Thomas Kochs, Managing Director of the Corinthia Hotel London, realised the customer-essential ingredient of story-telling far ahead of most luxury hoteliers. From the moment he arrived in 2017, this perceptive German knew he had an unbeatable offering that had ingredients of history, product, food and entertainment, wellness, people and location. “Add to this a team that is extremely welcoming, and knows how vital experiences are”, he says.
The seven-floor wedge-shaped building, its ‘point’ on the Embankment of the River Thames, opened in 1885, and it sprung to fame the following year as the starting point for the later-annual first London-Brighton motor car rally (Brighton’s top hotel, The Metropole, was also owned by a Mr Gordon). During WWII and through to 2006, the building disappeared behind a veritable Netflix veil, something to do with the UK’s Ministry of Defence. Later The Crown Estate sold it to the Corinthia group’s financiers, who commissioned GA Design to produce a classic-but-contemporary 294-key hotel, smallest room 45 square metre and, in all, 45 suites.
Think tall ceilings, many columns, much Calacasa Oreo marble, balanced by such 21st century original art pieces as the main lobby’s Full Moon sunburst, a 4.15m-diametre ceiling-hung Baccarat mobile of 1,101 individually-suspended glass shapes, all of them clear crystal apart from one that is scarlet – he who thought this up was French creator Chafic Gasmi, working with the hotel’s art consultant, Minda Dowling. Art association is essential to this hotel’s DNA. Pop-up exhibitions are balanced by an ongoing Artists In Residence (AIR) programme. I would put into the art category, too, the imaginative walk-through working flower shop that leads from the lobby to Northall restaurant.
There is always something going on. You can talk with a Futurologist. I once performed in an interactive play. Each participant arrived, at 15-minute intervals, to be led through a scenario which included wearing waiter’s gear to serve a couple dining illicitly, and helping them flee when the legal partner of arrived, unannounced: a few minutes later I was supporting a communications specialist, in WWII khaki, unravel an electronic code in a ‘wartime dug-out’, in reality a hotel laundry closet. At the end of the total 75-minute experience I really appreciated a chilled flute of Champagne.
Normally, at the hotel, I would choose to dine in the eponymous Tom Kerridge modern-Brit restaurant, eating Tom’s modern-Brit dishes off so-English William Edwards china, and looking around at the David Collins-designed room highlighted by a life-sized human statue by Mrs Tom Kerridge. I might well then go on to the Collins-designed Bassoon Bar, for a post-prandial G&T, Sipsmith gin produced a few kilometres away by a descendent of Sir Stamford Raffles, of Singapore fame, and, also very English, Fever-Tree tonic.
And where would I choose to overnight? The two-bedroomed, 470 sqm Lady Emma Hamilton Suite is divine – it is so called because you look out, eye to eye as it were, with Nelson, on the top of his column in Trafalgar Square, a few minutes away (your private terrace’s plunge pool faces him). Inside, you have an in-built scent machine, a nail polish dryer and many other goodies.
But be prepared not to spend too much time in the suite. Take a boat trip on the Thames and find time for the incredible Corinthia ESPA, 2,140 sqm spread over four floors with a significant indoor pool, numerous vitality stations, and a memorable 16 sqm glass-sided sauna. Add to this a 24/7 LifeFitness gym, with private workout areas. Book a Dr Barbara Sturm facial and your treatment room will have yellow shagreen walls.
“I put myself in the shoes of the traveller and I love the unexpected,” admits Thomas Kochs.