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London’s Spy Palace – The South Place Hotel

SouthPlaceBond. Vago Bond.  – I felt it as I walked into South Place Hotel in the City of London. More than a hotel, this is a spy palace with a night club, restaurants, and more than a few cool secret rooms. From the moment I saw the steel and glass structure – I felt the part of a secret agent. I didn’t know why until about 11:00 pm when I was being given a private tour by the prettiest woman in Angler,  the top floor restaurant.

“The whole place was designed with a James Bond, secret agent sort of feel to it,” she said as she escorted me into a book lined private lounge. There was no one else there, which was a shame since I couldn’t play the baby grand piano, but at the same time, you have to count your blessings when they come. There was a turntable with some classic vinyl and some funky comic art on the walls of the room. I felt like I’d fallen into my ideal den.

I was there for less than fifteen hours total, which was another shame, because South Place Hotel might have been the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in. I’m not kidding. I’ve checked out many of the clubs of London in the past, but this place was special.

At this point, I should point out that a mutual acquaintance offered the room to me in return for a review – I was then contacted by the GM, Bruce Robertson, and told that no review was necessary and they were going to give me dinner cooked by Chef Tony Fleming, the award winning Chef who runs the top floor restaurant, Angler.  Why did they do that? I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you. You know how it goes.

The Chef knows seafood, you don’t have to watch BBC’s  MasterChef or look up the Food Oscars to know that – all you have to do is sit down and eat what he cooks. (By the way, you will find Chef Fleming at both mentioned above – just in case you were wondering.)

Emma Peel - The Avengers
giant lightbox by artist Jeremy Lord depicting Diana Rigg as Emma Peel from The Avengers.

Unfortunately, I was dining alone and had to wake up at 4 AM to catch an early flight to the south of France so I couldn’t indulge in sommalier Benoit Allauzen’s incredible wine list the way that I wanted to.  But, that didn’t stop me from eating an incredible meal.

I started with a goats curd and beet root salad – the walnuts and light dressing were exactly the right thing to set my appetite in the mood and the stylish and upmarket decor made me feel incredibly important as the staff doted over me with sparkling water, a newspaper (what a nice thing to offer a guest dining alone), and a tasty amuse-bouche sent out by Chef Fleming. The entire meal was exquisite and then the manager asked if I wanted a private tour of the hotel.

She was beautiful, but unfortunately – this wasn’t The Spy Who Shagged Me, but  perhaps it’s fortunate after all because when I got homemy wife would have made sure that she ran her own version of Live and Let (me) Die.

To be honest, despite the very cool bars, the private dining and game rooms, and the lively bar filled with Londoners blowing off steam  on the ground floor – I really just wanted to be in my room.

Here’s why:

my room at South Place HotelI couldn’t wait to play with the electric black out curtain and soak in the big beautiful bathtub with fancy bubble products and St. Clements soap. Plus, I wanted to lie in that big king size bed in my plush white bathrobe, luxuriate on those goose down pillows, and sip a 12 year scotch from the mini-bar while I watched a movie on the 40-inch Bang & Olufsen TV in front of it.

Yeah, I did all that. I loved it. I read the complimentarty art magazines in the bathtub too. Awesome personified. PopDazed and Confused. Wallpaper. Since I’d already water damaged them in the tub, I brought them with me to read in France and Morocco.

South Place Hotel has it’s own magazine too. This isn’t the first hotel I’ve stayed at that has their own magazine (South Place Hotel Magazine) but it is definitely the hotel I was most disappointed to leave without being able to sample the breakfast menu…

I’ll get you yet, South Place Hotel Breakfast!

(Big Thanks to GM Bruce Robertson for a wonderful stay in a a very chic and comfy hotel – I  obviously loved it and am writing this review as a way of sharing that.)

As for a meal at Angler – there are no tables available until well into January so make reservations as soon as you can.

South Place Hotel in the City of London can claim a number of firsts: it is the first, purpose-built hotel to open in the Square Mile in 100 years; it is the only independent, luxury hotel in the City; and it is the first hotel from restaurateurs D&D London, owners of some of the best restaurants in London, including Skylon in the Southbank Centre, Le Pont de la Tour at Tower Bridge, Bluebird Cafe  (I also ate there one morning) on the King’s Road and, of course, within the hotel are Angler seafood restaurant and rooftop terrace and 3 South Place Bar & Grill.

Cultural diversity, local neighborhoods, understated wit and an easy sense of self. South Place commissioned a number of pieces of art especially for the hotel  including “pop-art” prints by John Vincent Aranda, “two-minute portraits” by Damien Florebert-Cuypers, which have been featured in the New York Times, artwork fromHoxton Art Gallery and “Can-o-Vision” byAMD Interior Architecture.

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Vago Damitio

Damitio  (@vagodamitio) is the Editor-in-Chief for Vagobond. Life is good. You can also find him on Google+ and at Facebook

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