Once London’s top party hotel, the recently renovated Metropolitan by COMO now caters to a better-behaved clientele looking for sophisticated pampering with an emphasis on wellness. We stop by for a look.
It’s the eve of the new millennium in London, and the Metropolitan on Old Park Lane is the hippest hotel in the British capital. Its contemporary, stripped-down aesthetic and Donna Karan–clad staff are unlike anything else in fusty old Mayfair, and the exclusive members-only Met Bar is a byword for Cool Britannia and celebrity hedonism. The Beckhams, the Gallagher brothers, Kate Moss—they all party here. Upstairs, Europe’s first Nobu restaurant is another A-lister haunt, as famous for its Michelin-starred sashimi as for tennis star Boris Becker’s tabloid-splattered sexual liaison in a broom closet. If you’re anyone who’s anyone on the London scene, this is the place you want to be.
How times change. The Brit Pack and the Britpoppers of the 1990s have since grown up, and so too has the Metropolitan. Now with “by COMO” in its name—a reference to the hospitality group, owned by Singaporean hotelier Christina Ong, that has developed around it and the nearby Halkin in Belgravia, Ms. Ong’s first hotel—the Metropolitan has put its decadent past behind it and evolved toward a quieter sort of sophistication with an emphasis on wellness. The latest round of renovations, completed last September by Linzi Coppick of London firm Forme UK, epitomizes this ethos.
Taking cues from the green expanse of Hyde Park across the road, Coppick, who worked on the Metropolitan’s original interiors back in 1997, has introduced a fresh natural palette in the guest quarters, whose white walls are now complemented by walnut trim, hits of taupe and mocha, and barley-hued headboards. The rooms here were always uncluttered, but are perhaps even more so now, thanks to clever roll-down screens that hide the luggage area and a minibar that’s out of sight behind a backlit fretwork screen. Views of the park are framed by silk curtains, with chaise-like window seats providing the perfect perch to admire the greenery. All the in-room technology has been likewise upgraded, from interactive TVs to intuitive consoles that control lights and temperature.
The reception area and lobby lounge have also been overhauled. “We wanted to make the lobby—the heart of the hotel—a more informal and convivial space that brings the park inside,” Coppick explained. Hence the shades of green and berry that accent the carpeting and an eclectic mix of designer furnishings, and the organic form of the hoops of walnut that do double service as discreet room dividers.
Of course, the Nobu restaurant remains, and, judging from my excellent dinner there one night, it still manages to pack in a smart crowd (one thing that hasn’t changed since the ’90s is Nobu’s sublime black-cod miso). The Met Bar endures too, though it dropped its members-only policy in 2011, the same year the bar’s celeb-era decor was auctioned off for charity on eBay ahead of a major refurb. These days featuring a sleek lava-stone bar top and a cardboard relief of dancers by British designer Giles Miller, it’s still a fixture on the Mayfair cocktail circuit, though long gone are the days when you could expect to spot paparazzi lurking out front.
Back in the hotel’s corridors—infused with a signature blend of lavender, geranium, and peppermint—you’ll almost certainly see a blissed-out guest returning from a spa session at the COMO Shambhala Urban Escape, the on-site wellness center. I was one myself after sampling the 90-minute signature massage, an utterly soothing treatment that left me reenergized and smelling of lemongrass. But there’s much more here than the expected spa offerings. “We offer guests a holistic wellness experience,” said Corinna Yap, who runs the facility. “That’s not entirely new—it’s always been a part of our DNA—but it got a little lost when we were known as a party hotel. Now, the wellness philosophy is being fully embraced.”
For two summers now, COMO Shambhala has teamed up with Lululemon Athletics to present Yoga in the Park, a series of weekend yoga sessions and talks. Guests looking to explore lifestyle changes can sign up for Time Well Spent workshops led by nutrition consultant Karen Cummings-Palmer and meditation teacher Sunita Passi. Three Japanese therapists are on hand to deliver acupuncture and moxibustion. And a menu of healthy cuisine—Caesar salad with a creamy dressing of macadamia nuts and yogurt; quinoa and pomegranate with grilled salmon—is available for those looking to upgrade their diets. “This is nutritious food, but delicious,” Yap explained. “It’s all about balance here, and eating well shouldn’t have to mean denying yourself a delicious meal. And isn’t that the best of both worlds?”
19 Old Park Lane, London; 44-20/7447-1000; Metropolitan by Como, London; doubles from US$412
This article originally appeared in the February/March print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“The Met’s New Groove”).