The hype around André Balazs’s 26-room Chiltern Firehouse in Marylebone is so out of control (or rather, so in control in the hands of its celebrity-focused owner) that it’s hard to like the bar and restaurant—all that was open to the public at press time—without first getting put off by the doormen, whose posturing finds its polar opposite in Tim and Kit Kemp’s Ham Yard Hotel (rooms, from $550; 1 Ham Yard; 44-20/3642-2000) in Soho. Everything about Ham Yard, which opened in June, is warmth and bottled sunshine: hot pinks and oranges, textile-covered walls, already polished service and table-hopping in the courtyard. The scene (led by members of Soho’s film and music industries) spills onto the roof garden and downstairs into the cheekily-named Dive Bar.
With restaurants wielding such power in London’s hotel wars, all eyes are on The Beaumont (rooms, from $670; Brown Hart Gardens; 44-20/7499-1001), opening in September in Mayfair. Owners Chris Corbin and Jeremy King gave London The Wolseley, which, after 11 years, still remains the no. 1 lunch reservation for the city’s power brokers. With their first hotel, Corbin and King are wagering not only on destination dining but also on a major piece of art: Antony Gormley’s habitable steel sculpture, ROOM, a $4,255-a-night one-bedroom suite that juts out from the 96-room property’s white façade.
Hotel Café Royal (rooms, from $680; 68 Regent St.; 44-20/7406-3333) is fighting for its place in the spotlight by other means. Some of the sheen surrounds its general manager, ex-Connaught emperor Anthony Lee; the rest belongs to its circular penthouse in a cupola overlooking Piccadilly Circus. The Corinthia Hotel London (rooms, from $605; Whitehall Pl.; 44-20/7930-8181), meanwhile, is rising above the parapet with its ESPA Life spa, which just upped its ante by adding the venerable Dr. Harald Stossier to its roster of wellness experts. He’s well known for his extreme digestive system detox pioneered at Austria’s Viva Mayr Clinic.
The Rosewood London (rooms, from $590; 252 High Holborn; 44-20/7781-8888) proved that location can be reinvented when it swept in glamour with its Tony Chi design and pin-sharp service in relatively inconvenient Holborn last year. Similarly, the lure of the Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard (rooms, from $765; 31 St. Thomas St.; 44-20/7234-8000), new since May, is the André Fu–designed Gong bar on the 52nd floor of the Renzo Piano–designed Shard tower. Ting restaurant serves a three-course lunch within the span of an hour, the speed of which suits the business-oriented foot traffic in the south-of-the-Thames-River location. The hotel’s services still need tweaking (room service proved poor), and the accommodations will never have the storied soul of The London Lanesborough (Hyde Park Corner; 44-20/7259-5599), which is scheduled to reopen at the end of the year, revealing a multimillion-dollar new look.