Right at the heart of London’s historic political centre, the Intercontinental Westminster makes sure guests know where they are. The busts of political figures in the public spaces nod to the proximity of the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, and the rich history of this area. A general ambience of timeless luxury suggests the hotel might have stood here, happily unchanged, for as long as the neighbouring Ministry of Justice.
Dexter Moren Associates’ six year redesign of this space is slick and clever: a porte cochère was built within the existing facade, so guests arrive in an atrium with a triangular glass skylight. The finishing is modern and meticulous. If you rock up jetlagged from a 15 hour flight, it’s exactly the kind of disco-free lobby that you want to arrive in.
When we travel, 90% of the time it’s to set up a temporary satellite office, so with that in mind we really like the rooms at the InterContinental London Westminster. Decorated in warm tones of biscuit and amber, they are comfortable and functional, geared towards guests with work to be getting on with: the layout of the studio suites allows for a business ‘snug’ in one corner, while the overall aesthetic suggests refined office space rather than a sanctuary from the city’s bustle. We think these spaces make for an immaculate base in which to work – or to relax, after a day of meetings, beneath a generous rain shower stocked with indulgent Molton Brown products.
Quality dining options in this area are few and far between, so we think that the on-site Blue Boar Smokehouse is a boon. The vast room could be intimidating, but soft lighting makes it friendlier – while the bronzed boar heads on the walls stop it being too safe and sanitised. The menu (for carnivores at least) is extensive and impressive: charred, sticky meat – and lots of it – is at the heart of executive chef Jon Ingram’s menu. The Blue Boar’s signature fillet steak with stuffed oyster and wild mushrooms velouté is rich and impressive. We recommend pairing it with a robust 2008 Pommard. Other standouts include sticky baby back ribs infused with an earthen, wood-smoked flavour, and succulent beef carpaccio.
On the experience of evenings spent here so far, we recommend sticking with house specials. Deviate, and there are a couple of missteps: on a recent visit a whole seabass came pleasingly crisp-skinned, but its delicate flavour was overwhelmed by colossal amounts of samphire and fennel. Perhaps we were being provocative by choosing a vegetarian option from so meat-centric a menu, but a limp filo parcel of apple, beetroot and chestnut suggests a kitchen that is confident that diners won’t stray far from the Blue Boar’s classic American-style smokehouse repertoire. Some novel flavour combinations in desserts – including homemade praline-stuffed doughnuts and spiced pear with chestnut parfait – delighted and excited us in equal measure.
This is a hotel that knows its clientele. The luxury here is of a very familiar, comfortable sort – pleasingly conservative, in fact. But there’s just the occasional hint at the subversive too. Note the name of the Intercontinental’s dining room, Emmeline’s – named for the suffragette Mrs Pankhurst. We are particularly taken with the work that art curator Peter Millard has assembled for the lobby: from Chris Orr’s intricate panels of chaos to Evil Robot Designs’ sculpture, Parliament – a resin-based, steampunk, menacing cartoon piece worthy of Terry Gilliam, reinterpreting the House of Commons as something intergalactic, populated by Star Wars and Doctor Who characters, as well as Gollum, Shrek, King Kong and Buzz Lightyear. C
InterContinental London Westminster, 28 Broadway, London SW1H