REVIEW: South Place Hotel, London
This luxurious hideaway - the first purpose built hotel to open in City of London for over a century - is chic, comfortable and gastronomically ravishing
Once working from home had become the norm for the majority of the British workforce, one of the greatest changes this new era spawned was the relocation of many professionals, from living in the commuter belt to rural beauty spots. But now that companies are recalling their staff to offices across the land, these workers who had once enjoyed the sweet bucolic freedom during lockdown are now staring down marathon commutes into work.
With this grim future in mind, I took it upon myself to scout out the best hotel in London at which these professionals could potentially call home for a couple of nights a week - a place defined by both exuberant luxuries and homely comforts one would require. And for me, nothing beats the South Place Hotel.
This spectacular hiding hole is a luxury boutique hotel (the first from restaurateurs D&D London) located in Moorgate, where the hip East End meets the frenetic City of London. Designed by Conran & Partners, it boasts 80 bedrooms, a spa, a gym, five bars and two restaurants, one being the greatly acclaimed Michelin-starred Angler. What's more, it is the only independent luxury hotel in the City of London, and the first purpose built hotel to open in The Square Mile for over a century.
All rooms in the hotel are individually designed and furnished, featuring a low-lit monotone design for a calming yet chic touch. Each is also replete with all the crucial amenities one would expect from a hotel of this stature; a king-size bed, a marble bathroom with a luxuriously deep bathtub, a Nespresso machine, a large working desk, floor to ceiling windows and unique artwork on each wall.
During my time at the hotel, I was lucky enough to have a couple of hours spare before my booking at Angler, and so made full use of the leisure facilities on the first floor. I was able to build up an appetite in the state of the art gym (open 24 hours a day) before treating myself to some pure indulgence in the Spa and Wellness centre, in the form of a steam, sauna and an ‘experience shower’, with three separate rainfall settings designed to soothe and revive.
Having freshened up and changed into my best regalia, it was time to head to the rooftop terrace to sample the Michelin-starred delights of Executive Chef Gary Foulkes and his team. The terrace was absolutely stunning with gorgeous panoramic views of iconic City landmarks such as the The Gherkin and Salesforce Tower, and yet these views were about to be surpassed by the genius culinary creations coming out of the kitchen.
Angler specialises in seafood with its ever changing menu featuring only the best seasonal and carefully sourced produce, while Faulkes has over two decades experience working in Michelin-starred restaurants globally, and his food draws perfectly on his experience. My culinary journey started with his take on the traditional breadbasket, which as you can imagine from his kitchen, did not in anyway resemble the sourdough that you usually receive to kickstart your meal. Instead, I was presented with four perfectly uniform mini angler stout breads covered in lashings of freshly grated parmesan, served with a caramelised yeast and malt butter and a vintage champagne to pair.
Then came a trio of Amuse-bouches; prawn and squid ink cracker, smoked cod’s roe with espelette pepper, crispy pork brawn with a barbecued apple ketchup, and a wild garlic, caramelised onion and Beaufort tart. As per the literal translation, an amuse-bouche’s purpose is there to both amuse the palette and foreshadow a small sample of the techniques and flavours that the chef will showcase throughout his menu. In this case they were so sumptuous that I need not have sampled any more of the menu before casting my judgement. This restaurant is known for its impeccable seafood, and we were we treated to waves of it; a sea bass tartare with oyster cream, green apple and shisho, a dish inspired by Gary’ travels in Japan, was matched note for note by the hand-picked Devon crab with Hass avocado, wasabi and finger lime.
Faulkes’ ability to perfectly balance a classical dish with new and innovative techniques and flavours from the Far East elevates his dishes to a whole new level, creating flavour profiles the likes of which I had never sampled before. The seafood kept on coming, with a delectable Orkney scallop dish served with Bouillabaisse, black garlic aioli and olive oil, a dish that had the power to transfer you from an overcast evening in London to the beaches of the Mediterranean with just one mouthful.
Then suddenly, a delicious red wine from southern Italy arrived at our table, which meant surely that the seafood parade had finally come to an end and it was time for some meat. Cumbrian Lamb, seared to perfection on the outside and perfectly rare in the middle, served with summer courgette, aged balsamic and new season garlic. After serving the greatest carousel of seafood I have ever eaten, it takes some mastered art to then create a meat dish to match, but this is all within a day's work for the incredible chefs at Angler.
It was then time for the sommelier to bring over a gorgeous English sparkling dessert wine, which delivered the pastry chef the perfect stage to prove that the sweets created in the kitchen could match the previous creations, and lo, the trio of puddings served to us that evening were beyond comparison. Crushed roasted peach served with lemon thyme, yoghurt and pink praline, Fiorini figs served with fig leaf ice cream, blossom honey and olive oil, and then a delectable Black Forest tart served with cherries, dark chocolate and cherry blossom ice cream. If it was allowed in such an establishment (especially during covid times) I would have marched into the kitchens and shaken every chef by the hand.
I have been lucky enough to eat at the tables of some of the greatest chefs in this country, but for me, Faulkes' tasting menu surpassed anything I have ever tasted.
So how does one round off an evening full of such elative highs? I personally found myself with a nightcap in the form of a Negroni in the Secret Garden, the hotels enchanting outdoor terrace, complete with waterfalls and palm trees, before escaping into my exquisite king-size bed and dreaming about my wondrous dinner.
Whether it be to treat yourself to the riches of Angler, relax and unwind in the Spa, or create a home from home in the City of London; there is no better place to rest your head than the South Place, an hotel that truly has something for everyone.
The Ultimate Staycation costs from £449 per room, including one nights’ accommodation, welcome cocktail, six-course tasting menu, breakfast, brunch at Coq d’Argent, chef amenity on arrival, bath amenity, turndown service and unlimited bicycle use.