knight frank’s annual wealth report names my hometown of london as an integral city for ultra high net worth individuals (UHNWIs), which doesn’t come as a surprise given how much i’m currently struggling to get a foothold on the housing market!
the report makes fascinating reading though, and gives some really interesting observations about why london has become so significant to this group: the ever-increasing demand for rental property makes it a natural investment city for developers, while the strength of london’s education offer has long underpinned demand for property among UHNWIs seeking to craft a global education experience for their children. the regeneration of regent street’s luxury stores coupled with out-of-town designer outlets like bicester village have also added to the allure.
to help me better understand the UHNWI lifestyle in london, i snapped up the chance to check into the luxury boutique south place hotel in moorgate and experience living like one of these high earners for myself. nearby st. john street in clerkenwell has been identified in this year’s report as one of the five global prime residential hotspots – where a typical 700 sq ft apartment will set you back a cool $1.3m! – so it seemed an apt place to get a true taste of the lifestyle.
when it launched in 2012, the £50 million south place development was the first purpose-built hotel to open in the square mile in 100 years. the brainchild of d&d london (the restaurant group behind floridita and skylon) the bulky grey box exterior may divide opinion but inside the fun, stylish conran interiors are far more likely to please. the communal spaces are a perfect blend of contemporary and mid-century design and a joyful expression of art appears as a central theme running through the hotel; the lobby and downstairs bistro showcasing colourful pop-art inspired prints and hot pink wire shoe sculptures by cathy miles, while in each of the 80 rooms a different limited edition print from nearby hoxton gallery crowns the bed.
in my room the oversize king bed was adorned with bedlinen from josephine home and illuminated from beneath, so that it seemed to be hovering above the carpet. ideally positioned at the foot of the bed was a 40-inch bang & olufsen tv – complete with a plethora of films and specially compiled playlists – which made it incredibly appealing to just jump under the covers and spend the evening in the hotel room watching movies – especially given the generously stocked mini-bar offering full-size bottles of sipsmith gin and bags of artisanal popcorn and mixed nuts. there was even a lemon and lime provided, complete with cutting board!
the piece-de-resistance though was the grey marble bathroom, with a gigantic bathtub (easily big enough for two!) and double walk-in shower, both stocked with beautifully packaged st. clement’s toiletries by english perfumer james heeley – a traditional eau de cologne scent translated into a chic, contemporary line whose name is taken from the rhyme ‘oranges and lemons’ (circa 1740) that refers to church bells within or close to the city of london – a lovely touch referencing the hotel’s location in the heart of the city’s heritage.
as tempting as it would have been to spend the afternoon happily soaking in the over-sized tub, the rest of the hotel – and the surrounding area – beckoned. housed in a stylish ‘welcome box’ by studio conran there was a handy jogging (walking) map showing the best route to take in the local sights, but i opted instead to head straight to the barbican centre to explore the hidden tropical oasis of the conservatory and chance my luck at getting into the world of charles and ray eames exhibition (alas, the queues on a saturday were insane – a real UHNWI would have booked ahead i’m sure!)
having negotiating the growing throng of hipsters downstairs at 3 bar as i headed back to my room, it was time to get dolled up for the night and make my way up to the seventh floor for dinner. the michelin-starred angler is known for its sensational seafood from british waters, so we were excited to experience the 8-course tasting menu, which promised to combine the best seasonal and local ingredients into inspiring new classics.
set within an elegant dining room that sparkled beneath a mirrored ceiling by sculptors grace & webb, angler boasts a floor-to-ceiling glass frontage which look out across the city of london. after indulging in a leisurely martini on the rooftop terrace – which is beautifully furnished with patricia urquiola crinoline furniture and a lovely suntrap in summer months – we were pointed in the direction of the last window spot by the maitre d’, who didn’t want us to miss out on this prime spot for the night.
angler’s executive chef, tony fleming, has built a reputation for angler as one of the city’s top seafood restaurants and was awarded a michelin star in 2013, just a year after launch. the reflect both sides of angler’s personality – the subtle perfection of fish and crustacea, and the adventurous flavour combinations where tony expresses his personality and culinary mastery with colour, texture, and modern ingredients.
“dishes don’t just materialize, there is no moment of epiphany,” he says. “every plate starts with a stunning piece of fish and then layer by layer, flavours and textures are built around that fish. chefs, like writers and artists, have creative blocks. it takes stages of experimenting and tasting before dishes are included on the menu.”
at every stage of the tasting menu this care and attention to detail was evident, from the delicate flavours of the yellowfin tuna tartare with lime, chilli & avocado to the richer meatiness of the cornish crab soup with fried oyster & rouille. the tasting experience was playfully topped and tailed with two amuse bouches that mimicked one another visually, although certainly not in taste!
every dish was then perfectly paired with a wine from the bounty selection, introduced knowledgeably and enthusiastically by our young french sommelier, including the unusual but intriguing pairing of a sherry with the crab soup!
you might think that after eight delicious courses we might struggle to force down a nightcap, but it felt rude not to retire downstairs to 3 bar for a quick amaretto to round off the night…
after a blissful night’s sleep on my hypnos mattress, it was a pure delight to wake up to fresh nespresso coffee and breakfast at my door. although i had truly thought i wouldn’t be able to manage another bite after the previous night’s delectable meal, the light and fluffy scrambled eggs were calling to me and it would have been sinful not to have enjoyed my last few moments as a UHNWI indulging in breakfast in bed over the sunday papers. it even felt like a requirement to browse the business section!
south place hotel, 3 south place, london, ec2
my stay at south place hotel was sponsored by knight frank. all opinions & photography my own, except first 2 images.