My taxi pulls up at the hotel's imposing entrance and my baggage is taken care of before I reach the steps up to the main doors. Inside, the lobby has been softened by the recent multi-million pound renovation. The welcome is warm but understated in that way only the British can be, yet there's a hint of excitement in everybody's eyes when they see I'm checking into the penthouse floor.
The hotel is located in Whitehall Place, just off Whitehall and close to Trafalgar Square and the Embankment. Charing Cross, St James' Park and the South Bank are within easy walking distance.
How about five rooms? And that's not including the kitchen and second bathroom. I'm staying in the 200-square-metre Hamilton Penthouse, one of seven recently opened penthouses which crown the spectacular property. Mine is split-level, with a living room, dining room and spectacular hallway downstairs; up the winding marble staircase and there's a huge bedroom with separate dressing area and a large bathroom. There is a good-sized roof terrace with views of the London Eye and Nelson's column. Named after Emma, Lady Hamilton, the mistress of Lord Nelson and muse of painter George Romney, there's a feminine style to the decor, which includes dainty glass chandeliers, marble tables, fresh flowers and soft fabrics. "Very Sex and the City", as one friend who visited put it. It's the best room I've ever had, and I never expected that to be in London. The hotel's standard rooms are much more modest, from 30 square metres.
Before my visit, the only people who had stayed in my room were Denzel Washington and Rihanna. Back down on the hotel's normal levels, there are mostly businesslike clientele in the Lobby Lounge and the restaurants, which are all on the ground floor, though I do meet some American leisure travellers at breakfast in the Northall restaurant.
Mixed. Usually, my butler is available to call or answer queries, but sometimes he isn't and other staff come; this isn't too much of an issue but I have to call several times to get the hot tub started. At breakfast in the Northall restaurant, service is inattentive, slow and slightly charmless.
The continental cold buffet (£26 [Dh150] was decent but it was a struggle to order any of the other excellent dishes on the menu because of poor service. At lunch, it serves an attractive three-course meat and fish based British menu for £28 (Dh160). My favourite was Massimo Restaurant & Oyster bar, where six fresh Scottish or Irish oysters costs £15 (Dh86) and a delicious lobster spaghetti in tomato sauce costs from £15 (Dh86) for a small portion. Afternoon tea in the Lobby Lounge was disappointing, and costs £38 (Dh220) per person.
My room and a soothing massage from Irish therapist Sinead in the Espa Life spa (a 50-minute deep muscle massage costs £100 [Dh576]).
The bedroom was a bit too hot, and I had to get maintenance to try to reduce the air con set point to less than 21° Celsius. When that didn't work, the air con was loud and failed to reduce the temperature to the desired level, so I had to open all the windows.
A grand building in a great location with some excellent restaurants, but service needs to be improved. The penthouses are a fantasy brought to life.
The bottom line
Double rooms cost from £336 (Dh1,938) per night, including taxes but excluding breakfast. Penthouses cost from £4,500 (Dh26,000) per night. Corinthia Hotel London, Whitehall Place, London SW1A 2BD (www.corinthia.com; 00 44 207 930 8181).