Hotel Review: Mondrian London, Southbank
Nicholas Gibbons visits the English capital and spends a night at The Mondrian London, an ultra-contemporary hotel with a strong nautical feel located in a sensational position on the south bank of the River Thames.
Mondrian London is a full scale refurbishment of the old ‘Sea Containers House’, which was a former office block building that used to house the shipping firm Sea Containers.
After Morgans Hotel Group purchased the building; it underwent a major transformation by renowned British designer Tom Dixon, before finally opening its doors to the public as a hotel in September 2014.
Mondrian London is situated right on the River Thames between the famous Oxo Tower and Blackfriars Bridge. It’s about a 10-minute walk from Waterloo Station or over the bridge to Blackfriars Tube. Nearby landmarks include the Tate Modern and Hayward galleries, Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, Millennium Bridge and Borough Market.
Clever references to the building’s maritime history are everywhere and the owners have skilfully positioned the establishment as a luxurious, nautical-themed hotel. It’s certainly trying to appeal to American visitors who are seeking a sleek, ultra modern property that at the same time celebrates Britain’s well documented maritime tradition.
On arrival I was immediately drawn to the giant, copper clad wall which I’m guessing is inspired by the hull of a ship. This runs from outside the building, through to the lobby and on to the river side of the hotel. It’s very striking and really sets the tone, helping to give the hotel a clear identity which I believe is very important as London is such a competitive marketplace for high end hotels and they need to be able to stand out from the crowd.
The hull is designed to make the usually dull and tedious check-in experience a little more exciting by making you feel you are about to embark on a highly glamorous 1920s cruise. I loved the addition of a large replica of the Queen Mary; this was situated right next to the concierge desk. Some might say it’s a little over the top but I come from a family of traditional boatbuilders so fell in love with the hotel straight away.
The hotel houses 359 bedrooms including a number of luxury suites. I stayed in a River View Balcony Suite and was very impressed. My suite was contemporary and sleek as expected (very art deco), with wooden flooring throughout the open plan lounge and bedroom. The walls and ceiling were a sublime white and this worked really well with the black furniture and metallic light features. The lighting was good, the minibar was trendily stocked (tubs of posh crisps, wine, beer, whisky, gin and a mini-vodka in a skull bottle) and I loved the glass table – especially as it had some mouth-watering welcome truffles to snack on. There were also some classic furnishings such as Tom Dixon’s signature wingback chair and an original Warren Platner designed chair. But the standout feature had to be the private balcony and the sumptuous views over the River Thames and across to Blackfriars Bridge. This really helped to provide the wow factor and will be a huge asset in attracting repeat visitors.
The one bugbear was the fact there was no hairdryer socket by a mirror. This seems to be a common theme across many of the hotels I’ve stayed in recently and really makes no sense whatsoever.
The oversized bathroom was probably my highlight of the room, complete with its marble walls, granite wash basins and a spacious rainfall shower. It also offered a guest cloakroom. Overall a beautifully designed room and certainly one for the purists.
The Sea Containers at Mondrian London is under the captaincy of Seamus Mullen. Seamus is an award-winning New York chef and food writer known for his inventive yet approachable Spanish cuisine. The 40-year-old opened his first restaurant, Tertulia, in Manhattan in 2011, which was awarded two stars from The New York Times. In 2013, he opened El Colmado, a Spanish tapas and wine bar at Gotham West Market, a food hall in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen.
Seamus has been given the title of Culinary Director and works alongside Executive Chef Luke Rayment. The restaurant’s marketing literature says: “Sea Containers is inspired by the golden age of transatlantic travel and the bounty of local fresh produce from the famed Borough market.” It continues: “Sea Containers combines the best of the best of American and British cuisine, creating a restaurant that is refined in its offering, yet youthful and casual in its experience.”
Unfortunately I did not have the opportunity to sample Seamus’ food during my stay as my editor had already booked me into review Seven Park Place in St James’ Place. However, I did take the time to have a good look around the restaurant and also read his menu.
The restaurant is wrapped around a rather fabulous bar complete with a dangling model yellow submarine. It’s all very over the top, but this does add a sense of theatre and will certainly create a talking point amongst diners. I particularly liked the open kitchen layout as this does help to build the relationship between the paying customer and the team of hardworking chefs. If you can get a table (I’ve heard it can be difficult), then best place to be seated is beside the glass walls giving onto Queen’s Walk – part of the Thames Path. The view from here across the water to the north bank is rather splendid to say the least. Even though I only spent a few minute inside the dining room, Sea Containers had the definite vibe of a semi-formal evening dinner sitting onboard a very luxurious cruise liner – which to be fair is in keeping with the rest of the hotel.
The menu is by no means exorbitant, and by the standard of the incredible interior, is actually very good value. It is separated into Small Plates, Larger Dishes, Dishes for the Table, Raw, Flatbreads, Market Salads and Accompaniments. It’s fair to say this list would not look out of place at a mildly ambitious gastropub. The menu describes itself as a combination of British and American but a closer inspection suggests that the kitchen also draws upon influences from all around the world. I particularly liked the sound of the South American-style ceviche of marinated raw scallops. Another intesting dish was the Middle Eastern-style purée of smoky aubergine served with a minty labneh, diced dates, and a garnish of white and black sesame seeds. Perhaps one day I will be invted back to see if it tastes as good as it sounds (hint hint).
In addition to the Sea Containers restuarant, the hotel offers a selection of high end bars to enjoy a drink. There is a reservations-only rooftop drinking area, and on the ground floor Dandelyan, an uber trendy international cocktail bar.
I would say the biggest drawback to staying at Mondrian London would be the lack of available parking nearby. This of course is common with the majority of central London hotels.
IN A NUTSHELL
A glamorous Morgan’s hotel in Sea Containers’ former HQ, with a sensational position on the south bank of the River Thames. Inspired by the glamour of 1920s cruise ships, this ultra-contemporary hotel adjacent to the Thames offers a perfect mix between America and England. It establishes an art deco aesthetic, and embraces modern design flourishes – and it works well.
Double rooms from £234, excluding breakfast. Wi-Fi is free.
Address: 20 Upper Ground, London SE1 9PD / 020 3747 1000