THE HOTEL: This five-star hotel in London’s Portman Square would have been holding big celebrations for its 50th anniversary this year had it not been for the pandemic. Opened in 1970, it was designed by Stone, Toms & Partners and was named by the hotel’s developer, Sir Eric Miller, after Sir Winston Churchill, whom he admired. There are nods to the British Bulldog all over the hotel, from portraits and menu items to the names of the conference and meeting rooms. The Churchill family is still very much involved in any renovations and has donated historic artwork to the property. The 440-room hotel has been managed by Hyatt for the last 16 years.
COVID STRATEGY: The hotel is popular with diplomats and C-Suite executives and while many of its rivals closed their doors in the November 2020 Covid lockdown The Churchill stayed open for business travellers. In addition to overnight stays, it is also offering private rooms and suites for day use. It has been awarded GBAC (Global Biorisk Advisory Council) STAR facility accreditation, regarded the gold standard for outbreak prevention, response and recovery and part of Hyatt’s Global Care & Cleanliness Commitment.
THE CHECK-IN: As anticipated, there were no other guests in the lobby when I arrived. Due to Covid restrictions, the hotel is currently running on single-figure occupancies so I felt like I had the place to myself. I was warmly greeted by the doorman and two reception staff, all wearing masks and gloves. My bags were taken and I was directed straight to a machine that would check my temperature by looking into a screen (similar to an airport biometric passport check). My temperature (36.7) was approved and I made my way to the screened reception desk. I was handed a pen and a form and asked to complete my check-in details – including where I was travelling to after my stay – before being given my room key. I was also told the restaurants and bar were closed, due to lockdown restrictions, but that the full room service menu was available and could be ordered via the television. To operate the lifts, I held my card key close to a panel and the lift call light automatically switched on. Once inside, however, I had to touch the button to request my floor number, although a hand sanitiser was placed just outside the door when the doors reopened.
THE ROOM: My Regency Executive Suite (room 345) was on the third floor. It was super spacious (58 square metres to be precise) with a living room with a large sofa and coffee table and a work space, leading to a bedroom with an enormous king size bed. A large ensuite bathroom had a bath, enormous walk-in shower and a Japanese-style toilet with a heated seat and other hi-tech controls. The Molton Brown toiletries were more than just the usual soap, shampoo and conditioner line-up; there was also a facewash, bath and shower gel and body lotion, dental care kit, nail files and more. Both the bedroom and the living area had 42” flat-screen HDTVs with plenty of channels. The remote controls were wrapped in plastic for Covid hygiene. Mini-bar items had been removed, although the fridge was still on, and a packet of antibacterial wipes was provided. There was a separate ‘guest’ toilet too.
THE BUSINESS: WiFi was free, fast and easy to access, simply by providing an email address and ticking a box. The desk in my suite was huge, although I was a little disappointed there were no in-built power sockets, which meant a bit of scrambling around to find floor-level sockets nearby. The room also has a tea and coffee station with Nespresso to keep up your caffeine quota. Guests can also request the mindfulness app Headspace for free. The hotel has just opened a fabulous new Churchill Residential Suite, with a full office space, modelled on Sir Winston Churchill’s own office, and two terraces with rooftop views.
THE FACILITIES: Sadly the fitness centre, The Montagu Kitchen, The Churchill Bar & Terrace and the Michelin-starred Locanda Locatelli were all closed due to Covid restrictions. Instead, I went for a run around Hyde Park and ordered from the room service menu. My meal arrived right on time; the rib eye steak was perfectly cooked and my pre-dinner grazing dish – Churchill Cucumbers – was surprisingly delicious (lightly pickled gherkins, topped with sour cream and droplet of honey). Room service breakfast was equally as good, particularly the ice-cold fresh fruit salad of apple, pineapple, melon and oranges.
THE VERDICT: Like someone all dressed up with nowhere to go, this hotel was looking immaculate and staff were warm and enthusiastic even though the hotel was only accommodating a handful of guests in the lockdown. Business is expected to pick up in December, when the restaurants and bars will reopen. The hotel has also created additional outside space to adhere to tier two guidance. I could see every consideration had been given to Covid hygiene and I had no concerns about my health and safety during my stay.
THE DETAILS: 30 Portman Square, Marylebone, London W1H 7BH. Nightly rates start from £218, room only. Day rates start from £120. hyattregencylondon.com.
Reviewed by Bev Fearis (November 2020)