Hotel Insider Surprisingly quiet for being in the heart of the bustling UK capital, this newly refurbished hotel is smartly appointed.
A sense of history in restful surrounds at St Ermin's Hotel, London
I arrive on foot from St James' Park Underground station, two minutes' walk away. Even though this is a prime part of central London, the hotel, a six-storey red-brick mansion building with wrought iron gates and a tree-lined courtyard, is particularly smart, homely and inviting. A porter spots me approach the hotel entrance and helps me inside with my suitcase. The elaborate late-Victorian lobby, finished in white plaster, looks like a wedding cake. I'm attended to straight away and checked in without fuss.
The hotel is in a surprisingly quiet part of Westminster, five minutes' walk from St James' Park and Buckingham Palace and around seven minutes on foot from Whitehall and Green Park. Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament and Victoria are also within walking distance.
My room is at the back of the hotel on the second floor. It overlooks an office block, but is shielded from the street. It's the quietest hotel room I've ever had in a city. The room has a small lounge area with a desk and sofa, so it feels larger in size than an average London hotel room. Furnishings are comfortable but unpretentious; the bathroom is small.
This 331-room hotel, which has just undergone a £30m (Dh178m) refurbishment, is more intimate and friendly than you'd expect in a hotel of this size. The mood is upbeat without being crowded, and the clientele are a mix of European and American holidaymakers and businesspeople. The history of the building, designed by ET Hall, the designer of the Liberty department store, is interesting: in the 1930s and 40s it was used as a base by MI6.
Pleasantly unobtrusive. A wireless internet code arrives swiftly when asked for; the rest of the time, I'm not bothered with requests to enter the room when I'm there - it's cleaned impeccably when I'm out. Service is attentive in the Caxton Bar and Caxton Grill in the evening; at breakfast it's swift one day and sluggish the next. The concierge dutifully helps provide me with a scanned copy of my passport when I need it.
Breakfast, served in the Caxton Grill, is one of the highlights of my stay. There's a generous buffet comprising a deliciously fresh fruit salad, breads, bagels, smoked salmon and cheeses, and an à la carte service for hot food. The fruit juice and coffee are excellent. At the Caxton Bar and Grill, a friend and I find that the mixed grill (£30; Dh178), made up of organic sirloin steak, chargrilled chicken skewers and the grilled "catch of the day", is tasty and enough to share.
Enjoying the hotel's restful atmosphere, the architectural flourishes in the lobby and the slick, comfortable restaurants, and being able to go jogging around St James' Park in the morning.
The lift up to the second floor was so cramped I used the stairs instead. There is no swimming pool or spa.
Comfort, value, style and a sense of history in a fantastic central London location - the perfect base for a few days.
The bottom line
Double rooms cost from £193 (Dh1,145) per night, including taxes but excluding breakfast. St Ermin's Hotel, Caxton Street, London SW1 (www.sterminshotel.co.uk; call toll-free from the UAE on 800 0170 167).