When east meets west, just occasionally, the twain do meet…
A slap-up meal at Little Chef followed by a great night’s kip at a Travel Inn might be your idea of relaxation. If so, you’re a very lucky person. Financially speaking, that is. But if you’re not blighted by dodgy taste or the inconvenience of an average income, you may want to upgrade to a MYHotel. While the name may lack a certain exclusive grandeur – step inside and you’ll soon realise that this isn’t a brand for the masses.
Thus far, there’s only one MyHotel. So where better put it than on the bones of an old hotel (with a little design input from Conran and Partners) in Bayley Street, Bloomsbury, shadowed by the nearby Telecom Tower, within a stone’s throw of the fleshpots of Soho. Comfort and shelter may be the basic roles of a hotel, but here a virtue is made from necessity. Guests are encouraged to set the tone. Your visit, from cosy cradle to quiet grave, is in your own hands. Tipping is discouraged and all your requests are theoretically dealt with by one person. I thoughtfully resisted testing the theory at 5am.
Unsurprisingly, MYHotel’s New Age luxury perfectly matches the needs of the modern rock star. Here, an unmasked Eminem has stood out only as a model guest while the abbreviated J Lo has used her time in the Jinja room brainstorming for a suitable song for the Queen’s annual knees-up. There are 78 rooms – from the standard £150 single to the £1,000 combined studio apartment, or the top floor as it might otherwise be called.
A bar and cafe is open 24/7 for guests, and open to outsiders for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A selection of sushi starters followed by a beefsteak for lunch confirmed the kitchen as capable of knocking out first-rate dishes well beyond the sandwiches also available. Later, as a bar, it was pleasantly low key and relaxing, the staff friendly and sensitive when wanted, otherwise leaving you in peace. Yo!Sushi, the highly-rated offshoot from the original in nearby Poland Street, is a healthy ground-floor diversion boasting 150 dishes.
There are also private rooms for parties, launches and whatever else might constitute your business life. For those that think laptop, when others think fun, there’s computer and internet access in the always-open library. And if you ‘work out’ for laughs, you can hang out in the gym on one of the fancy rowing machines, treadmills or bikes – ideal indeed for agoraphobic celebs who only like the ‘idea’ of bikes or boats.
One thing you won’t get in nearby Hyde or Regent Park, is a Manuka honey wrap. Come to think of it, the odds would be long on getting a salt scrub, or even the disquieting threat of a Jinja signature. But these are pleasures, not privations, of the flesh. Jinja is the name given to a wide range of treatments running from express facials and eyebrow tints to deluxe pedicures and half-leg waxings (that’s what it says). Prices range between £12- £150.
Aside from the Bloomsbury MYHotel, which opened in March ‘99, two other branches are getting the ‘MY’ treatment in the capital with a third planned for Glasgow. Just don’t expect them to be vying for the 2010 midrange hotel chain of the year. Philosophy is one idea which crops up throughout the company literature, as is Feng Shui, both integral to its pervasive east-west theme.
The man who puts the My in this Hotel is Greek owner Andrew Thrasyvoulou, who recruited ‘world expert’ in Feng Shui, William Spear, to help charm the chi. The east, MYHotel literature tells us, is strong on ‘observant, graceful and respectful service standards’ which combine here with our local western strengths in ‘style, culture and technological drive.’ The hotel also claims to have a ‘heart’. In the old Cointreau ad, the ice of an Englishwomen melted when confronted by the calorific charms of a smooth Frenchman. Would this east-west double melt mine? Only a night within its soft-edged walls would tell.
At reception, my preferences, if not my reputation, had preceded me. These included my choice of music on CD as well as a favoured scent. In my room, a pleasant enough odour came from somewhere beyond my stuffed-up nose’s capabilities and a jazz CD sat obediently alongside the player. It seemed an adequate response to my aural and olfactory needs. My uncultured, if underperforming, snout was in fact picking up the air freshener sprayed earlier to add fragrance to my presence. It seemed I’d wrongly filled out a form for guests staying in the penthouse, which having visited briefly, I knew was a preference belittling all others.
Perched within the cityscape, you can work on a PC, watch a DVD, or lounge in a couple-sized bath, possibly all at once. You could invite Madonna around for a barbecue on the terrace. She might come. Still, further down to earth in my £330ish suite, I had few complaints. If the room sizes might marginally disappoint an oversized American, they might still provoke a Japanese visitor into an impromptu jig. A bed with pillows the size of pack horses, and a shower whose water power was only matched by the brainpower needed to use it were physical highlights.
Others might cite the safe, multichannel TV or trouser-press, or extol the calming virtues of its simple understated decor. Amid the chi-friendly, cream-coloured spaces, simple wooden furniture was offset by things chosen purely for their aesthetic role. In my room, I had not only an attractive earthenware jug, but a picture of one to boot. Otherwise, its calm low-lit corridors were only threatened by the unexpected burst of a fire alarm which had me scurrying guiltily to the window before realising that my karma was uncompromised by the cigarette in my hand. It was a smoking room, which was lucky as I couldn’t open the sash window more than two inches anyway.
Planning to rise at a respectable hour to consciously appreciate my surroundings a little longer, I was somewhat surprised to see the clock hands clustered around midday. A quick phone call and a calm, unphased voice assured me I would not be denied my coffee and power shower. You’ll have a job getting the telly out of the window but you might find out what Sting and his rockstar buddies dreams about.
Fashionline magazine 2002