, you’d also go weak at the knees eating them.
Feeling rather replete having eschewed the beautiful veg-based options in favour of sampling almost every species on the menu, that Golidlocks bed is singing a siren song. Praising the restaurant effusively to any waiter who’ll listen, we embark on the less-than arduous journey back to our room.
The big breakfast
Digesting fine food is hard work, so it’s little wonder we awake ravenous – and a quick trip to One Aldwych’s state-of the art gym and stunning cobalt-coloured pool (although sadly not the luxurious spa) only serves to stimulate the appetite further.
It’s a happy thing, then, that breakfast is so brilliant. Taken whilst sinking into comfy velour chairs in the mezzanine-level Indigo restaurant, it begins – as all good breakfasts should – with a pot of good strong tea.
From an almost-endless a la carte, we mix and match ourselves a pair of Full not-quite Englishes. LB goes ‘high protein’ with poached eggs, crisp bacon and sausages; I start chipping away at my five-a-day with avocado and spinach – plus scrambled eggs, black pudding and hash browns for good measure.
The Scottish couple breakfasting beside us peep over their weekend papers to tell us that One Aldwych is their go-to hotel whenever they’re in London, and we’re entirely unsurprised. From check in to check out, a stay here is nothing short of an utter pleasure.
Make it happen
Where: One Aldwych, 1 Aldwych, London WC2B 4BZ
Find out more: To visit the website, clixk here