London is making another pitch to be Europe's capital of cool with a flurry of new hotels. The most surprising hit is the Renaissance London Chancery Court, flanking the financial district. It is glorious: 356 rooms occupying a seven-story Edwardian building, with a Pavonazzo-marble staircase, soaring Ionic columns, and spacious, high-ceilinged bedrooms (opt for an executive double on the sixth floor overlooking the interior courtyard). QC, the hotel's modern and very eclectic restaurant, has a strong French bent and the buzz of the new. Rooms, $255- $1,600. At 252 High Holborn; 44-20-7829-9888; fax 44-20-7829-9889; www.renaissancehotels.com.
At a different end of the scale is the just-opened West Street, in the heart of the West End theater district. Appearances here deceive. The floor-to-ceiling streetside windows reveal a sleek, contemporary restaurant and lounge bar--cockily located next door to the much-revered Ivy restaurant--where Cristal downed with abandon accompanies the sophisticated Italian dishes masterminded by Kensington Place executive chef Rowley Leigh. Designed by Wells Mackereth, the outfit that was behind last year's hit eatery Smiths of Smithfield, West Street's combined dining room and bar features chrome, chocolate-brown leather banquettes, and an ingenious twisting two-story corkscrew sculpture.
Meanwhile, the hotel element is tucked away on West Street's upper floors: three rooms, each as large as a top-flight suite, serviced by the butler, Donaldo (formerly on the Rothschild staff). These are being hailed as the most exclusive guestrooms in London. The Stone Room has a private rooftop garden, the White Room is bathed in Carrara marble, and The Loft--the largest of the three--is as spacious as a penthouse, outfitted in black leather and emerald-green slate, with a fireplace in the bedroom. The phone number is one to slip into your little black book of essentials. Rooms, $360- $650. At 13-15 West St.; 44-20-7010-8700; fax 44-20-7010-8601.
Back to business--and Threadneedles, an important opening in the City from The Eton Town House Group, the people behind the well-run Colonnade Hotel in West London. Expect more of the same classic English aesthetic and a hotel that feels like a private home, with soft colors, antiques, and quietly efficient English service. Another bit of good news: The group now has corporate membership in the Classic Car Club. This means guests can rent a vehicle with personality--a 1967 Jag, perhaps, or a 1961 Porsche Speedster--to help put the swing in swinging London, where new openings continue to stave off the sniff of recession. Rooms, $385-$3,500. At 5 Threadneedle St.; 44-20-7657-8080; fax 44-20-7289-4878; www.etontownhouse.com. Four-night stay, including breakfast, two days of Classic Car Club use, and one day of limousine service: $1,800. Classic Car Club: 44-20-7609-2188; fax 44-20-7609-2177; www.classiccarclub.co.uk.
— Sophy Roberts
Hotel prices show high-season rates from the least expensive double to the most expensive suite.