MC Features Editor Jenny Proudfoot heads to the heart of London to indulge in the ultimate weekend staycation…
The sun is shining, the pandemic is no longer confining us to our homes and as the world re-opens, we are starting to get excited about the fast-approaching summer holidays.
But with travel restrictions still in place and no guarantee when they will be lifting, we might have to postpone our plans to jet off to tropical islands or cool European cities.
Thankfully, you don’t have to travel far and wide to stay in a luxury hotel and treat yourself to some R&R. In fact, I’m sticking to London this summer as I indulge in the staycation trend, becoming a tourist in my own city.
Starting with my favourite part of London, I headed to Fitzrovia – a hub of artistic expression made famous by the Bloomsbury Group. Plus, nowadays the go-to place for barre classes, chic Instagram backdrops and gourmet grub.
I checked myself in at the iconic five star Charlotte Street Hotel, and after lounging on my King sized bed in my fuzzy spa slippers for about two hours, I ventured outside and treated myself to a long weekend in Fitzrovia.
I’m talking cocktails at Oscar Bar, dinner at Hakkasay Hanway Place, Lobster Benedict in bed (when in Fitzrovia), and then a dreamy morning of pampering, from a hot stone massage and manicure at Radiance London to a blow dry with Saco’s own Richard Ashworth.
The result? A staycation so relaxing that I can barely remember going home. Not to mention, I now have zero worries about not going abroad this year. I have everything I need in Fitzrovia alone.
Here’s how I spent my dreamy long weekend…
Charlotte Street Hotel
Charlotte Street Hotel has been at the top of my to-stay list for a long time due to its exterior alone. The converted warehouse is instantly recognisable, painted sage-green with striped awnings, topiary bushes and French bistro-style tables and chairs. And as I found during this staycation, the inside is just as vibrant, with designer Kit Kemp reinventing the Bloomsbury aesthetic for the 21st century. Expect colourful wallpaper, period paintings, huge open fireplaces and plush patchwork furniture throughout. No detail is overlooked and the end result is exquisite. With just 52 rooms, the hotel feels intimate, but that doesn’t stop it from boasting a wealth of amenities. I’m talking a fitness studio, wellness retreats and a movie theatre decked out with cool red leather seats. There are even seasonal floral workshops. Few five star hotels make you feel so at home, but with the homely decor, cosy colour palettes and unbelievably friendly staff, it’s impossible not to relax here. It’s hardly surprising that I was reluctant to leave the hotel.
Oscar Bar is an obligatory stop when in Fitzrovia, boasting cool relaxed vibes and aesthetically stunning cocktails, so popular that guests spill out onto the street in the summer months. While their signature cocktails include a Silver Bullet, barrel aged Negroni and a Spritz a la Fitzrovia, I would personally recommend their hot ‘winter warmers’. The Tea and Toast featuring Chivas Regal 12 year-old Whisky and Assam black tea is gorgeous, and a boozy tahini hot cocoa with oat milk is the perfect end to any day. My go-to order however, and hand-on-heart my favourite cocktail I have ever tried, was the saffron and apricot mulled wine, complete with a cinnamon stick stirrer. It was sheer perfection, and after mentioning this to the bar man, he immediately talked me through the recipe so I could recreate it myself – just going that extra mile in terms of service. After pairing a couple of glasses with some dreamy crevette sliders and tomato arancini, it was time for dinner – just a few minutes’ stroll down the road.
Hakkasan Hanway Place
Dinner at Hakkasan Hanway Place was a definite highlight, with a seriously cool vibe, sleek dark interiors and truly exquisite cuisine. After the dim sum starter alone I could tell why it was one of the world’s most renowned cantonese restaurants. I’m talking bamboo steamers of colourful creations filled with everything from langoustine har gau with Prunier caviar to dover sole with black truffle, from phoenix eye lobster to scallop shui mai with tobiko. All of this was recommended by our charming waiter – one of the funniest I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, who ensured my sister and I tried as much of the menu as we could fit in. The dim sum treasure chest was only the beginning. Next came golden fried soft shell crab, wok-fry venison with charcoal grilled bone marrow, Szechuan style lobster with Shaoxing rice wine, and stir-fry lotus root – all washed down with Lychee Martinis and Fusion Mai Tais aplenty.
Then of course came pudding, and because we couldn’t choose between them, we had to pair our Sake with our top three – hot chocolate soufflé, date sponge with sake custard and tonka ice cream, and the instagrammable ‘Spiky Lemon’ – an almond cake with yuzu crémeux and calamansi gel. We were naturally full-to-bursting by this point, but we somehow managed an after-dinner cocktail – I would recommend a Smoky Negroni or if you can’t drink any more, their Blue tea was gorgeous and light – exactly what you’ll need at this point, trust me!
Then, luckily in short walking distance, we staggered back to Charlotte Street Hotel, where Oscar Bar was still open. As was their gorgeous private library, a cosy room filled with dark sofas, blankets and a log fire to flop in front of. There’s even an honesty bar.
The Deluxe Junior Suite
I chose to go back to my room, wanting to spend as much time as possible soaking in my gorgeous granite bath – complete with luxe RikRak by Kit Kemp toiletries and an in-built bath TV (a feature that is never lost on me).
I was staying in the Deluxe Junior Suite, a chic and colourful space with a city view looking out onto Charlotte Street. Floral upholstery, Bloomsbury period paintings, a comfy king bed and one of the chicest monochrome sofas I ever did see. Not to mention, the dressmakers’ doll in the corner made for the perfect cross body bag stand.
It’s pure luxury, and the next morning after a good night’s sleep, the R&R continued as I ordered a mouth-watering Lobster Benedict and a flat white to my room in my towel robe. Disclaimer – if you want to Instagram your breakfast, the rich red Lobster Benedict is definitely the one to go for and the flat white comes in gorgeous bone china crockery.
It genuinely hurt when I had to leave the room, and my sister who had joined me for the stay even said a heartfelt goodbye to it, promising she hoped to come back soon, which really tells you all you need to know.
After checking out of the hotel of dreams (sob), I made the short walk to Charlotte Place – a quaint mews in Fitzrovia packed with cool European cafés and luxe wellness spots. I headed straight for Radiance London Spa, with its pink and green exterior immediately setting it apart from its neighbours. There’s something for everyone at this intimate spa, with luxe treatments ranging from crystal clear facials to oxygen therapy. Its tranquility scalp massage will banish all tension, incorporating lavender essential oils and purifying eucalyptus. And its red island exfoliating ritual – featuring powdered orange and apricot seeds and spices – will re-energise your skin beyond compare. I opted for some signature treatments – a hot stone massage, with heat-releasing basalt stones to soothe my aches and re-balance my energy levels. And then a shellac manicure, which of course I teamed with a glass of Prosecco. I’m already booked to go back.
The final stop on my relaxing weekend was directly across the road, a blow dry at Saco, acclaimed salon of dreams. While Saco has salons across the world from Paris and Copenhagen to Moscow and Montréal, its cool Fitzrovia offering stands out, with its sleek interiors, relaxed vibe and friendly staff. I was treated to a blow dry by Saco’s co-founder Richard Ashworth himself, who revitalised my lockdown hair and sent me on my way with a bag bursting with Saco hair products. I am now a Saco convert, with its hydrating shampoo/conditioner set and the Intense hydrating mask becoming my go-to hair products. For women with thick frizzy hair like mine, these products are the holy grail.
This staycation spot is in the heart of Fitzrovia – one of my favourite London areas. It has truly got it all – the shops, the backdrops, a Sicilian avenue full of inspired eateries and a rich artistic history. Fitzrovia was of course once a favourite spot of the influential Bloomsbury group (including E.M. Forster and Virginia Woolf to name a few) – something that is celebrated annually with the October Bloomsbury festival. There’s even a Virginia Woolf suite at the Charlotte Street Hotel in the writer’s honour. A short walk from Goodge Street and Tottenham Court Road tube stations, Charlotte Street Hotel is ideal for tourists, five minutes from the theatre district and just a stone’s throw from The British Museum. Not to mention, just around the corner is Charlotte Place, which as this article proves is an unmissable spot for blow dries, beauty treatments, top cuisine and some great Instagram opportunities.
Charlotte Street Hotel is set to re-open on 8 July, with rooms starting at £335 available to book now.
Charlotte Street Hotel
15-17 Charlotte St,
London W1T 1RJ
020 7806 2000
Radiance London is open and available to book now.
12 Charlotte Place,
London W1T 1SL
020 7580 8181
Saco is open and available to book now.
4 Charlotte Place,
London W1T 1SE
020 7240 7897
Hakkasan Hanway Place is set to re-open on 17 May and available to book now.
Hakkasan Hanway Place
8 Hanway Pl,
London W1T 1HD
020 7927 7000