Hotel Review: London Marriott Hotel County Hall, Southbank in London
The former stomping ground of the political elite and now a stunning 5 star hotel in the heart of the most sought after attractions in the capital, London Marriott Hotel County Hall sits in the most prominent position in central London.
Building work started on County Hall in 1911 and was opened in 1922 by King George V. After spending 64 years as headquarters for the local government of London, it is now home to the Marriott hotel and entertainment attractions, among others, and is located between Westminster Bridge and London Eye on the South Bank with astonishing views of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament across The Thames. The hotel holds 192 rooms and 14 suites over six floors and is packed with facilities such as a steakhouse and bar, indoor pool, gym, fitness classes, and 11, yes 11, meeting rooms. With all the 5 star luxuries you would expect (super soft bathrobes, a mini bar, climate control in each room) and those you might not (fresh flowers and a limousine service anyone?) the hotel has everything you could wish for whether you are travelling from afar to sightsee, visiting for business or simply escaping to the other side of town to indulge in the spa facilities and an afternoon tea. A recent renovation has allowed for some more contemporary touches to be added to the very traditional woody interior, while retaining the charm and opulence of a 5 star hotel but introducing some flair via funky wallpaper, fashionable furnishings and colourful artwork.
My guest, Nick, and I stayed in a one bedroom executive suite and it was amazing. I couldn’t have been closer to the eye or had a more breathtaking view of the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Bridge from my bedroom window. To be in such close proximity to some the most iconic sites in London was such a treat as well as the suite itself. I was greeted with a stylish, bright and truly luxurious suite (as well as some fruit and sweets treats and a gin and tonic, which was delivered later) and I loved it. The lounge walls had white panelling, which allowed the light, which was streaming in from multiple floor to ceiling windows to bounce around the room, while two low armchairs in tangerine sat across from a soft grey two seater sofa atop a neutral carpet to bring a more warm feel to the place. A glass topped dining table with six chairs in a soft grey leather and pale orange sat at the other end of the room and the outside was brought in with images of the local area adorning the walls.
A large marble bathroom with a wet room style shower, two toilets and London map wallpaper and a walk in wardrobe built for two (many mental notes made for future luxury home) led us to the bedroom and the jaw-dropping view. More neutral colours greeted us, a large comfortable bed with a cream leather headboard and matching seat at the foot. A long, colourful framed piece of artwork sat above and a second large TV was also to hand. No expense had been spared and staying in the suite meant that we had M Club access as well. Lots of tan leather, wood and grey greet you in the M Club executive lounge and there are complimentary snacks and drinks served all day to keep you ticking over with those wonderful views to enjoy too.
You really must find time for afternoon tea during your stay, or even if you are not a hotel guest, pop along and truly indulge in some fantastic treats. Served in the Library Lounge among hundreds books in wall to wall oak cases and the immense views behind you just sit down, let your glass of fizz be refilled constantly and tuck in to the delicious traditional tea in front of you. My friend, Natasha and I spent hours eating, drinking and chatting with no feeling of being ushered away for the next guests, we were offered constant refills of tea, Cava and scones, it was great!
On arrival we were given a box of 12 teas in little containers to smell and decide what we would like to drink, I went for chamomile. The bottom tier of the cake stand consisted of ham in a tomato bread, egg and cheese on brown, coronation chicken, smoked salmon and cream cheese in a brioche bun, and Natasha’s favourite – a goat’s cheese tart. On to the next tier (amid much tea drinking and Cava sipping), which was a beautiful cheese scone to be sampled with cream cheese and a sultana scone with, of course, strawberry jam and clotted cream. Finally the top tier was to be sampled, consisting of the most delicately decorated treats. A dark chocolate mousse with salted caramel, a mini hazelnut cake with a cherry on top, strawberry mousse in a meringue and a white chocolate tart with a raspberry and gold topping absolutely finished us off. All in all we talked, drank and ate to hearts’ content for four hours among the elegant surroundings and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, thank to the food, drink and wonderful staff!
Traditional Afternoon tea with free flowing bubbles costs £41 per person.
GILLRAY’S STEAKHOUSE AND BAR
For a big chunk of gorgeous steak, some deliciously prepared seafood or a classic dessert you don’t have to go very far at all. Throw in a glass of wine to complement your steak or a pop along before your meal at the 2 AA rosette awarded restaurant for a lavish cocktail overlooking the Thames in the fashionable circular bar before.
Gillray’s steakhouse and bar is named after James Gillray, the famed political caricaturist of the late 18th century, and is adorned with his prints – the connection to the hotel’s political past ever-apparent. The oak wood panelling runs throughout retaining the charm of the hundred-year-old building and blends well with contemporary touches, while the top class views, of course, are not be missed. Marble or chunky wood table tops are surrounded with soft leather, pale grey armchairs and blue/black booths, which line the walls, and the unique, thin curve of the eatery contrasts with the spacious, round bar with curved furniture to create two rather different spaces. However different in feel, a similar theme in décor runs through both with marble, the same booths and some flashings of mustard leather sofas brightening up the bar.
I was there for the food that night so I shall not delay any longer! There are plenty of typical steakhouse delights on the menu such as duck liver pate or smoked trout to start, salads, O’Shea’s steaks – 35 day dry aged Aberdeen Angus – in varying forms, a steak burger, Billingsgate Market fish and plenty of side dishes to accompany. Desserts included classics such as sticky toffee pudding, lemon meringue pie and Gillray’s English cheeseboard.
After a lovely appetiser of Yorkshire pudding with cheese and a horseradish and crème fraiche filling – a great alternative to bread and butter – I tucked into some big fat juicy scallops with crisp smoked bacon, mint and a garden pea purée (£15). Nick opted for 6 Cornish oysters with a Champagne and shallot dressing (£20, or 12 for £38) and we loved the decadent display bowl on its stand full of ice and decorated with lemon wedges and samphire.
It really would be rather strange to visit a steakhouse and not enjoy a steak so we made our choice and before they arrived the waitress asked us to choose our knives from a wooden box – a bit gimmicky or a nice touch, I couldn’t decide! Out came our steaks – I had opted for the 200g fillet (£35) with bearnaise sauce and Nick the 600g T-bone (£42) with an Oxford blue sauce and a poached egg topper. All steaks are served with bone marrow and vine tomatoes and on the side we had some crisp triple cooked chips and a salad to freshen things up. My chunk of fillet was beautiful and cooked to perfection, while Nick’s steak was huge and he impressed me by eating the lot. Our platter of food had filled us up so much that we couldn’t manage a morsel of dessert though they did sound lovely.
The Saturday night atmosphere was buzzing, the staff were great, so friendly with quick service, and it was great to look out at the night sky glistening over the most famous stretch of the Thames.
We live a good few hours from the capital and our preferred method of transport by far is train. To sit back, relax and enjoy the journey and catch up on some work, chat or sleep is the luxury of train travel and The Trainline made it all that much easier for us on this journey. With impressive savings on fares when booked in advance, a very simple booking system via the website or app and easy to find information on your train, it was a no-brainer for us!
IN A NUTSHELL
A top class hotel with it all to hand in the most fantastic location for London lovers, Marriott Hotel County Hall is not to be missed – relax in the spa, indulge with an afternoon tea, chomp on a steak, sip on a cocktail, or host an event in a grand spot, then finish it all with a stay in a fabulous room or suite – find the time, it will be worth it!
Address: London County Hall, Westminster Bridge Rd, Lambeth, London SE1 7PB
Phone: 020 7928 5200