The Good, The Bad & The Lovely – A Weekend at The Mondrian Hotel London
I do love a weekend away in a nice hotel. It’s so great to get a change of scene, a new venue and some culture in one fell swoop. Last month I stayed a night at The Mondrian on London’s redeveloped Bankside for my Birthday weekend. I’ve no shame in admitting that I was swayed at the time of booking by its photogenic credentials. Pictures of the award-winning bars with their bubblegum pink leather banquettes and 1920s cruise ship inspired colours and details, were well… captivating. Call it Machiavellian, but I knew at the time I could get some great photos for the blog out of this stay, as well as a nice weekend hopefully. I guess there are worse reasons for choosing to stay somewhere. 😉
- Entering the hotel in The Sea Containers building on London’s South Bank, is impressive. The back entrance is right by the Banksy Gallery and there’s an arresting giant blue link sculpture directly outside. The building itself has a copper overhang incorporated into the architecture of the building, which also extends to the interior – it’s both breathtaking and unusual.
- The noisy buzz coming from inside from The Sea Containers restaurant and Dandelyan Bar was exciting and palpable and hits you on entering the hotel lobby.
- There’s lots of art and installations to see inside – it’s visually arresting and fun. This place *knows’ that it’s cool.
- The front of the hotel, including the Dandelyan Bar and the restaurant, have large glass windows that overlook St.Pauls and the River Thames, so it’s excellent for watching the world go by.
- The Dandelyan Bar (voted the World’s best cocktail bar 2017 according to the prestigious Tales of The Cocktail Spirted Awards) was ambient and atmospheric in the evening with delicate botanical cocktails, friendly staff and low seductive lighting. Fun.
- Unfortunately all the nice vibes we felt on first arriving changed the moment we went to reception to check in. The service was underwhelming to say the least. The male receptionist was surly, unhelpful and dismissive. It was such a shame as this was our first real impression of the hotel staff and unfortunately not the last.
- We were promised a room a with a view for my birthday and the fact I was going to be doing a small review. No such view nor room materialised. Again why promise it if you can’t deliver? Just say ‘non’ at the point of asking – it’s ok, I can take it. The room we got was nice and overlooked the inner courtyard and the Oxo Tower and they did give us a token for two complimentary cocktails at the Dandelyan which was kind.
- The service at The Mondrian was muddled and disparate in general. We asked in the Dandelyan Bar if we could sit down for a drink and a sandwich or light bite on arrival. No such luck – all tables were taken for afternoon tea clients only and we should go to the Lounge area instead. Fair enough – a little disappointing, but we accepted this. We went to the Lounge Bar and asked a perfectly friendly and eager member of staff if they did a sandwich and coffee. Oh no, we don’t have sandwiches here – just a light lunch menu they said. Ok that will do we said. We looked at the menu he handed us and they did indeed have a sandwich. Oh well maybe something was lost in translation – it’s not a big deal. Now I know hotel food is expensive and that’s a given, but this was really on the high side for sourdough bread and a topping. Anyway, nothing really grabbed our attention to be honest, not even the sandwich ;). So we plumped for a coffee and some lime and soda. Both took an age to come and arrived separately. Even then the order was incorrect. It’s too boring to go into detail about this, so I’ll spare you.
- Being turned away from the Dandelyan Bar on arrival made us think that we should book a table there that night just in case we missed out on the award-winning experience. We ventured to the concierge and asked politely if we could book a table. This is where the confusion began. The whole thing was convoluted and contradictory. To start with the two concierges failed to even look up when we went to their desk (which was away and separate from the reception area). No other guests were waiting. It was so informal it could hardly be called ‘service’. I don’t even remember exactly what the lady said as it was so confusing and unclear. Although you couldn’t book in advance, she stated, she would call ahead and then let us know if we were unsuccessful! Ummm.. At this point we wondered if we were in some odd parallel dimension where your very existence within The Mondrian was an imposition on the staff. We gave up and went to our room. Later we got a note to say a table had been booked for us, despite them initially stating they couldn’t do this.
- A lack of clarity on just about everything seemed to be the norm. The hotel wasn’t welcoming in any way sadly. There were so many staff but so little real ‘service’. Aside from a friendly Middle Eastern operations manager and a super efficient waitress at the Dandelyan in the evening, the service at The Mondrian felt as if the staff were doing you a big favour. Such an oversight on their behalf as London is choc full of fantastic hotels all vying for business. Maybe it was a one-off and we visited the place on a bad day. However, I still maintain that one of the best hotels I’ve ever stayed in in the capital is the Sofitel St. James in London’s West End. The service was exceptional. It’s no surprise it’s a French owned Accor hotel, with a predominantly French staff working there. The hotel prides itself on its Gallic service culture, which is both friendly, professional and easy without being over familiar. It was a WORLD away from what we experienced at The Mondrian.
I’m certain I’m not being pompous, demanding nor churlish about the above. This aspect was disappointing. I’ve had the fortune of staying at many wonderful hotels during my career and also for leisure. I’ve also worked in hotels as a young woman (once you’ve waitressed for 100 covers at a busy hotel for breakfast – you can do anything!) The very notion of a great hotel is that NOTHING is too much for the staff. Once you get this vibe from said establishment, then you can relax and I think you actually become LESS demanding as a client. Get the guests’ backs up with an attitude from the off and that’s when the client starts to question everything.
Would you agree?
- The Mondrian’s location at Bankside on London’s South Bank. This newly developed area of the city is a dream to walk around. It feels like ‘old London’ for some reason – underground Victorian brick arches and lanes, many now being renovated and used as cafes, restaurants and shops. BUT juxtapose this with the latest architect designed glass behemoths and lots of well-known chains of and you have an exciting place to wander around. It feels quite European actually and reminded us of parts of Berlin.
- Wonderfully comfortable beds at The Mondrian and really great night’s sleep.
- A lunch at the acclaimed Thai/Burmese restaurant Kiln in Soho on the Saturday. It was worth the 45 minute wait to sit down and taste delicious food that’s pretty different to anything I’ve tasted and also super spicy. Watching the charismatic, showman-like chefs do their thing in the open galley kitchen was the ultimate theatre. YUM!
- A brunch the next day at Brown’s Brasserie near Butler’s Wharf was lovely and just what the doctor ordered. A straightforward, well-cooked and tasty vegetarian brunch with a breakfast cocktail was delivered with fabulous service in a chilled and friendly atmosphere.
Anyway thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read this! Would love to know your favourite hotels in London, the UK or anywhere in the world for that matter. Until next time! xx