In summer 2021, rumours of a world-first super boutique hotel started to make their way into the media. Fast forward to 2022, and The Londoner has been frequented by anyone who’s anyone, hosting celebrities, runway shows and British Vogue parties. So, what exactly is a super boutique hotel? Well, this new crowning jewel of London’s hotel scene spans across a whopping 16 floors and it has plenty to boast about including two Odeon cinemas, a spa, swimming pool, gym, beauty salon and a barber, alongside plenty of food and drink outlets like Joshua’s Tavern (have been here already and can confirm it’s brilliant) and Whitcomb’s, not to mention 8 at The Londoner that I gladly received (and naturally accepted) an invite for.
Swanning past the Leicester Square McDonalds where many resident Londoners have frequented after a questionable night at Piccadilly Institute, it’s fair to say that the presence of The Londoner is sleek from the off, especially given its commercial surroundings. Passing the threshold of the grand building and providing our reservation details, we were swiftly guided to a scented elevator where we zoomed up to 8 at The Londoner and the hotel’s Shima Garden. Unique and unlike anything in the capital, the design of this terrace takes a stance of its own with claddings of leafy foliage, oversized plump cushions that act as luxury bean bags and a roaring fire pit encased by glass with a suspended rope feature that draws the eye towards the centre of the room.
Taking inspiration from the izakayas of Japan (which, when translated means stay-drink-place), this rooftop truly is a place of refuge from the bustling streets below, but rest assured it’ll cost you a pretty penny for the privilege. One more key feature of note - which I, unfortunately, didn’t get to witness due to abysmal weather conditions (thanks Britain) - is the retractable roof that disappears on more balmy evenings, lifting the lid to the capital’s sky.
Signature cocktails at the Shima Garden are sizzled down to one page; broken up into martini, sparkling, on ice and non-alcoholic. The rest of the menu focuses on other stereotypical titles with the unsurprising addition of Japanese whiskey and sake. Enticed enough by the Espresso Goma to sacrifice a good night’s sleep - Hojicha vodka, espresso, amari seaweed, kokuto sugar sesame, black cynar Montenegro (£18) - I’ll bill it as one of the most interesting takes on the drink to date. The dark liquid was tiled by a frothy head that came elegantly garnished with an edible triangular shard of sesame seeds and sugary syrup. Next up, the Barrel-Aged Old Fashioned (£22). Expertly mixing Yamazaki 12 year, Hibiki Harmony, Hakushu, Woodford Reserve rye and a barrel/chocolate/orange bitter blend, this was one of the best old fashioneds I’ve had in a long, long time. Rich and well rounded with an edible wax coin of chocolate, this Japanese twist on the classic came served in geometric glassware that elevated the drinking experience.
8 at The Londoner has a separate menu for its Shima Garden, so if you want the full Japanese dining experience you’ll need to book a table. But what they do provide in their leafy abode is an elegant selection of sharing plates that complement the drinks. To tie us over after a long day at the office, we ordered the A5 wagyu with truffle chilli dressing (£30). Five slices of premium pink beef came generously sprinkled with scallions, in a dark pool of chilli dressing. The sea bass carpaccio (£11), on the other hand, offered a refreshing greeting to our palates after the rich flavour of the beef, with mini dollops of purred Fuji apple and matchstick cuttings of crunchy radish at the epicentre of the plate. The grilled lobster gyoza (£18) presented zingy cubes of lobster sandwiched in between two crispy, and slightly greasy bubbled tacos. But my favourite goes to the seared beef gyoza with truffle chilli dressing (£12). Next level and moreish with an intense flavouring, getting your hands dirty with these is a must.
The DesignMyNight Digest
So, the verdict of the world’s first super boutique hotel? The Londoner is equal parts boujee and equal parts brilliant. From zipping towards the sky in their 50 Shades of Grey-esque elevator, to the dainty small plates and luxury cocktails, not to mention the one-of-a-kind rooftop Shima Garden at 8 at The Londoner, it offers a much-needed sanctuary in the bustling heart of Leicester Square. Not going to lie, I did stop by McDonalds on the way home (contemplated going to Piccadilly Institute but decided against it), and ordered a wrap for the tube home. The Shima Garden is not somewhere you go if you’re intending to leave comfortably full (that’s what the restaurant is for) but for high-end cocktails in a gorgeous setting, it sure is the place to be.
💰 The damage: £151 for four cocktails and four sharing plates (excluding service).
📍 The location: 38 Leicester Square, London WC2H 7DX.
👌 Perfect for: celeb spotting and a boujee date night with bae.
⭐ Need to know: order the seared beef gyoza and try out the heated toilets. Even if you don't need to pee, trust me when I say it's worth pulling down your trousers for.