Syon Park - London
The Ability Group has employed Gorgeous Group to create a strongly defined F&B experience for Waldorf Astoria’s first newbuild hotel in the UK, a “town-meets-country” property on the Duke of Northumberland’s estate.
Picture a game of croquet being played out on the lawn, a lazy afternoon picnic delivered by your butler, or a leisurely stroll through 200 acres of parkland. Now picture this in London. It’s rare that a city hotel can offer the experience of a remote country retreat, but thirty minutes from Waterloo Station, London Syon Park, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel, does just that.
Set within the Grade I-listed Syon Park, the 137-room hotel is a destination in its own right with fine-dining restaurant, lively bar, sundeck, spa, recreational activities and capital city within easy reach, all as part of the town-meets-country experience.
Designed by Ettwein Bridges Architects, the property is made up of a series of interconnecting linear wings with a maximum of three-storeys so as not to blot the landscape. Despite its newbuild status, the hotel is enveloped in history taking inspiration from the surrounding estate that has been home to the Duke of Northumberland for over 400 years. Interiors take cues from nearby Syon House designed by Robert Adam in the 18th century, whilst the hotel’s branding pays homage to the butterfly house that once occupied the site. Butterflies play a major role in the hotel, seen on everything from menus to crockery, with one species lending its name to the Kallima Spa. The lobby even houses its own butterfly habitat where exotic species such as the colourful Passion Flower, the striped Zebra Longwing, and the Red Postman reside. Each day, they experience their own room service, served a platter of fresh fruit by the dedicated butterfly keeper.
The natural world is infused into every aspect of the hotel. Externally, the project involved the restoration of a number of important historic features designed by the great landscape architect Lancelot “Capability” Brown, while inside, wall and floorcoverings depict floral and plant life. Key cards not only open the door to the guestroom, but enable access through a secret gate into the Duke of Northumberland’s private gardens.
Owner and developer The Ability Group worked closely with the operator and interior designers Gorgeous Group and CamillinDenny, working with procurement company Benjamin West, to deliver a destination hotel that will appeal to both business and leisure guests. Its proximity to Heathrow Airport is likely to be a draw for the business traveller, whilst on site recreational activities and a quirky sweet bar in the lobby will keep families occupied.
All the hotel’s F&B outlets are designed by Gorgeous Group, famed for their eye-catching bar and restaurant concepts. They became involved through The Ability Group’s desire to create a strongly defined dining experience, and despite coming on board late in the day, have designed a series of public spaces. Says Gorgeous Group’s Dan Evans: “On the ground floor we undertook the design of the entrance lobby, lobby bar (Brownies), cocktail bar (Peacock Alley), Dukes Parlour and the main restaurant (Capability). We also worked with the hotel architects to convert previously unused areas of the hotel into positive guest experiences designing the first floor sun terrace and lounge from a flat roof, and the Clubhouse concept from attic space. This included a second restaurant with open kitchen, private dining room and games room.”
Describing the style as “eclectic”, Evans says: “The intention is that the consistency comes through the experiences, each one designed to be a little surprising and perhaps offbeat for a five-star hotel, but still exceptional in its own way.”
The high level of involvement from The Ability Group’s Chairman Andreas Panayiotou and Head of Design George Panayiotou has resulted in a personal feel to the spaces, or as Evans calls it, “playful luxury through their eyes”.
At the heart of the hotel is Peacock Alley, an elegant Martini bar defined by its peacock blue colour scheme and central circular bar. Amongst the upholstered lounge chairs, leather bar stools and dark woodwork, accents of stainless steel and glass add a touch of glamour. The drinks, best enjoyed at the bar in view of the mixologists, draw inspiration from classic cocktails of the 1890s served at the iconic Waldorf=Astoria in New York City.
The hotel’s flagship restaurant, The Capability, is where the town-meets-country concept is at its finest. The opportunity to use the land around the hotel for kitchen gardens and planting fruit trees helped determine the style of the restaurant as well as its design. Executive Chef Lee Streeton, formerly of Browns Hotel and Caprice Holdings, has created a dining experience true to the heritage of the estate, serving up classic British dishes from home-grown ingredients. Streeton is dedicated to using as much produce as possible from the hotel’s “Edible Garden”, whether it be the seasonal celery in the traditional Waldorf Salad, or the freshly grown fennel infused into the Chargrilled Jimmy Butlers Pork Cutlet. Streeton even has his own on-site trout lake, meat and fish smoker, and five beehives.
The interiors reflect this concept with a fresh colour palette of spring greens against earthy browns and neutrals. Despite the low ceilings, natural light is plentiful thanks to glazing running the length of the restaurant, opening out on to a walled terrace. Featuring a 180-year-old Bonsai tree, the al fresco space is furnished with cosy sofas and lit by traditional lanterns amongst the herb garden.
A truly special experience can be had in the restaurant’s private dining room, a working greenhouse where Streeton spends time tending to his seasonal best – currently strawberries, Sleeper is told. Further F&B comes in the form of The Deck, a lounge bar with park views, and the soon-to-be-opened Clubhouse, a less formal restaurant with an open kitchen serving tapas-style Mediterranean fare. The 137 guestrooms, designed by CamillinDenny in collaboration with The Ability Group’s in-house design team, follow a more masculine scheme, at their best come nightfall. Heavy drapery and navy velvet upholstery is off set with silver metallic highlights in the wallpaper and casegoods. The centrepiece is the bed with its deep-buttoned leather headboard and sculptural glass shard chandelier hanging from ornate mouldings overhead. In an effort to marry old style charm with new world amenities, every guestroom features high speed WiFi and a 42-inch LCD HD TV complete with the latest in-room entertainment system powered by Apple.
The majority of guestrooms feature outdoor space in the form of a balcony or patio, with floor-to-ceiling windows – heavily glazed to keep the sound of the passing jets to a minimum – framing views of the landscaped gardens, reflecting pools, and estate.
While the more traditional Waldorf Astoria enthusiasts may feel this property lacks the grandeur of its heritage counterparts, Syon Park is likely to attract a new profile of guest wanting to experience “playful luxury” in a more tranquil setting.