Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Metropolitan Hotel, London

LONDON - My home-away-from home during my three-day stay in London has been the Metropolitan Hotel, a stylish modern hotel favored by rock bands and fashionistas that, remarkably, manages to be long on warmth and short on attitude.

Operated by Como Hotels and Resorts and opened in the mid-1990s, the Metropolitan is located on Old Park Lane, across from Hyde Park. It occupies a distinctive glassy cube amidst a cluster of hotels, including a highrise, fortress-like Hilton, an InterContinental and a Four Seasons (currently closed for remodeling). The original Hard Rock Cafe is a block away. The Green Park and Hyde Park Corner tube stations are walking distance from the hotel. COMO also runs the delightful Halkin Hotel in London, and the Metropolitan Hotel in Bangkok.

I had a comfortable third-floor room overlooking busy, busy Park Lane and the eastern edge of Hyde Park. The usual joggers, dog walkers and horse riders have been joined by a temporary 'Winter Wonderland' exhibition of shops and night time lights put up for the season. My guestroom had a spacious bathroom with separate tub and shower, a nice, long desk, comfortable bed and free Internet hook-up - a boon for the traveler, especially a business traveler like me. Small surprises await in the desk drawer: A package labeled Indulgences includes, among other things, a mini-vibrator and a condom. Hey, the Metropolitcan cares, and wants you to have a good time.

But while the guestrooms are comfortable and large for London, the Metropolitan sells more than rooms. Indeed, the hotel is a favored haunt of Londoners as well as visitors. The capital's first Nobu restaurant is on the property, dishing up nouveau Japanese cuisine, and the Met Bar is a frequent venue for parties and events. Jo James, the hotel's high-energy public relations person, told me it had originally been conceived as a whisky bar, but evolved into a private members bar. The Met Bar often invites people it has in mind to become members, but travelers can become members, too, James said. After 9 pm, the bar is members-only, though anyone can have a drink in the spacious, welcoming lobby at virtually any hour.

Indeed, activity at the Metropolitan goes on pretty much 24/7, as it is a favorite of night owls. When I did a late check-in shortly after 11 p.m. on a Wednesday upon my arrival from Lisbon, the Met Bar was going full-blast and a number of other travelers were checking in and out, too. To ease the stress from all this activity, the hotel offers its spa program, Shambala, which James describes as not just about pampering yourself, but detoxifying the body and building a healthy lifestyle through nutrition, yoga and other types of work-outs.

Modern, of-the-moment hotels often age badly and date quickly, but this does not seem to have happened with the Metropolitan. It is still a very popular, lively hotel that has kept its edge in an intensely trend-conscious metropolis.

For more information: Web: Telephone: 011 44 20 7447 1000.

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