Wales' Premier Independent Travel Magazine

Judgement Day: The Courthouse Hotel, London

Sometimes, TripAdvisor isn't as accurate as you'd hope it would be. And that can be a good thing.
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We fancied a food focused trip to London to celebrate our milestone anniversary. To do the occasion justice, we thought five-stars would be in order. But where, at such short notice? After a twenty-minute Google search, we found the Courthouse Hotel which had our dates available.

An old, Grade II Listed Magistrates Court, the Courthouse describes itself as a five-star luxury hotel “ideally located in bustling central London”. If you’re visiting the West End for a show, this is the perfect location – where stylish Mayfair, fashionable Soho and the West End meet, and, conveniently, it’s within a leisurely stroll of London’s finest shopping streets (Regent Street and Oxford Street), tourist attractions and theatreland. The world-famous Liberty London department store is literally across the road.

The Courthouse boasts 116 spacious bedrooms and suites, a trendy cocktail bar, award-winning restaurants, gorgeous spa (Sanook), swimming pool, fitness centre and heady roof terrace, and, if that isn’t impressive enough, it also has one of the biggest private cinemas in central London. Seating 100 people in comfort and style, the impressive space has rich, aubergine carpet, suede walls and luxurious, mauve leather seating all with armrests and fold out tables.

Having booked, our initial relief was tempered by reading further Tripadvisor reviews. They were not overwhelmingly five-stars and, the more we read, the more we wondered whether we had made the right choice. We’d just have to let things play out.

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We do love travelling to London on the train and this time, we had the foresight to purchase some travel cards which provided a healthy third off the ticket prices. The travel cards more than covered their fees and we would benefit from more discounts on future excursions.

Arriving at the steps of the Courthouse hotel, you cannot help but be impressed. If we were going to judge this book by its cover, the cover was very fine indeed. It’s an imposing building and asserts a commanding presence on Great Marlborough Street. We checked in very early and, even though our room would not be ready until the afternoon, the concierge, a lovely chap by the name of Abdul, courteously agreed to store our bags once he’d confirmed our booking.

Having not eaten anything, we headed for The Breakfast Club in Soho. Fully booked, so on to Berwick Street which, thankfully, had a table available. We could have eaten breakfast anywhere, there are a hundred places you can enjoy the first meal of the day in Soho, but we’d heard good things about The Breakfast Club, so we keen to try at least one of them (there are currently eight around London). Berwick Street’s Breakfast Club is cosy, relaxed and chatty. It had a boho and eclectic vibe, and we liked it a lot. Jennifer enjoyed a meaty build-your-own breakfast while I took the full English as it was intended. We weren’t disappointed either. The service is relaxed and welcoming, and the food is wholesome and filling. We chatted with two ladies on the adjacent table. It was a first visit for them too and we all agreed it was value for money.

With full tummies it was time to hit the shops. Soho and Carnaby Street beckoned, and all the old favourites showcase themselves here. I particularly love Reckless Records and Oliver Spencer. Jennifer headed for the boutiques: Footpatrol, Raeburn and Dunno Curated – all beautifully presented. The Ray-Ban store was also in her sights.

Then pork ribs at Ember Yard are something truly special.

For lunch we headed to Ember Yard on Berwick Street. Small Spanish and Italian plates lovingly cooked on wood-fired grills in smoulderingly chic surroundings. Head Chef Adam Kulikowski and his brigade create exceptional food, and, on this day, Jennifer would enjoy a rare, sizzling steak and I opted for a board of pork ribs. Both were sublime. No fuss. No fanfare. Just pure flavour. As we sat sipping a couple of astonishingly good glasses of red, with the soft chatter of finance deals in the background, we wondered what our room would be like at the Courthouse.

If we had any concerns about service at the Courthouse, they were reassured by the warm welcome we received at check-in. The staff were lovely. We headed up to the second floor and with a click of the card we entered our room – by no means a suite, but spacious and impeccably presented. The room is well laid out and has a massive bed (we have Kings at home, and this was much wider). The bathroom, with bath, is elegantly and tastefully designed. One thing we really loved was that all our Sky favourites loaded up on the large flat screen television (including movies), none of the faff we usually encounter – one easy-to-use remote.

We headed for Regent Street and Oxford Street in the afternoon. There are three H&Ms within walking distance, plus Zara and Arket so Jennifer was in her element. I’ve learned, over the years, that when she wants to window shop, it’s best to find a decent coffee shop, grab a cappuccino and people watch. Fortunately, the weather was pretty good so al-fresco watching sat in a reasonably comfortable chair was a welcome relief on my lower back which was complaining a little after the three-hour train journey.

In this part of London, well any part of London really, it is impossible to be bored. We met back up later and basically spent the next few hours just mooching around Soho and Carnaby Street – at one point venturing down to the iconic Picadilly Circus. As we made our way back to the Courthouse we came across Kricket, a theatre-style kitchen restaurant, serving inventive, modern Indian food made with seasonal British ingredients that are perfect for sharing. The counter seating and long sharing tables are perfect for groups, but we sat at the counter which gives you a great view as the chefs work their magic. The Krickets (our new name for the bartenders) can shake up Indian inspired cocktails, but we were in a spirits mood so vodka and slimline tonics were our go-to. Lovely food and great service. As we readied our jackets, we did regret not choosing cocktails and the bartender suggested we visit Soma next door.

Soma is a standalone basement bar from the team behind cricket – hence the referral. Soma continues the Indian theme, and the interior is pretty moody. One of the staff mentioned the influence of the moon which explained the glowing orb lights. It’s all very relaxed but probably aimed more at young professionals than a couple of borderline wrinklies like us. Nevertheless, the cocktails Galangal and Chaat) were pretty potent and we enjoyed the experience.

After a wonderful night’s sleep, we headed for Connaught village. Ordinarily we might take the tube, or black cab (never Uber), but on this occasion, we decided to walk. It was around half an hour away and seemed appropriate as we needed to burn off the calories we were collecting.

Le Pain Quotidien. Lovely little gem in Connaught Village.

First stop, Le Pain Quotidien. This sweet little Belgian restaurant and patisserie offers a tempting selection of freshly baked breads and pastries. The menu offers crisp salads, tartines, frittatas and organic wines and beers, but we were here for the most important meal of the day, so perfectly poached eggs on sourdough with some tasty bacon on the side, plus excellent coffee, made sure we were both fuelled for the morning. Le Pain Quotidien on the corner of Kendal Street and Hyde Park Crescent is one of 260-and-counting worldwide. Chain it maybe, but it has an indie feel and they certainly made us feel special – we liked that.

We had originally thought about visiting Hyde Park Stables nearby for a horse ride, but my back was grumbling so decided to take a thirty-minute walk through Hyde Park to the Science Museum. It was a lovely day and, crossing the Serpentine, we both agreed this was a beautiful part of London. Excuse the pun, but you could park yourself here for a week and not run out of things to see and do. We would have loved to have visited the Albert Memorial, but we simply didn’t have the time.

Arriving at the Science Museum, I was keen to get in and, I must confess, I found the convoluted entry procedure quite frustrating. It is free but they want your pound of data first. With registration out of the way, Jennifer and I agreed to part company (we had our own favourite things to see and do). I spent the hour-and-a-half wide eyed and open-mouthed. I may be nearly sixty but for those ninety minutes I was eight again.

I remember visiting the Natural History Museum with our school at that age and the wonder hadn’t diminished. Seriously, you could spend a full day in there. It’s vast, and the displays are unbelievably impressive.

Connaught Village is quite lovely. especially in the evening.

Having been scientifically challenged, we crossed Hyde Park back to Connaught Village to find somewhere for lunch. We’d heard some good reports about Abasto during our morning chats with locals and really fancied trying their empanadas.

Abasto is a specialist Argentinian deli, wine merchant and butcher. To complement the food offering, they are renowned for their cellar featuring the best wines from the “dizzying heights of Mendoza” to the cool climes of Patagonia, and a deli counter that showcases the finest beef sourced directly from Argentinian farmers. We Brits may have had our differences with Argentina in the past but there was no evidence of that here. Superb, friendly service from a team passionate about their offering. The salad and empanadas were seriously scrummy (especially the beef), and the coffee was as good as it gets.

In the afternoon, we had a good mooch around Connaught Village taking in the rather beautiful interior of St John’s Hyde Park, a lovely church at the heart of the community. We also visited London Chocolate, and the owners gave us tour and explained the process. This isn’t just an enthusiastic chocolatier melting down bags of Belgian chocolate beans. London Chocolate actually roast and grind their carefully selected beans on the premises, hence the hefty but entirely fair price. We tasted a few samples, and they were divine.

There are plenty of galleries and good indie shops here too, and our next favourite was Buchanans, a well-renowned cheesemonger on Porchester Place. Their selection of British and European cheeses changes daily according to what is the ripest and most delicious from their onsite maturing rooms. They even had some Welsh cheeses! The business works primarily with trade customers but, fortunately for Connaught Village locals, the shop offers a fine selection of the best and an impeccable selection of accompaniments, from small batch chutneys to carefully sourced biscuits and wines, plus a range of must-have accessories – perfect gifts for cheese lovers.

Later we wandered further afield and ended up on Edgeware Road. It’s changed a lot since we were last here, but the buzz remains the same. If the sleepy Connaught village is the cheese, Edgeware Road is the very busy chalk.

At 6pm we returned to Connaught Street for dinner. We had noticed Casa Malevo during the day and, as we both loved steak, it would have been remiss to pass up the opportunity to dine at an authentic Argentinian restaurant and steakhouse.

The food, the wine, the service, well everything really at Casa Malevo is quite superb.

Casa Malevo describes itself as rustic and states it “works directly with selected farmers to ensure they always source the finest cuts of meat”. Their seasonally changing menus showcase popular regional dishes, and now also includes a mix of vegetarian options. We were initially drawn to their sandwich board outside: written in chalk “The best steak in London just a few steps inside (plus an arrow with little motion lines)” – a bold claim indeed.

They were confident and rightly so. The melt-in-your-mouth rib-eyes were incredibly good. The best in London? Quite possibly. Combine these with an exquisite Malbec by the name of El Enemigo (The Enemy) and the pairing, despite the wine’s name, got on famously. Could it have got any better? Actually, yes, it did. A brace of perfect desserts rounded off a particularly enjoyable meal, and a lovely day in a very pretty part of the capital.

So our late summer/early autumn London excursion has come to a close and, as we taxi back to the Courthouse, marvelling at the architecture glowing in the London uplighters, the quotation on the back of the Malbec resonated: At the end of our journey, we remember only one battle: the one we fought against ourselves, the original enemy. The one that defined us.”

This trip didn’t feel like a battle – quite the contrary. But, if we’re dishing out pearls of wisdom, I recall someone, anonymously, once said “Never judge someone, or something, by the opinion of others.” Whoever they were, they probably hadn’t encountered Tripadvisor. Had we have done so, we might have missed out on something quite special. Here’s to the team at Courthouse Hotel. Cheers!

Courthouse Hotel
19-21 Great Marlborough Street
Opposite Liberty
London W1F 7HL
020 7297 5555

Useful links!
Ember Yard

Kricket & Soma

Arket, Regent’s Street, London

Connaught Village

Has a hotel surprised you in a good way?
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