One Aldwych: Covent Garden’s best kept secret
Words by Lorelle Williams
Surrounded by theatre, fashion and food in London’s trendy Covent Garden is a Flatiron-shaped building that formerly housed Tatler, The Morning Post and The British Gazette of which Sir Winston Churchill was Editor. Fast forward to 1998 and, after much renovation, the building opened its doors as one of London’s most charming hotels, One Aldwych. Today this coolly understated hang-out is one of the city’s most fashionable spots and I had the pleasure of spending the day there to discover why.
For One Aldwych, simply drinking a drink isn’t good enough when a drink can be turned into an experience. The Original cocktail at the hotel’s ‘The Lobby Bar’ comes with an accompanying virtual reality headset to fly you over the Scottish Highlands before taking your first sip. The virtual flight starts at the distillery in Scotland in which the whisky in the drink is aged, then flies you over the drink’s natural water source and golden barley fields before landing you swiftly back in The Lobby Bar where a waiter hands over the cocktail. Take the headset off and, hey presto, the real version of the drink is right there on the table. Innovative creations like this explain why The Lobby Bar was named one of the top five hotel bars in the world by The Sunday Telegraph.
The gluten and dairy free menu at the hotel’s Indigo restaurant is another example of One Aldwych being ahead of its time. The executive chef, Dominic Teague, noticed a growing trend in guests requesting dietary specific dishes so went ahead and created one of the first gluten and dairy free menus in London. The best part is that no one even noticed; Dominic’s team kept the change quiet so that those without any dietary requirements didn’t feel alienated and to avoid it being thought a fad. He didn’t want people thinking he was doing it just to be different. So it’s not until a guest specifically requests a gluten or dairy free option that they’re told the entre menu has in fact been created with their needs in mind.
In keeping with Covent Garden’s vibe Dominic wanted to add a theatrical twist to the hotel’s afternoon tea, but wasn’t quite sure how. His eureka moment came when Charlie and the Chocolate Factory arrived at the West End around the corner- what better way to get show-goers in the mood than a Charlie-themed afternoon tea beforehand? He added sherbet flavoured candyfloss, golden chocolate eggs made with vanilla cheesecake, mango puree and cocoa bean financier, caramel chocolate drinks, sweet blueberry brioche and zesty lemon meringue pie to the traditional jam scones and finger sandwiches. As expected, this phizz-whizzing, gloriumptious selection also comes in vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free form and a glass of Lallier Réserve Champagne or a Cocktail Charlie can be added for adults.
And for London’s cinéastes, the hotel’s film & fizz nights takes Saturday (and Friday) night at the movies to a whole new level. For just £55 you can avoid the long queues at the Odeon and enjoy a newly released film in One Aldwych’s stylish 30 seat cinema room with a box of buttery popcorn and a chilled glass of champagne, followed by a three course dinner at the Indigo restaurant. You don’t even have to be a hotel guest to take advantage. Looking into June and July films being screened include ‘Their Finest’, ‘Rules Don’t Apply’, ‘Miss Sloane’ and ‘My Cousin Rachel’.
During my visit to One Aldwych I spent the entire afternoon at the spa. Set across two floors of the hotel, the health club is made up of an 18m, chlorine free pool with underwater music, a state of the art gym, sauna and steam room on the ground floor and a range of modern, luxurious treatment rooms on the floor above.
After an hour of alternating between the pool, the sauna and my book I was collected by a therapists to try out the 60 minute Oxygen Essential facial by Natura Bissé, a Spanish skincare brand that has taken Europe’s top spas by storm over the past couple of years. The brand’s oxygen based products are a blessing for anyone whose skin needs a breather from the polluted city air. They contain living water from spirulina algae which releases pure oxygen molecules into the skin, re-energising the cells and removing toxins trapped in the pores.
Once I was comfortable in the heated treatment bed, my face, neck and décolleté were cleansed with Natura Bissé’s Oxygen Mousse. This contains mushroom extract and betaine, a beet that prevents water loss and rehydrates the skin. The silky texture of the mousse removes even the tiniest of impurities and its mattifying power helps reduce the size of the pores. The mousse only needed to be left on for one minute to work its magic then my skin was ready for step 2: Intense revitalising oxygenation by the Natura Bissé’s Oxygen Complex. As well as containing living water from algae, the Oxygen Complex contains hydrogen peroxide which transforms into pure oxygen and water once it has penetrated the skin. A thin layer was applied and gently massaged until it had completely absorbed into my face and neck. The result? Restored luminosity to my once dull complexion. For smokers, the Oxygen Complex is a great way to help you recover from the lack of oxygen created in your skin by each cigarette. For non-smokers, it’s a great way to brighten that grey-ish complexion the polluted city air has kindly given you. For the next twenty minutes my pores were opened under a steamer and purged, then Natura Bissé’s a richly-textured Oxygen Cream was applied as a final measure to hydrate and purify my face.
One Aldwych’s philosophy of wellbeing is evident in every aspect of the hotel. From the spa to the gluten free menus and the escapism offered by the child-like afternoon tea and extravagant film nights, One Aldwych clearly appreciates that Londoners need a break from their hectic lifestyles and offers itself as just that, a luxurious hideout from reality.
The info: The 60 minute Oxygen Essential facial by Natura Bissé costs £100 at One Aldwych, 1 Aldwych, London, WC2B 4BZ. +44 (0)20 7300 1000, onealdwych.com.