REVIEW: DORSETT CITY LONDON, UK
A new addition to the city’s skyline in the last year, Dorsett City London has a lot to shout about but does so with finesse and subtlety. Features Editor Sophie Harper took a trip to the new build to find out how the hotel’s slight stature still manages to soar above other structures in the vicinity.
Tucked away from the throngs of bustling city nightlife, bright lights, noisy bars and clubs sits the clean and sleek streets of Aldgate’s business hub. Smart suits and polished leather shoes pummel the pavements during rush hour until lunchtime interrupts the day with a more casual vibe, when ties are left abandoned at desks, sleeves are rolled up, and weary bodies recline in the sunshine with pages of the FT providing sufficient head-shade for an afternoon doze…
Between green areas and tree-lined streets, a welcoming new building stands proudly next to the historic Grade 1 listed church of St Botolph without Aldgate, an 18th century church building made of brick with stone quoins and an obelisk spire. The church’s new neighbour is unassuming on first glance. It fits its surroundings perfectly with its smart but uncomplicated appearance yet manages at the same time to present itself with a friendlier façade when compared to other buildings in the area. This is perhaps helped by the ground floor restaurant on one side of the building, which is softened with relaxed tables and chairs dotted outside the big, open windows.
Working with luxury hotel developer Dorsett Hospitality International, Dexter Moren Associates (DMA) were appointed to deliver the structure and reconfigure the interior architecture for the new Dorsett City London in Aldgate – the second Dorsett hotel to open in the UK. Based on the original planning approved design, DMA were able to restructure certain elements of the new build, giving it a more usable layout and obtaining planning permission for a fantastic rooftop bar extension. Along with a 24-hour fitness suite, executive lounge area, four meeting rooms, and two restaurants, the hotel offers guest accommodation of 267 rooms set across 13 floors.
The project, it seems, faced a number of different challenges: one of the major issues being the floor-to-floor height of just 2,650mm, which is incredibly low for a hotel – the problem being planning concerns about the overall height of the hotel in relation to the listed church building next to it. This meant DMA having to work closely with the MEP engineers to not only ensure that ceiling heights were suitable for the hotel space, but that resulting issues, including acoustic problems caused by the finished floor levels, were resolved. Happily, the end result is a contemporary hotel that oozes style in a subtle manner and that manages to blend function and design quite effortlessly.
As you walk through the main doors and into the hotel’s reception area, you’re first met by a comfortable lounge-come-waiting area, with inviting looking colourful loungers strewn with cushions in the sort of fabric that has to be touched. Chunky dark columns stand guard of the large reception desk, where great swirls of gold circles add glamorous detailing to the whole area. Marble-style flooring finishes off the overall elegance of the entrance before leading customers through double doors to the ground floor restaurant.
The main restaurant, billed as VQ Aldgate, is an open and welcoming space with a large bar area at one end. The flamboyance of the hotel lobby is in contrast to this laidback dining area as a far more casual space. Dark wood-effect tiles pave the way to an open floor plan with cosy leather booths dotted around the room. Walls clad in dark colours and familiar textures add to the feel of warmth without compromising on style, and an industrial-style ceiling brings a sense of youth and playfulness to a restaurant that, reassuringly, doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Deep reds, rich mahoganies, and cloudy greys work perfectly in this space with golden touches highlighting just a few simple features. Cylindrical light fittings line the central seating area while small booth lighting and large honeycomb shades brighten up darker spots.
Back through to the lobby and a dedicated lift takes visitors to the very top of the building, where the hotel’s crowning glory takes pride of place – the Jin Bo Law Skybar. Having won planning permission separately to the rest of the build, the skybar was only unveiled this summer, much to the delight of everyone involved. Tying it in with the hotel’s signature gold theme, the skybar glistens with beautiful detailing throughout with the bar itself ensconced in a fabulous curved overhead golden trellis. A smooth grey and white marble bar top links seamlessly to the flooring, and geometric tiles in charcoals and light ash tones bring everything together.
The most delightful thing about the Jin Bo Law Skybar though has to be the view (the clue’s in the name). Visitors can simply take their cocktail, which will likely be infused with several unfamiliar sounding ingredients and topped with fresh passion fruit and lemongrass, and step through open doors onto the wooden-decked verandah for the most spectacular panoramic views of London’s iconic skyline. Not only do customers get an up-close look at the historic features of St Botolph, but of a number of famous landmarks including the Gherkin, the Walkie Talkie, Tower Bridge, and in the distance, the Shard. On a sunny day the view is just breathtaking but stay until nightfall and enjoy an entirely different viewing experience – it’s magical.
With a number of guest rooms allowing for various budgets, the design is consistent and the mod cons are generous throughout. Every room has an LG TV, Sonos speakers, and Kube Systems clock radio with charging points. There’s even a smartphone included in the package, meaning guests can look up various local attractions without using up their own data allowances or wracking up big bills to call home, although of course WiFi is available too. Suites offer sling back chairs and comfortable lounge furniture for when guests want to relax without climbing into bed, and dual-aspect floor-to-ceiling windows frame that exquisite London skyline view perfectly in rooms on the hotel’s upper levels. Guest bathrooms are made up of clean lines and warm marble finishes with hints of creams and soft chestnuts, and sizeable mirrors sit atop smart vanity units set opposite well-proportioned bathtub and shower enclosures.
Given its city centre location and the limit on ceiling height, guest rooms still feel roomy and don’t bare the brunt of any form of compromise. Built-in wardrobe space is large enough for any length of stay, floor space is generous enough, and the elegant Chinese furniture is a far nicer addition and more appropriate than more cumbersome units would be in this space.
The four-star hotel is nothing short of exemplary. And it’s not difficult to see where the Chinese developers have spent their £36 million. With clever design, both architecturally and aesthetically, the hotel feels luxurious whilst still being accessible, opting for exuberance and style over exclusivity, which channels down to the hotel staff too, who couldn’t do more to put customers at ease. But the best bit, without question, just has to be that gorgeous rooftop bar.