South Place – A New Hotel For The City of London

New hotels don’t pop up in the City of London very often, so I was eager to see what D&D London, the celebrated restauraters, are bringing to the Square Mile from September with the opening of the South Place hotel.

A new boutique hotel, the South Place hotel will feature eighty rooms and two very special restaurants. On the ground floor the restaurant and bar, called 3 South Place, will be open to the public and continue the popular ‘British diner’ format – featuring dishes prepared with quality produce sourced from across the UK, the initial menu includes lobster, turkey and even longhorn burgers. Up on the 7th floor, and opening in late September is Angler – a seafood restaurant, Angler is the hotel’s jewel. It has floor to ceiling windows on three sides and a large outdoor area complete with barbecue where diners can eat al fresco – it’s an amazing space, really light and airy. Angler will be overseen by Tony Fleming, who most recently was the Executive Chef at One Aldwych.

South Place’s eighty rooms are furnished by Conran in a very sleek and contemporary style and have bathrooms to die for – corner suites in particular feature separate rainforest showers and tubs of truly gargantuan proportions. Every room also has an enormous Bang & Olufsen TV and, from what I saw, a rather generous mini-bar. At this point I should probably mention what I think separates the South Place hotel from its London contemporaries – they’ve decided that bold and quirky details are what will appeal to their guests. In reception the first thing that you see is a chandelier featuring silver spitfires for example, and throughout the building’s public spaces there are striking steel and mirror installations by Grace And Webb. The hotel’s rooms have 1960s-inspired chandeliers, paintings and illustrations by contemporary East End artists and rather fun resin blocks containing odd objects – the completed room that we saw had a display containing a 7″ single of Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This and an old Graham Greene paperback!

Would I stay at the new South Place hotel? Well to be honest with rooms at around £250 and upwards on weekdays and just below £200 on weekends my budget doesn’t allow it – my hotel stays always tend towards the more cheap and cheerful. I can certainly understand its appeal to the well-heeled traveller who wants something other than the bland corporate feel of a Marriott or Hilton however, and I would certainly consider Angler for a special occasion where I wanted to impress…

The South Place hotel is currently scheduled to open in early September – keep an eye on their Twitter feed and Facebook page for updates.…

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In Germany – Grunewald Station Platform 17 Memorial

Earlier today we paid a visit to the area of Berlin that sits next to the Grunewald forest on the western edge of the city. This area is home to Germany’s movie stars, TV celebrities and bankers – there are lots of huge gated mansions around – you can think of it as being similar to the Bishops Avenue in Hampstead I suppose…

Ostensibly we were here to have a meal at Floh, the little restaurant and bar next to the Grunewald S-Bahn station run by Wolfgang and his staff, who is a family friend (it’s a nice little place for a meal by the way, and you could find yourself rubbing shoulders with the German glitterati if you visit) but we went just around the corner to pay a respectful visit to something else close by…

On Platform 17 of the Grunewald station you’ll find the memorial dedicated to the deported Jews who left this spot for the concentration camps before and during the Second World War. Along the platform edges there are 186 steel grills which indicate the numbers of people who were loaded onto cattle trucks here, and the dates on which they were sent to their deaths. It’s a very sobering sight indeed……

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Londoneer: What’s Behind The Marble Arch?

I’m sure that most tourists who have visited London have taken the opportunity to go and see the Marble Arch, which sits at the end of Oxford St in London’s West End, next to Hyde Park. I imagine that most of them assume that it is just another of London’s war memorials (similar to the Arc De Triomphe in Paris), but its history is actually a lot more complex than it at first appears.

In actual fact, it’s not where it should be. It was initially designed as the gateway to the newly rebuilt Buckingham Palace by John Nash in 1828, so at that time it sat on The Mall, in approximately the same position as the large monument to Queen Victoria which now sits in front of the building. When further changes were made to the Palace in 1855 which added a fourth side facing out onto the Mall (in front of which you’ll regularly see the Changing of the Guard these days) it was moved piece by piece over to its present position. Of course it also gives its name to the local tube station which, if it had never been re-sited, would probably have been called Cumberland Gate station, or perhaps Edgware Road South?…

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The Mystery Of The ‘London Stone’

Almost down at ground level along London’s Cannon St you’ll find the ‘London Stone’.

Virtually invisible behind it’s heavy iron grill, this piece of oolitic limestone sometimes known as the ‘Stone of Brutus’ has various tales attached to it – some say that it is all that remains of a neolithic stone circle and some, rather more romantically, insist that it is the stone from which King Arthur drew his sword Excalibur. What all the stories agree on however is that if it is ever removed from the City of London, London will fall…

 

Up until fairly recently you could get a much better look at it, as the shop which currently has a  ‘To Let’ sign was a sports outlet and from the interior the stone is only protected by one sheet of plate glass. This site was due to be redeveloped but that seems to have stalled, which is a shame because they were planning to move it just across the street to form the centrepiece of a new building, where it would have been in a much more prominent position. This proposal caused some consternation amongst conservation groups, however the reality is that the ‘London Stone’, or ‘Stone of Brutus’, has been moved several times in the past – the first recorded instance being in 1742 when it was moved from the centre of the road to stand next to St Swithun’s Church, which has since been demolished.

 

It has certainly been on Cannon Street for some considerable time because references to it appear in accounts dating back to 1188, but how many centuries it has stood there altogether is anyone’s guess. For anyone venturing along to see it who is suddenly struck with the need to imbibe, there’s a rather quirky ‘gothic’ basement bar just two doors down which opened fairly recently, funnily enough called ‘The London Stone’.…

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