ith London’s cultural offering has finally returned to 11 and with the release season approaching, now is the perfect time to revisit Sea Containers London.
It’s glam, vibrant and perfectly placed, slap-bang in the middle of the South Bank action. A dead certificate for a lively winter weekend mini-break.
Between the Blackfriars Bridge and the Oxo Tower, you can’t miss the huge Brutalist building with “sea containers” sporting lights on top. The Tate Modern (turn right out of the hotel, straight onto the Thames Path) and the National Theater (turn left) are both within walking distance along the waterfront.
The hotel opened as Mondrian in 2014 before being sold and renamed Sea Containers London in 2019, but Tom Dixon’s original interiors remain largely the same. The most famous is the ship’s hull, resplendent in copper and dominating the hall; a nod to the history of the building as the headquarters of a shipping company. The designer’s brief sounds like a puzzle: 1970s concrete on the outside, 1920s transatlantic cruise liner on the inside, but it works.
It’s not subtle – gold portholes in the washrooms, a giant blue sculpture inspired by a sailor’s knot planted in the lobby, the staff decked out in striped tops – but it’s a lot of fun. And as you would expect from Dixon, aka the King of Lamps, the lighting is a highlight – or literally a weak spot in the case of the row of moody ground spots that guide you around the curve. of the hull. It’s not that you need the lights to guide you anywhere, as these striped staff couldn’t be more helpful and friendly – it’s star service along the way. I had my two kids in tow and despite the sleek, grown-up atmosphere they were greeted with open arms, over-careful, and thrilled to find brownies and board games waiting for them in our room.
We gulped down champagne, ceviche tacos and macaroni and cheese in the downstairs restaurant, which was packed on a Saturday night, with domestic tourists celebrating Christmas and a bunch of Londoners propping up the bar. Next door is the Lyaness Cocktail Bar, designed by mega mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana (formerly known as Dandelyan), with its sexy ocean-blue Art Deco seating and even sexier drink list. Views of the river are quite impressive from the ground floor, with St Paul’s bald head glistening in the moonlight, but for the full City of London experience, whip up to the 12 rooftop bar.e Tie.
We were back at the restaurant a few hours later for a breakfast buffet which was good, although a few other cooked items would have been welcome – given the American, fancy feel of the place, a pancake or two. wouldn’t hurt. Maybe we should have waited a few hours instead for the bottomless brunch.
With Somerset House right across Waterloo Bridge, the hotel’s Get Your Skates On package (from £ 285) is a good bet and lasts until January 16 – it includes B&B, skating tickets ( they reserve it for you) and comfy socks to line your boots up. After struggling on the ice for an hour while being chuckled by patrons at the champagne bar overlooking the ice rink, we made our way to the Beano Exhibit, also at Somerset House. It’s a tumultuous joy, exploring the theme of breaking the rules and including works by artists inspired by their childhood comics. You definitely don’t have to be an adult to enjoy this one.
Back at the hotel, there is a secret Curzon cinema in the basement, accessible through the lobby and showing movies on weekends. We found a vintage video game machine there and introduced the kids to the joys of Pac Man and Space Invaders: “It’s like the Fortnite of old.”
There’s also a spa, sorry “spa playground,” which maintains the glamorous and indulgent vibe. There’s champagne on the treatment menu and you might spot Olly Alexander – he is apparently a fan of the ‘nap room’.
There are 359 to choose from, ranging from a Standard Suite (from £ 229) to a Balcony Suite (from £ 479). We had a double, deluxe double; a family room with two double beds. I think it’s fair to say that most of Sea Containers’ energy, budget and effort has gone into common areas rather than bedrooms. They’re perfectly usable – pristine marble bathrooms, Malin + Goetz beauty products, and, again, superlative lighting (a decent makeup light in the bathroom, chic lamps for mood lighting elsewhere) – but the rooms are definitely more sober and less 5 star than the rest of the hotel.
I wasn’t a big fan of the gray color palette with pops of magenta. But I wonder if that really matters – the point here is location, location, location. If you are camping in your room with so much cocktails to sip and so much culture to soak up within a 30 second radius of the hotel, you need to talk to yourself. One important thing to note though: definitely request a river view. About a third of the rooms are equipped with it.
Couples or groups of friends looking to immerse themselves in cocktails. Families who want to make the right sightseeing in London. Anyone who wants to spend a weekend immersed in art and culture.
There is parking under the hotel (but no EV charging points); alternatively, Blackfriars Station and Southwark Station are both an 8-minute walk away.