Today I’m going to tell you about the interesting evening I had last night, being shown around the boutique 5-star Andaz Hotel right next to Liverpool St station in central London.
Back in the late 19th century, this building started its life as the Great Eastern Hotel, built to support the expanding British rail network – it’s from the same era as the grand edifice that sits over Kings Cross St Pancras for example. A few years ago the hotel was purchased by the Hyatt group and given an extensive refurbishment – the result was the first of their new concept ‘Andaz’ hotels (Andaz, by the way means ‘style’ in both Hindi and Urdu). There are now four others in the group, all in the States – one in San Diego, one in West Hollywood and two in New York, on Wall St and 5th Avenue. In London they’ve taken great care to be true to the area – you’ll find work by East London artists throughout the hotel, such as this for example, which runs around the circular stairway at the hotel’s centre.
Anyway, on to my experience at the hotel. I always feel a tinge of trepidation when accepting invitations to tour hotels and the like, particularly classy establishments because I don’t feel that I can whole-heartedly recommend venues that I can neither afford to eat or even sleep in! For the most part that’s not a problem here, but we’ll get to that in a moment. Let me tell you first about Andaz’s distinguishing features…
For a start, the check-in experience here is rather unique. Walking in through the main doors you find yourself in a double-height reception area with subdued lighting and full of comfortable seats scattered around the space, but there’s no check-in desk in sight – the staff actually come over to you, netbooks in hand, to sort out all the details. An intriguing approach I’m sure you’ll agree! The surprises don’t end there either – while on the outside the hotel has that unmistakeable Victorian grandeur, on the inside it’s all very chic and modern. They’ve only retained the original features of the building where it actually adds to the experience – for example, the grand Italianate marble staircases remain as does the Masonic Temple on the building’s first floor (yes, where genuine Masons used to meet!). Most of the time this unique room hosts dinners and corporate events, but there are no weddings allowed in the space because of all of the Masonic symbolism. It’s all here – the astrological symbols, all-seeing eye, compasses and so on, and only intact because the room was forgotten, remaining hidden behind a boarded up doorway for many years… how spooky!
Elsewhere in the hotel you’ll also find a double-level atrium overlooked by some of the rooms and which has the hotel’s exposed industrial-style lifts in one corner, and a very funky open-plan ‘New York loft’-style space with a completely exposed kitchen at one end which they use for corporate events and private dinners – in fact they liked the concept so much one of the Andaz hotels in New York has this particular theme throughout its public spaces. This area’s most interesting feature is the long wall that runs along one side which is covered with photographs of people’s smiling faces – apparently everyone depicted is either a member of staff or one of their regular visitors.
On to the rooms then. There are 267 in all, decorated in a clean, modern style in a range of reds and greys. They are very generously proportioned – attested to by the fact that most have a king-size bed but don’t feel cramped as a result. If you’re feeling profligate you can go all the way up to an open plan or two room suite for your stay as well. At this point I should return to the price. Now given its good location, great public spaces and large well-appointed rooms you’ll be very surprised to learn that, book far enough ahead and you can get a regular room with a king-size bed here for somewhere around £150 a night, with one of the even more spacious rooms going for a little more than that. Admittedly, if you choose a suite you can add another £200 to the bill, but overall these are really, really good prices for London. They don’t nickel and dime you on extras like most of their neighbours either – wi-fi is free for guests everywhere in the hotel, and they lay on complimentary soft drinks and snacks in each room too!
I should also mention the culinary experience we had this evening. Because of it’s location right next to the station, as you can imagine the building has a bit of a draw for people working in the local financial institutions and other business around, so the hotel’s restaurants and two bars can be accessed from the street as well as from within the hotel. There’s the George, a big bar with Victorian decor popular with the lively City crowd, as well as the more genteel 1901 wine bar and the Champagne Bar, where you can order a cocktail too if that takes your fancy. While we were in the latter last night we had a chance to sample fare from one of the on-site restaurants – artfully presented and more-ish sashimi and sushi from the small but perfectly formed ‘Miyako’. We were then escorted through to the hotel’s fish and seafood restaurant, ‘Catch’, which again retains many original features of the old building and which has a display of fishing accessories and shellfish behind the bar (which, if you’ve been to Brussels, will immediately remind you of the string of restaurants found on Rue de Bouchers). Here we sampled a starter and main course, starting with a delicate crab cake, topped with an apple ‘foam’, with a consomme poured around it by a waitress as it arrived at the table. We then went on to an equally light steamed cod dish, sprinked with toasted sesame seeds – very nice indeed. Going back to the ugly subject of money again,you’ll be pleased to hear that three courses from the set menu in ‘Catch’ will only set you back £25.
Upping the ante even more, we were then escorted through to the hotel’s signature restaurant, ‘1901’, by the general manager no less, for our cheese and dessert course. This is a lovely space – a very large room with nicely appointed modern furniture and a floating bar with extravagant cut glass chandeliers at its centre, but all of this overshadowed in opulence by a breathtaking stained glass dome that forms the centrepiece of what was once the hotel’s ballroom. Here they specialise in British cuisine, taking particular pride in the big wooden table at the back of the room flanked by glass cabinets where you can sit and sample the best cheeses to be found in the country – brie-style slices, goats cheese and various blue-veined varieties to name but a few of what they have on offer. Fortunately they aren’t so high-minded about the wine (let’s be honest, wine is not our forte here in the UK!), so along with your food you can select from good French and Spanish wines, as well as make forays into the increasingly popular area of fortified desert wines, ports and sherry. The restaurant’s Spanish sommelier clearly has a thing for the latter – I suspect that his selection of sherries would give even Bar Pepito, the specialist sherry bar in Kings Cross, a run for its money. Again, here in ‘1901′ the three-course set menu is a really reasonable £27 a head.
I had a really great evening at Andaz, and I’m honestly considering a stay as a special treat for Valentine’s Day this year – it really is that good. I’m sure you’ll love it too even if you’re not staying the night, and do take a look through the other photos of the evening here if you need any further encouragement…