A chic London hotel with a covert past
From the outside, St. Ermin’s Hotel looks like a classic British hotel with its red-brick exterior and tree-lined courtyard. But step inside and you’ll see white sinuous rococo plasterwork curving throughout the lobby. Take a seat in the deep-purple chesterfield sofa covered in velvet or walk around to see the collection of teapots, carved wooden chairs from Scandinavia and the modern sculptures.
While the décor is striking, there’s more than meets the eye at this London hotel — it has a covert past. Winston Churchill formed the Special Operations Executive at St. Ermin’s, and the secret group took up one of the floors for its headquarters during World War II. British intelligence agency M16 also set up camp at the hotel, and there’s supposedly a secret tunnel that connects the lobby to the Palace of Westminster.
Even if you aren’t a James Bond-like secret agent reporting for duty, you’ll find other reasons to visit. The neutral rooms have pops of leaf green and tomato red in mismatched but fun complementary patterns. While there’s only one restaurant on the premises, Caxton Grill, it offers a great continental breakfast spread, a terrace for alfresco dining with courtyard views and afternoon tea in the library (be sure to use the honey, which comes from the luxury hotel’s rooftop bees). The tucked-away gym is worth seeking out (though you may need some help to point you in the right direction), especially if you are there for covert reasons and need to stay fit.