As hotel locations go, central London is always going to have bragging rights. But this Grade I-listed Victorian building has an extra special spot: overlooking the Thames, it has views across The Strand, including the London Eye and Golden Jubilee Bridge.
Its Whitehall address means it’s firmly ingrained into London’s history. It was once the headquarters of MI6, and rumour has it Winston Churchill used the hotel’s underground tunnels to get from the House of Lords to his personal bar, taking after-work drinks to a new level.
A man in top hat and tails greets us at the entrance, swinging open the door to a reception full of crystal chandeliers and plush furniture – and as soon as the door shuts behind us, the noisy street seems a world away from this sanctuary of calm.
Room for romance
Near the top of the nine-story hotel was our Executive King room. A luxurious nest above the swarm of tourists and taxis, it’s well worth upgrading to a riverside view for the people-watching alone. And after dark, when the London Eye is lit up with coloured lights and the buildings are bathed in gold, you’ll have a prime viewing place to see it all.
Although it’s decorated in a traditional theme, this is a high-tech hotel. In the bathroom, there’s underfloor heating and a flatscreen TV built into the wall, so that you can watch while you relax in a Jacuzzi bath full of Elemis products. All the information you’ll need, plus your bill, is on the room’s iPad – handy if you like to keep track of what you’re spending or buzz the concierge through their very own app.
As part of the Romance Package, which runs all year, chocolates and champagne on ice awaited us. But if you have the discipline, save them until after the evening turndown service, when you’ll find sprinkled petals on the bed and bath.
Wine and dine
The newly refurbished Equus Bar echos the gentlemen’s club atmosphere of the past, with cocktails named after the hotel’s distinguished former guests. I was tempted to get into role by ordering The Churchill – a smoky-flavoured drink made with tobacco liqueur – however, I kept things ladylike with a French 75 champagne cocktail.
The One Twenty One Two restaurant may get its name from its former neighbour Scotland Yard’s phone number: Whitehall 12012, but the two AA rosette-winning restaurant is strictly contemporary when it comes to food. A procession of artistic dishes appeared for our seven-course tasting menu. Delicious twists on traditional meals, the highlight was a beef wellington, deconstructed to a circle of tender rare beef sitting on a pancake and topped with mushrooms and shallots.
The service was warm and attentive, and the best part was the waiter’s passion for wine and complementary flavours. He eagerly recommended the perfect glass for every dish and we sipped our way around the world.
Breakfast in bed – another perk of the Romance Package – meant we could stuff our faces with minimal effort in the morning, rolling out of bed to eat at the table in our fluffy robes and slippers.
The Romance Package is available all year and includes a stay for two, champagne in your room, a turndown service and leisurely breakfast in bed for £269.
The Royal Horseguards, 2 Whitehall Court, Whitehall, London SW1A 2EJ