Enter the St Ermin's Hotel, through its recently restored, set back garden entrance you are confronted with the amazing fantasy of the curvaceous grand staircase and swirling rococco plasterwork wherever you look. Is this a hotel lobby or a Victorian opera house?
Not a surprising impression when you consider the hotel's interiors - this grand lobby and several impressive ballrooms - were originally designed by London theatrical designer J.P. Briggs, who was also responsible for the York Grand Opera House, Doncaster Grand Theatre and Tunbridge Wells Opera House.
The St Ermin's decor, a combination of Art Nouveau, music hall baroque and rococco, with hints of Art Deco - pretty much everything a turn of the 20th century designer could throw at it - must have been eye-popping in its day.
But time, and the hotel's slightly off the beaten path location, took their toll. The St Ermin's is close to the heart of tourist London - Westminster Cathedral, Big Ben, Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Horse Guards, St James's Park - but not obviously so. Tucked behind Victoria Street, across from Scotland Yard and the headquarters of the London Underground, it was out of sight out of mind in a quiet corner of London even many Londoners don't know about. By the 21st century, it had become a shabby shadow of its designers' grand plans, a stop-over on cheap package tours with a bar used by local office workers.
New Look, New Lease of Life
Now, following a change of ownership, the hotel has undergone a £30 million revamp and refresh. Sporting a newly earned 4-star status, the St Ermin's management promised modern luxury in an environment that, nevertheless maintained all the hotel's character features. With room prices that, while not cheap, are fair for such a central location, and two-bathroom family rooms available, the St Ermin's seemed worth a look. We decided to drop in for a bit of a snoop.