Perfect for honeymooners in the capital – or for a pre-wedding luxury trip – Hilton Bankside offers modern luxury, impeccable cuisine and south side cool
Words by Libby Norman
London is always alluring, and needs no introduction, but the sights and sounds on the south bank of the Thames are different, offering a fresh perspective on the capital. Our home for the weekend is the penthouse suite at Hilton Bankside, meaning we are a short walk from the pleasure palace Tate Modern and a string of other jewels along this stretch of the Thames. And this is also impeccably connected with bridges and a choice of stations within a short walk.
After dropping our car with the valet parking team, we walk into a cool and modern space, already buzzing with weekenders and business travellers staying on for an extra day. It feels new, but with a sense of this area’s industrial past in the design – all polished concrete, exposed beams and sympathetic lighting.
“The penthouse feels on top of the world – it’s more like our own private apartment than a hotel room”
We are swiftly checked in and handed our pass to the upper floors and the main event, a suite in London’s chicest quarter. While the hotel itself is relatively low-rise, our fourth floor penthouse feels on top of the world – and it’s more like our own private apartment than a hotel. It has a book-lined corridor leading through to large living space with floor-to-ceiling windows. There’s a functional-chic kitchen area (plus fridge packed with complimentary snacks) and outside a deck with sofas. While the weather isn’t conducive to lounging outside, we admire the roof-garden meadow and painted working beehives created by London jeweller Alex Monroe.
Most of all, this is a space to stretch out in and relax. The vast photo artwork on one wall opens up to reveal a huge flat-screen TV. Should we just stay here all weekend, we wonder, because the sofas do look so inviting? An hour or so later we’ve navigated our space, including finding the marvellous marble bathroom that leads off the bedroom.
We decide we can’t stay in, however tempting, so head down to the spa and gym to check out the pool – designed for laps but also with loungers around it for the less healthfully inclined. Having done our duty, we stop off for a snack in the executive lounge. There are fires and an awesome serve-yourself banquet of tasty things along one wall – high life indeed. After a swift snack of smoked salmon and prawn open sandwiches and a craft beer, we take a short stroll to do some sightseeing in Tate Modern’s lofty Turbine Hall. We can’t stay too long as we have reservations in the hotel’s adjoining OXBO Bankside restaurant.
“There are fires and an awesome serve-yourself banquet of snacks – high life indeed”
OXBO Bankside and The Distillery turn out to be the surprise of the weekend. Busy with drinkers and diners, these are fantastic places to revisit – penthouse room or not. Like the hotel, they draw on references to this area’s industrial past.
The design of The Distillery shows the cool hand of Dexter Moren Associates and Twenty2degrees. We admire the penny wall – a reminder that it’s rumoured that a secret Bank of England coin warehouse was once on this spot. The rest of the space is a mix of retro and modern – lots of reminders of the Victorian perfume and essence factory that is known to have been here. Gin is big on the drinks menu, and we take our time choosing from the 50 plus on offer.
Then we are ushered next door to OXBO. A vast open kitchen along one wall shows the business end of the restaurant and it smells so good. We’ve got something of a quandary since I feel in a fishy mood and my companion has to have one of the restaurant’s speciality steaks. But the super-helpful sommelier helps out with an Italian red, which suits our choices and palates perfectly. Executive chef Paul Bates and his team don’t disappoint. My seared scallops with palm hearts are a golden combination while my partner opts for roasted beetroot with Cornish Yarg cheese (he’s saving himself for steak). He declares the fillet that arrives the best since Buenos Aires, while my roasted cod with caper and egg butter sauce hits the spot perfectly. Finishing with a raspberry crème brûlée and apple mousse may have been a course too far, but we console ourselves with the thought that two huge sofas await us in the penthouse.
The next morning we manage a return visit for a hearty breakfast – OXBO is big on breakfasts with both diners and locals – and then regretfully hand back the key card to our room. We conclude that Hilton Bankside has everything you could want for a home base in London. It’s cool but friendly, totally luxurious and offers the best of old and new in the capital’s most exciting quarter.