We know people love stories about hidden, disused London Underground stations, so I decided to take on the very difficult mission of booking into a station that has been transformed into one of the most luxurious boutique hotels in London.
So I packed my bags and took the Piccadilly Line to Hyde Park Corner. The five star Hotel Wellesley coming out of the train station is two minutes down the road. You can tell immediately from the outside that this is a former London Underground station, as you can still see the red tiles and arches above the entrance that were so characteristic of Leslie Green-designed stations of the early 20th century . It looks the same as many other train stations like Covent Garden, Hampstead or Camden Town.
But once you step through the glass doors, after being greeted by a friendly, smartly dressed porter, it’s a bit like stepping into Dr. Who step into the Tardis. And like the Tardis, it’s as if you’ve traveled through space and time back to the glitz and glamor of the 1920’s.
READ MORE:London Underground: Stunning abandoned tube hotel where you can stay for £500 a night
The lobby is made up of gleaming marble tiles and columns, elegant mirrors and ebony doors – it turns out the designers hand-selected the marble from Italian quarries – and walks away from you down a long corridor to a huge polished mirrored wall at the other end. that throws the glamor back at you.
I am immediately stunned. I have literally never stayed anywhere so posh. I have to admit I’m a little nervous. I mean they must realize I’m a total fraud just by looking at my high street coat?
But the concierge and receptionist are super friendly and everyone is smiling – and my bag is taken to a junior suite, I’m told. A small elevator takes me to the fourth floor and the doors open onto a corridor painted elegant dark colors and adorned with glossy portraits of jazz greats and actresses. I’ve only been here two minutes and I already feel like I’m in celebrity company.
I open the door to my junior suite and it’s amazing! Softly lit with a combination of designer lamps and spotlights, the honey colored decor is calming and stylish. The huge windows on one side of the room offer an excellent view of Hyde Park and if you want to block it out you can electronically close them!
There is a plush desk with stationery and a gold art deco lamp, fresh fruit and water. There is a huge bouquet of fresh flowers on a table by the window.
A huge TV hangs on one wall, and turning it on reveals that the Marriott has its own channels of carefully curated movies and programs. It takes me ages to figure out how to use the different light settings that can transform the room into different moods. It’s absolute luxury.
A desk-mounted iPad provides details on everything you could want, from a la carte dining to complimentary butler and concierge services. Speaking to our concierge, Genadi, he told me that his job is to respond to guests’ requests on the fly and get them to the best London restaurants like the Chiltern Firehouse on a Friday or Saturday night.
He recently told me that he had to arrange a last-minute helicopter flight to Liverpool for a businessman, which he somehow managed to do.
Genadi tells me that this place used to be Pizza on the Park, a renowned jazz venue that once hosted the likes of Amy Winehouse, and that they tried to keep the 1920s jazz theme in the design.
Interestingly, he says there’s still a ‘secret’ door that TfL staff still use to get from the hotel to the tube and says he’ll show it to me later. It surprises me when he says that around 75 employees only look after 32 rooms here. That explains the great service!
Soon it’s time to have an aperitif at the bar, which is made entirely of glitter and mirrors. The ultra-friendly bar manager conjures up all sorts of drinks for the guests, who are mostly outside on the heated smoking terrace.
He opens a cupboard and shows me a dusty-looking bottle of cognac from 1789. The shelves are lined with bottles of all ages and flavors of just about every drink imaginable.
The 1789 cognac costs £4,500 a glass. The bottle literally looks like a museum piece. The cheapest cognac is £75 a glass.
The oldest whiskey – the Macallan Vintage Malt, which is 50 years old, will cost you a whopping £8,000 a shot. By the end of the night we managed to get through a couple of the cheaper gins each – which adds up to a cool £75.
But perhaps the showpiece is the hotel’s famed humidor — the air-conditioned room where the cigars are kept. Here you can browse a collection ranging from £30 to £1,400 for a single cigar! This securely locked room is like an antique cigar shop.
Thousands of spicy tobacco aromas hang in the air, vying for your attention. The assistant bar manager explains that there are different strengths and flavors of cigars for every occasion. The biggest in the collection, he says, could take an hour and a half to smoke. His first question to smokers is always, “How long do you plan on smoking?”
As I couldn’t afford the a la carte prices on the evening menu I went to a local Ask Italian which is much more in my price range. But we don’t go there. Instead we are chauffeured there in a black BMW by a friendly driver who will take you anywhere you want to go within a mile or two.
He says wealthy guests sometimes wait an hour before he can drive them to Harrods, even though it’s only a two-minute walk away.
After a restful night you can use the very luxurious shower.
The shower pours like an incredible waterfall, not like the pathetic dribble I have at home… and the complimentary shampoo and body wash are of course top notch.
Breakfast in the fabulously lit dining room is a treat. The shimmering chandelier pours light over the ebony and ivory art deco dining room. There are pastries, fruit and yogurt, poached eggs, and coffee.
Everything just tastes so much better than anything you would buy from Marks & Spencer yourself. Fresh and tasty, just what you would expect, and unlike a heavy-handed breakfast you get at many budget hotels, it leaves you feeling satisfied rather than full.
After that, the concierge kindly shows me the fire escape that leads into the old tunnels of Hyde Park Corner tube station. Can’t go inside as they are reserved for TfL staff but it’s a nice reminder that this was once part of Hyde Park Corner tube station.
Then it goes back through the hotel doors and onto the actual subway. Reality begins to bite as the train bumps through dark tunnels and I emerge in a rain-soaked London. And yet it feels like I’ve been on a real incredible adventure.
I stayed at the Wellesley for less than 24 hours but it transports you to a magical place. With the cheapest rooms at £500 a night, it might be way out of the stratosphere in terms of most people’s budget, but it has to be worth just dipping your toe in the warm, sparkling waters of 1920s-style glamour, if only for a day! Click here to book a room at the Wellesley.