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Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Seconds from Marylebone station, The Landmark counts itself among London’s most luxurious places for travellers to rest their weary heads.
It was the last of the Victorian railway hotels, constructed in the golden age of steam which transported well-heeled tourists to its doorstep.
The building was first conceived by train entrepreneur Sir Edward Watkin who believed that Marylebone would become an international hub, linking the capital to the rest of Europe, with Channel Tunnel trains terminating there.
Alas it was never to be and when his network, the Great Central Railway, ran into financial hot water in 1895, his brainchild went up in a puff of steam before work had even commenced.
But all was not lost as Sir John Blundell Maple, chairman of the furniture company, Maples, agreed to buy the site at a price of 9d (4.5 pence) per square foot and the hotel welcomed its first guests four years later in 1899.
Watkin’s dream of making Marylebone the Channel Tunnel hub may have been derailed but with St Pancras just couple of miles down the road, these days the hotel remains a draw for tourists and very wealthy business folk.
But of course it’s not solely for travellers – it’s also a wonderful treat, and retreat, for Londoners who want to truly indulge themselves with five-star king size beds, an amazing spa and astounding food.
The Landmark is, frankly, enormous. Its 300 rooms, 51 of which are suites, boast some of the largest dwellings in London hotel accommodation.
But its size is no hindrance to its charm. Rather, it is the type of building people lament, for they don’t build them like this anymore- a huge hulk of proper architecture, beautiful both outside and in.
And the pastiche of guests makes for intriguing people-watching during dinner or breakfast, whether it’s the Saudi businessmen with multiple phones and family members in tow or members of an unidentified rock band.
The Landmark is a relic which celebrates old-school chic. We all know London is a great city but the sheer comfort and opulence mean you could easily spend a couple of days happily holed up inside without wanting to take one step out.
Heavy carpets pad the corridors while bronze handrails and marble alcoves glimmer at every turn. Covings and cornices adorn the ceilings, which in turn support twinkling chandeliers. There is lavishness everywhere.
The original fittings remain in place at the hotel - the key to our room is a ‘proper’ metal one, although it is inserted into an electronic system. It is these small attentions to detail which sew up the overall feeling of old-antiquated charm. It feels very British and wholly romantic.
But the hotel is not without its mod cons. Our enormous suite (a bedroom, a living room and a bathroom, with shower and bath) has a cappuccino machine and two large flat screen televisions- one for the bedroom and one for the sitting area.
The décor of the rooms is neutral, light and airy. Our suite contrasted with the public areas of the hotel somewhat, which were much more ornate.
That’s not to say it wasn’t luxurious. The kingsize bed was incredibly comfortable and there was a well-stocked mini bar.
Two impressive marble sinks in the bathroom, complete with The White Company or Molton Brown toiletries, cemented the five-star feel.
The beds are certainly cosy enough to want to loll amongst the sheets all day but I’d recommend dragging yourself from your room and making your way to the health spa in the basement - a serene cocoon of treatment, sauna and steam rooms.
The 15m pool and Jacuzzi are surrounded by comfortable loungers to just lay and relax on.
Low lighting, soothing music and scented balms create a halcyon atmosphere. I defy anybody to remain stressed out here.
Guests swaddle themselves in fluffy robes and slippers to steal around quietly in their blissed-out states.
There is an extensive treatment list, from organic anti-ageing facials to body buffs and seaweed wraps.
I opted for the deep tissue massage, by Lucil, which was a treat. By its nature it did smart somewhat, but in a good way. I could feel, and moreover hear, the knots cracking out of my body.
It was done in a candle-lit room, with gentle music playing and no talking, in order to achieve maximum relaxation.
Post massage or treatment, catatonic guests can continue their quasi-hypnosis in a special rest area. The emphasis here is all on well-being and repose. It’s hard to believe that London is happening on the street outside.
Should you have forgotten any of your toiletries, the changing rooms have pretty much everything you may need - shampoo, conditioner, bodywash, flannels, ear buds, talc, deodorant…the list goes on.
Now, if you are going to lie around getting massages all day like some sort of Roman emperor then you may as well eat like one too, and the hotel’s restaurant does not disappoint.
What used to be a courtyard was turned into the Winter Garden in the 1920s. Palm trees yawn upwards to the arching glass roof, itself reaching towards the sky.
The open space and lightness of the setting makes it a pleasant, unstuffy place to enjoy some stunningly fine food and impeccable service.
I began with the lobster risotto, a juicy piece of heaven, which was followed by the best fillet steak I have ever eaten.
My partner opted for the veggie option of English pea soup with a main of open saffron ravioli filled with aged ricotta and asparagus. Full to the brim, we could only manage the selection of ice cream and sorbet for dessert but they were delicious all the same.
Our wine was a crisp Boulder Bank Road Sauvignon Blanc, at £39 a bottle. Non-hotel guests are welcomed for dinner- which cost around £120 for two with drinks.
Surely the best thing about eating at the hotel you are staying in, particularly if it is one of London’s finest, is knowing you have a mammoth bed less than one minute away.
Waking was a somewhat sad affair, marred by the simple fact that we had to leave. But not before a brilliant breakfast.
For £29 per person you can help yourself to the continental bar stocked with muesli, fruits, Danish pastries, muffins and smoked salmon to name a few, followed by a hot option.
This really is breakfast for a king- as well as the usual full English variations other options include freshly made American waffles, crayfish and asparagus tortillas, Cornish crab cakes and confit duck and egg.
Fed and watered to the highest standard, as we had been just hours before, we reluctantly exited our heavenly hideaway and stepped out into the whirr of London, hoping to one day return.
The Landmark is a member of Great Hotels of the World Luxury Collection. Rooms start from £207. For more information or to book, visit www.ghotw.com/hotel/home/landmark-london.htm or call 020 7380 3658.