From the super-hotel that is The Ned to the capital’s cool little gems, like Ham Yard Hotel, London is awash with inspiring and design-savvy places to lay your head. You would be forgiven for thinking, therefore, that a new property from Novotel – part of the French Accor group – wouldn’t be anywhere near as exciting as some of the big-name openings flinging open their doors in town. You’d be wrong.
Welcoming in a hip mix of travellers, out-of-towners and – gasp – even Londoners – is the new Novotel London Canary Wharf – a 39-storey skyscraper (that puts the views from The Shard to shame) and which calls on the area’s Docklands’ history as design inspiration. It gives a new, marvellous perspective on the town that I call home.
With 313 rooms, you might also initially think that this is another ‘off-the-shelf’ brand catering to the masses. Still, it won’t take long for you to change your mind – the hotel is awash with innovative design touches, conceived by architects LRW and interiors design agency KONCEPT, not to mention a rooftop terrace with 360° views over London, a New York-style gym and pool, and ground floor coffee shop.
You feel the vibe from the off – when you enter the lobby area (except it’s not called something as pedestrian as a lobby but rather ‘Gallery’). Here, industrial-design touches – metal lighting, exposed pipework and neon-lit stairs – are off-set by renowned abstract artist Sam Peacock’s turquoise and red landscape wall. There are hanging rope and chains, dark wood shelving and a feature staircase, suspended by copper vertical rods, that lead to upper levels of the public area, all giving a nod towards Canary Wharf’s maritime history.
“Novotel celebrates its 50th anniversary this year,” Maxine Goldone, guest services duty manager, tells me as we tour the new property. “And this hotel is its flagship – it’s a way of showing guests what’s to come in the future from us.”
In addition to its advanced technology – quick check-in and check-out facilitated on tablets with no reception desk in sight and guests are met by ‘Welcomers’ who swiftly show them to rooms – the hotel also earns brownie points with a Millennial crowd by putting its environmental credentials at the forefront of its focus. The brand is part of the Planet 21 programme which works on a premise of 21 objectives relating to local sourcing, diversity and water, energy and waste management. So, there are low-energy lamps throughout the hotel, eco-friendly products used to clean rooms and even a bee hive on the roof to make its own honey.
As well as elegant – and surprisingly large – bedrooms, the showstoppers are the 26 individually-design suites, found on the Executive Floors 30-35. Here, wraparound views of London are nothing short of breathtaking, while the décor features “I want to take it home now” elements, such as teal velvet armchairs, gold-turquoise-silver distressed rugs and a stash of glossy art books. The urban feel is softened by copper and grey textiles, lounge areas with cosy, low-level seating, reading lights and flat screen TVs. The subway-tiled bathrooms have gorgeous matt-gold fixtures and plentiful Nuxe products, which reference Novotel’s French roots – and eco sensibility.
Novotel London Canary Wharf is one of the city’s hidden gems: innovative design, standout dining and rooftop terrace.
This is ultimately a ‘see-and-be-seen’ type of hotel – so the public areas are all-singing and dancing. From chill out zones to the hippest meeting rooms you’ll find in town – there’s a real buzz of innovation and ‘newness’ throughout. Climb the stairs in the Gallery and you’ll find the nine meeting rooms and shared social spaces – each are inspired by the history of the docks. The East India room, for instance, has a rope settee and dark wood furniture, there’s Tobacco, Coffee and Spice all referencing the goods that used to arrive in port from the islands. The luxury Silk Room, meanwhile, has a stunning oval table and glass chandelier, all encased by a teal silk curtain – certain to inspire any gathering.
Best of all is B?KAN – the hotel’s dining hub (including bar, restaurant and roof terrace), which spreads across the top three levels of the hotel, including the rooftop. An Anglo-Saxon word meaning lighthouse, Bokan is indeed a beacon of impressiveness – with a standout menu by Aurelie Altemaire, formerly head chef at Michelin-starred L’Atelier de Jöel Robuchon.
While the destination dining room is the perfect place to show-off on a romantic date, it is equally just the spot for a gathering of old friends to soak up the sights across London’s spires, and to reminisce with a cocktail or two. Looking out as the sun sets on a late summer’s evening, this is one of those rare places that feels intrinsically optimistic and uplifting (and it’s not just down to it being on the 39th floor!). Bokan is somewhere to pull out of your hat when someone asks for a recommendation in town. But most of all, it’s a place to return to, to recapture the mood of London at its best, which, in this city, with its second-to-none eating scene, is high praise indeed.
And the food? It doesn’t disappoint. Expect a seasonal menu that offers a relaxed take on modern European cuisine, but which is based around British ingredients. Try the starter of Crispy Welsh Hen’s Egg, Green Peas, Giroles, Toasted Hazelnuts; and main of Native Lobster, Yellow Courgette, Ricotta Cannelloni, Elderflower – both highly recommended – and finish with the Vanilla & Lemon Cheesecake, English Strawberries and Basil Sorbet for a refreshing endpoint. Much like the wider offering here – the cuisine has an attention to detail you might not have expected – it’s intricate and surprising.
Before you sit to dine, however, make sure you head to the roof terrace for a speciality cocktail – the Royal Captain, for instance, has Hendrick’s gin, lavender-infused Mancino Vermouth Bianco, elderflower cordial, cold jasmine tea, grapefruit bitters, topped with soda. A glorious start to the night.
In the morning, there’s breakfast in the bar area or restaurant, but those on the move should head to Canary Coffee on the ground floor. Here, among rustic sacks, leather sofas and brass lamps, you can grab a Climpson & Sons coffee or a Kokoa Collection hot chocolate and artisanal pastry. There’s also a free library, allowing customers to take a book, as long as they share one back. “We’re all about social interaction,” says Maxime. But I’d come to realise that already – so, I’ll be back, friends in tow.
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