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Suite Staycation: Raffles London At The OWO

In our newest column – Suite Staycation – hotel expert and author of British Boutique Hotels, Gina Jackson, tours some of the best hotel suites in the UK. Next up, Raffles London at The OWO.

Best for… History Buffs

Presiding over Whitehall and just minutes from Buckingham Palace, this gargantuan behemoth of a hotel occupies the very same building that housed Britain’s former Old War Office. 

Give us the lowdown

Raffles London

A Grade II listed palatial pad that formed the headquarters for the British military and civil service, history has quite literally been made within its storied walls: it’s here that Winston Churchill called the shots during WWII, and Ian Fleming first devised the James Bond series. Acquired from the British government in 2016, the building has since been painstakingly restored – and a cool £1.4 billion renovation later, the doors to London’s most extravagant new hotel gently opened last year, marking luxury hotel group Raffles’ first foray on English soil. No expense or detail has been overlooked: a flock of uniformed team members will usher you inside; straight ahead, a sweeping, showstopper staircase is cloaked in rich red carpet and crafted from Italian marble, with a shimmering Murano glass chandelier suspended from the domed ceiling above it. At your feet, checkered corridors span out in every direction, leading to a multitude of spots to wine, dine, and discover.

What’s in the suite?

Mosaicked corridors lead to a warren of bedrooms upstairs (120 in total), each designed by interior hotshot Thierry Despont. I checked into one of the Ministerial Suites on the second floor, where handsome Edwardian details shine through: gleaming mahogany panelling and soaring ceilings are offset with cream-coloured fabrics and tartan checks, with sweeping views onto Whitehall below. Pass through a spacious sitting room to reach the bedroom, dressing room, and marble-clad bathroom, all of which are kitted out with discreetly tucked-away tech: an iPad to scroll through the hotel’s offerings, generous flat-screen TVs (there’s even one inside my bathroom mirror so I can watch from the bathtub), and clever switches to easily adjust the ambient lighting and blackout blinds. Lather up with Azzi Glasser soaps and body lotions (along with a signature scent specifically crafted for The OWO), and rummage through the complimentary minibar, which is stocked with treats. Looking to splash out? Of the hotel’s 39 suites, the most sought-after hideaways overlook neighbouring Horse Guards Parade, and are named after Britain’s leading politicians and military leaders.

How’s the crowd? 

No expense has been spared restoring the building to its former glory, meaning that a sleepover at London’s most luxurious new address requires splurging – at this price point, you’ll find a mostly international crowd staying overnight, ranging from families to those on fleeting business visits. In the evenings, a more local crowd filters through the hotel’s various restaurants and bars.

Where can we eat and drink?

With nine different spots to wine and dine under the same roof, gourmands will be spoiled for choice. Michelin-starred chef Mauro Colagreco (of Mirazur fame) helms three of the hotel’s restaurants, including a self-named fine dining destination, where seasonal tasting menus revolve around British vegetables, and Saison, a Mediterranean all-day dining restaurant situated in the building’s former library. It’s here that breakfast is served for hotel guests; expect an elegant buffet of homemade pastries, ranging from flakey croissants to warm madeleines and accompanied by artfully arranged breakfast bagels and eggs – all served among the restaurant’s muralled walls and pistachio-green banquettes. Still hungry? Sink into The Drawing Room for afternoon tea, or graze on plant-based salads at Pillar Kitchen. Come evening, sink a tipple at The Guards Bar, or at the mysterious Spy Bar, the hotel’s hidden, residents-only hangout behind a locked door in the basement. 

Any stand-out touches?

Raffles London

Head to the hotel’s Guerlain spa (the first of its kind in the UK) to feel entirely renewed. Stretched out over four floors, beauty lounges for hair and makeup treatments sit alongside plant-based cafe Pillar Kitchen on the ground floor. Descend to the soothing treatment rooms below for restorative body therapies, before discovering the wellness centre helmed by Pillar Wellbeing, which encompasses a state-of-the-art gym, and movement studios for working up a sweat. End with a circuit of the 20-metre indoor pool, plus sauna and steam rooms.

What’s on the to-do list?

You’re in prime location for sightseeing, with heavy hitters such as Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey all a short stroll away – and in the other direction, the eclectic boutiques and buzzy theatres of Covent Garden beckon. Or take a leisurely boat ride across the river and pootle along the South Bank towards Tate Modern.

What else should we know before we go?

History buffs should join the complimentary history tour of the hotel, led daily by one of Raffles’ expert butlers; as part of the tour, you may be able to peek into some of the most exquisite suites, many of which have unique features referencing the politicians and notable characters that they are named after.

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