Forget traditional ideas of a summer retreat, we took to the capital to see how it’s done in 2016
Seasonal retreats often conjure up images of hidden cottages and secluded spa breaks; but not anymore. If your thinking of escaping the hustle and bustle this summer to dine, be pampered and relax then think again; The city is the new retreat, and the capital is the new countryside with a little help from the One Aldwych, Covent Garden. We took a trip to The Big Smoke to experience a Summer Urban Retreat like never before.
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Sitting in the heart of the capital between the City and the West End, the award-winning 5* hotel is a stones throw away from the cultural mecca of London. Boasting an impressive heritage (the One Aldwych used to be the headquarters for The Morning Post) it was built in 1907 by Mewes and David who also built the Ritz, and later converted, re-opening as a 105 room hotel in 1998.
Inviting you into the building The Lobby Bar offers a relaxed welcome and makes the perfect place for cocktails or a light bite. Indigo at One Aldwych, the hotel’s gluten and dairy-free restaurant wraps around a mezzanine level spanning the width of the interiors’ steel clad walls. The cuisine is Modern British and mains start at £16 with exciting additions such as the Charlie and the Chocolate factory inspired afternoon tea (prices start at £39).
As well as great dining on offer guests also have access to the hotel’s private health club complete with a state-of-the-art gym that is a must for any avid fitness buff and an 18 metre chlorine-free pool with underwater music, steam room and sauna.
Moving to where the magic happens, rooms are sleek contemporary, and comfortable with a classic edge, finished with rare personal touches like daily fresh fruit and flowers. The hotel even has it’s own 350 piece private art collection.
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Setting the One Aldwych apart from the crowd are their Summer Urban Retreats – numerous activities and masterclasses for their guests running until September 11. Many of which are completely free! Some of our favourites included Live music Fridays in the Lobby Bar and films in the private 30-seat Screening Room every Saturday (with complimentary fizz).
A highlight of our stay was the complimentary Covent Garden walking tour led by an accredited Blue Badge guide. If you’re culture buffs like us then you’ll love the one-and-a-half hour tour where you’ll see and learn everything from its aristocratic 17th century origins to its 21st century revival. Our guide Sophie offered us a hugely funny and memorable introduction us to a world we never knew in the heart of the city.
With so many different activities available to you as a guest you can totally customise your stay and get as much or as little as you want, we recommend making the most of the Gluten and Dairy-free masterclass with head chef of Indigo at One aldwych Dominic Teague. You’ll get the opportunity to join him in the kitchen to prepare and create a number of dishes from the restaurants current menu with a chance to take away your very own One Aldwych apron and recipe file so you can take your new found culinary skills home with you.
If a tipple is more your thing, opt for the the cocktail masterclass with the hotel’s award-winning mixologist Pedro Paulo. We made the classic Tommy’s Margarita and the signature One D.O.M, both come with a comforting kick and we certainly didn’t complain.
Other one-of-kind experiences, offering unprecedented behind-the-scenes access to some of their neighbours include, an expert-led private tour of The Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House; an insider’s tour of the amazing Paul Smith shops on Floral Street, and a private backstage tour of the historic Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Some of these experiences come with an additional extra charge but are worth every penny.
With so much to see and do, the location of One Aldwych is perfect and their Summer Urban Retreats are redefining what it means to stay at a hotel. So why not break tradition and retreat to the city? We never knew London could be quite so relaxing… And it might surprise you too.
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How to get there: Virgin Trains offer direct links to London from Birmingham New Street with prices starting from as little as £15 return booking in advance. The journey only takes 1 hour 30 minutes, for added luxury why not upgrade to First Class from £15. virgintrains.co.uk
Where to stay: The One Aldwych, Covent Garden. Book the One Great Weekend package with prices from £345 per night which includes a glass of champagne, full english breakfast for two and late checkout. There is a minimum stay of two nights but trust us, you won’t want to leave! onealdwych.com/urbanretreat
Where to eat: Eneko at One Aldwych. Three Michelin-star chef Eneko Atxa has recently opened the doors to his newest venture underneath the hotel, in the space which used to house the printed press’ for The Morning Post! Expect a contemporary interpretation of traditional Basque country cuisine delivered in a relaxed and friendly fashion. Mains start from £15 with 50% off your bill throughout August.
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