The W London: Boisterous Britannia
Comfort, cuisine and cannabis oil cocktails make this party hotel a unique experience
Shakily cradling a cup of freshly-brewed coffee, hoping the fumes rising from its surface are strong enough to mitigate my thundering hangover, I’m looking out from the window of my suite over what all tourists must secretly imagine London to look like - an autumnal Leicester Square dotted with street performers doing routines from Mary Poppins, people taking duck-face selfies with red phone boxes and a 20-deep line of visitors queuing to get into the M&M store.
As a predictably uptight resident of south London, I feel like this rather contrived scene should see me charging through the nearest fire exit and heading back south of the river, grumbling about “bloody tourist traps” as I run. But two things have ensured that I’m not going anywhere any time soon: my love of this deeply charming and slightly weird hotel and the fact that last night was the best fun I’ve had in ages.
The W is, as any hotel conoisseur will tell you, a force to be reckoned with in the world of luxury accommodation. Plush, trendy, comfortable and a little edgy, it’s also a chain that doesn’t fear being right in the mixer. Nowhere in a description of one of their 55 hotels will you find claims of being situated “off the beaten track” or “away from the tourist areas”.
No, that’s much too precious for The W, which has plonked its branches in such bustling metropolitan epicentres as New York’s Times Square, Barcelona’s Platja de Sant Sebastia and, soon, Sydney’s famed harbour.
Other major hotel chains would likely cower from the supernova-esque intensity of the Chinatown-Leicester Square nexus. But it’s unsurprising that The W has once again sprung up, almost appearing to goad its competitors with a “well if you guys are too chicken...” air. The hotel's confidence permeates everything from the extravagant “W” sculpture towering over the entrance to the absolutely delicious chaos enveloping the reception area on the late Saturday afternoon we arrived.
Welcoming guests into its lobby, The W plays its hand early: the pitch black floors and walls, shimmering disco balls and a free-to-use photo booth are emblematic of the hotel’s wish to combine luxury with hedonism. The result is a sort of club-cum-hotel hybrid not far off what I’d imagine someone with too much money might create if they were attempting to remember that one time they stayed at a party hostel off the top of their head.
But in all honesty what probably gave the game away more obviously was the wall-shakingly pounding pop hits coming from the adjacent Perception Bar, where gaggles of well-groomed men in slimfit suit jackets sing along to Clean Bandit tunes next to the euphoric champagne brunches of elegantly dressed hen do attendees.
Straining our voices over joyous Prosecco-fuelled group renditions of Symphony, the extremely welcoming receptionist assured me that the thumping bass cannot be heard (or felt) from the confines of our soundproof room, meaning guests could effectively choose to shape and mold their stay in central London on the fly.
On the one hand, they could effectively hide themselves away in the Egyptian cotton sheets of their lavish suites for a relaxing city break, sipping the Chilean pinot noir found in the foot locker-shaped minibar and floating serenely three or four floors up from the sea of commuters and tourists at ground level. But, even when holidaying in my own hometown, that’s not really my style.
We made a quick dash up to the room to dispose of what little luggage we had - and to slip into something less comfortable - before returning triumphantly to Perception for a lively dinner experience, during which we watched each of the flagging brunchers retire one-by-one to be replaced by fresh-faced clientel psyched up for their go on the Moet. By 8pm the atmosphere was positively electric, the room echoing with laughter and the sound of clinking glasses; it was a FOMO-inducing Instagram post come to life.
But, having ordered an array of mains and sides to taste, it also turns out that a boisterous vibe is no distraction for the chefs of Perception, who serve up a mean mix of first-class dishes which teeter deftly on the border between haute cuisine and sumptuous comfort food.
I opened my account with the crispy fried chicken bao, each bun oozing with indulgent Sriracha mayo, while my fiance dived head-first into a lobster mac n’ cheese so rich in buttery, cheesy flavours that I could’ve died happy right there. The butternut squash arancini, filled with parmesan and basil, was another high point, but I’ll admit I made a mistake by attempting to finish on the beetroot and halloumi spring rolls, primarily because they were so good that I had to eat all of them despite already being so full that I was worried the button on my jeans might take someone’s eye out.
By the end the table looked like the eyewall of a hurricane had just passed through, and after sitting in silent reverence for a few minutes to give my profuse cheese/endorphin sweats time to subside, I was almost tempted to do a spit-take with my glass of malbec when our waiter offered me a CBD oil-based cocktail as a digestif.
I accepted his proposal, mostly hesitantly, until I tasted what the cocktail which they have dubbed The Millennial, an avocado and chili-infused margarita topped with a few drops of olive-coloured CBD oil. It was glorious. Tangy, creamy and with a little kick on the back end, I ordered another two before wondering if I should move onto something more conventional before the Met Police drug team kick the door down.
As the dining window came to a close and the adjacent bar started picking up in volume and attendance, we were shown to a cosy booth spot near the dancefloor by our waiter, who brought us a couple more cocktails to try: the delicate gin-rich Daisy Chain for my partner and another spicy one for me in the Club Mexicana, a hefty mix of tequila, scotch, coriander, grapefruit, jalapenos, lime juice and agave.
At around 10pm, things really kicked up a gear. The lights dimmed, guests migrated from their sofas to the dancefloor and a DJ with an impressively large setup took to the stage, pumping out dynamic, intense club hits as fragments of light reflecting off the giant disco ball above us flickered around the room. While up to this point I had been enveloped in The W’s idiosyncracies, it was at this point that I realised the hotel has entirely re-envisioned the idea of the city break.
No more does the itinerary of a short metropolitan holiday need to allow for an hour of sitting in the room arguing with your significant other over which wine bar or club to visit - here, the party comes to you. It had taken a bit of getting used to, the idea that you literally do not need to leave your hotel in order to have a night on the town, but once I had embraced it it was fascinatingly liberating. It’s the epitome of convenience. After a few hours of woozily knocking back a few more cocktails, we headed up to our room and fired up the smart TV before falling asleep in the middle of a playlist of nostalgic 90s hits.
As a result, it wasn’t until the morning sun came blaring into our room between the curtains I had forgotten to close that I got a true look at our suite, and I was not disappointed. Sleek and ultra-modern, the walls and surfaces were comprised of either off-white marble or full-length mirrors, with one quarter of the room covered in a floor-to-ceiling monochrome Union Jack in full British Invasion style.
Flashes of colour from boutique furniture punctuated the spacious room, with a vibrant red armchair here and a golden shoulder-height minibar there, the latter of which offers a vitamin supplement dubbed a “Hangover Cure” - The W knows its audience.
Elsewhere, our waterfall shower and toilet were tastefully hidden behind one of the mirrors which I surprisingly found to be a door after a brief moment of confusion, while the centre of the room is dominated by a free-standing counter with a light-up makeup mirror, a sink and space enough for the cake in the shape of a 1960s-era radio that was waiting for us.
The W is a gutsy but ultimately brilliant take on the modern luxury hotel model, taking care to provide the expected comforts of a 5-star establishment while also celebrating everything that makes a city break great.
Yet despite how unique and tastefully curated it all is, there’s also something loveably unpretentious about it, from the straightforward gut-busting burgers on its menus to the giant disco ball hanging above you as you sip on a whisky sour at 3am.
The W is a club, a cocktail bar, a restaurant and no matter what you’re looking for, a fantastic place to stay in the heart of London.
The W, Leicester Square, 10 Wardour Street, London W1D 6QF
Book now by phoning 020 7758 1000 or visiting wlondon.co.uk