London is a city that is known for its excellent hotels, and for luxury lovers, there is no shortage of options to choose from. But one that stands out from the crowd thanks to its edgy aesthetic and lavish feel is Sea Containers London – the hottest spot to stay on London’s South Bank.
Having initially opened its doors in September 2014, when it was originally known as Mondrian London, the hotel was rebranded to reflect its current moniker in January 2019, with its new name paying homage to the historic building in which it is located – and it has been causing a stir amongst luxury-seeking visitors to the capital ever since.
Managed by the Lore Group, Sea Containers is one of its most sought-after independent hotels, with Design Research Studio taking the helm of the renovation project and creating its unique and impactful aesthetic under the direction of talented visionary, Tom Dixon.
Home to 359 stunning guest rooms and suites in total, many of which enjoy spectacular views over the River Thames, it also comprises not one, but two lively bars for cocktails and after dinner drinks, and an esteemed restaurant serving up fresh, seasonal cuisine that is sustainably sourced and, of course, cooked to perfection.
Add to that the hotel’s private, 56-seat marine-inspired cinema and opulent spa, and suffice it to say that it offers all you could want from a luxury stay in the capital, and then some. There’s no doubt that it certainly sounds good – but what is it actually like to stay here? I recently had the opportunity to find out.
In-keeping with its name and heritage, a luxurious nautical theme is evident throughout the hotel, with a dramatic, hand-crafted copper hull dominating the entrance and the lobby to offer a unique and impactful welcome. Reminiscent of an opulent 1920s cruise liner, opulence is the order of the day – and situated right on the River Thames, between the famous Oxo Tower and Blackfriars Bridge, it’s conveniently located for a day out exploring the city.
There’s no denying that Sea Containers London exudes a fun and contemporary vibe, with an arty feel throughout. Clever references to the building’s maritime history are everywhere, with other stand-out features including a replica of the Queen Mary beside the concierge desk and a sculpture of bright blue, twisted pipes depicting the inner workings of a vessel also taking pride of place in the lobby.
A place where glamour meets brutalism, the hotel is a popular spot for glossy, high-end magazine shoots and jet-setting celebrities, and it isn’t difficult to see why.
Rooms and suites
With 359 guest rooms and suites to select from, all designed by Tom Dixon with the golden age of transatlantic ship travel as a departure point and ocean liner cabins as his inspiration, guests at Sea Containers London are spoilt for choice, and with sleek, stylish and elegant decor and an unmistakably trendy vibe, and many enjoying sweeping views across the river, if you weren’t in such a vibrant location then you might not want to leave.
I stayed in the Riverview Balcony Suite which, as the name suggests, enjoys some of the most privileged vistas over the River Thames and across to the Blackfriars Bridge, all from a spacious and sprawling private terrace. Featuring a daring hot pink and grey colour palette, it certainly had a contemporary feel to it, but the nautical theme remained present through the wood panel effects and round mirrors, drawing inspiration from traditional ship cabins. Unequivocally stylish in every sense, the suite was well-stocked with amenities throughout, from the nicely filled mini bar to a high-end espresso machine and not one, but two flat-screen TVs.
The lounge area was spacious and perfect for entertaining guests or getting a spot of work done, with a comfortable sofa, two large tables and chairs and plenty of international power sockets. If you’re staying in summer, then you’ll be glad to know that it also has air conditioning – anyone who has stayed in a London hotel room without it will know just how oppressive they can feel during the warmer months, but it’s not something you’ll have to worry about here.
The bathroom, too, exuded luxury in every sense, with beautiful marble flooring, a sophisticated black vessel sink and a walk-in glass shower with a waterfall shower head. The separate bathtub is perfect for taking a long and indulgent soak after a busy day in the city, and with a hairdryer and plenty of Malin + Goetz toiletries on hand and at your disposal, you have all you need for a good pampering session in the privacy of your own suite.
Food and drink
12th Knot is Sea Containers London’s stylish rooftop bar, and offers sweeping views across the South Bank. Experimental cocktail bar Lyaness, meanwhile, is an experience in itself, led by acclaimed bartender and mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana and making for another highlight of a stay here. Presenting a unique twist on the traditional cocktail menu by basing its creations on just five ingredients, it’s amazing just what you can do with such a small list of items to work with, and the approach adds an element of fun and playfulness to the evening – or lunchtime, if that’s your thing.
Oyster honey, blood curaçao, green sauce liqueur, malt and grass amazake and fruit furikake are each expressed in three different ways in award-winning ‘Mr Lyan’s cocktail line-up, showing just how versatile this capsule collection of ingredients can be.
It’s not just cocktails that Lyaness does well, though, and this reimagined ground-floor space, which was formerly known as Dandelyan serves up a simple yet tasty menu of light bites to enjoy alongside your chosen tipple – from ‘Bar Bites’ like the nocera olives and Cambrook spiced nuts, to small plates including English coastal oysters, hand-picked crab, salt beef croquettes and blistered padron peppers. Those with a slightly larger appetite can opt to share one of Lyaness’ flavourful flatbreads – choose from a tomato filling with onion, blue cheese, cheddar, basil and rocket; aubergine with pancetta, mint, chorizo and tzatziki, or the cured meat with sun blushed tomatoes, mozzarella and watercress.
All set against a plush and glamorous backdrop of powder blue walls and velvet banquettes and accessorised with pretty table lamps to create an atmospheric feel, it’s easy to see why Lyaness has been voted in the top 50 in this year’s coveted Top 50 Cocktail Bars list.
The Sea Containers restaurant unfortunately wasn’t open during my visit, but is a large, buzzy space serving up a simple yet tasty American-inspired menu throughout the day and night. Like Lyaness, nibbles, small plates and sharing flatbreads are featured, with the addition of some tasty larger dishes like the moreish orecchiette with mushroom, parsley, truffle, sour cream and parmesan, and the chalk stream trout served with parsnip, fennel, sea veg and fish jus.
Thanks to its privileged riverside location in the heart of the capital, guests will have little trouble finding things to do during a stay at Sea Containers London. Just eight minutes on foot from the Blackfriars tube and ten minutes from Waterloo Station, it’s well connected to many of the city’s most frequented districts, and with the Tate Modern and Globe Theatre both within a ten-minute stroll, a meander past St. Paul’s Cathedral makes for a scenic experience for those with time to spare.
For foodies, Borough Market and its number of excellent surrounding restaurants and pubs is also close by, with numerous high-end and fine dining restaurants also scattered across London if you’re looking for a little more luxury.
That being said, you may well find that there is enough in the hotel itself to satisfy your tastes. Its opulent Agua Spa offers up a range of decadent treatments – from massages and facials to beauty rituals – while those looking to keep up with their fitness regimes can head to the high-tech gym, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
There’s even a cinema room within the confines of the hotel, which screens new releases at the weekends – and with four meeting rooms and free Wi-Fi throughout, business travellers are also well catered to.
In a nutshell
A lavish, nautical-inspired hotel with a fun and contemporary feel, the edgy Sea Containers London makes for the perfect base from which to navigate the highlights of the city – and with its breath-taking river views and exciting food and drink lineup, plus a range of modern and luxurious facilities and amenities, it ticks all the right boxes and more. Quite possibly the coolest hotel on London’s South Bank, it’s a must for those looking for something new.
Double rooms from £195, year-round. Breakfast included. Free Wi-Fi.
Address: 20 Upper Ground, London SE1 9PD
Phone: 020 3747 1000