A recent newcomer to the streets of Westminster is the Great Scotland Yard Hotel. Technically, the building has stood there for an age; the iconic landmark formerly home to the Metropolitan Police and Scottish royalty. Steeped in over 1,000 years of law, order and civil service history, it is one of London’s most important Grade II* listed buildings.
It makes you wonder, if only these walls could talk. If they could, they might tell you that the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carol—aka Charles Lutwidge Dodgson—was indeed one of Scotland Yard’s main suspects for Jack the Ripper; or recount tales of interrogation techniques and Charles Dickens accompanying the bobbies on their nightly rounds.
The mystery of unsolved crimes and literary greats may be gone, but today, the building has entered a new phase that is open to you and me. It is a triumph of honourable restoration, an ode to its cerebral past.
Now a grand but welcoming hotel, Great Scotland Yard is a delight from the moment you enter through its iconic green doors. The cheerful team are on hand to assist with check-in, and a welcome cocktail is served as you do so. Staff are only too happy to tell you all about the mysteries of the building and its hidden treasures and secrets; but more on that later.
Art & Design
HBA were responsible for the design of the first Unbound Collection by Hyatt hotel in the UK. The design team wanted to celebrate, rather than reinvent the building; respecting it with Edwardian-inspired hues and patterns, with bursts of elegance, visual nuances and contemporary design.
Accentuating the hotel are 600 newly commissioned artworks. Art consultant Sarah Percy-Davis of Hollandridge Group was responsible for the collection curated from 28 leading artists to enliven the classic space with contemporary and societally conscious culture. Artists include Nicola Green, Cornelia Parker, Alastair Mackie, Ann Carrington, Marcus Hodge and Piers Bourke. Percy-Davis also sourced antique curiosities and memorabilia linked to the history of crime and detective work.
But that’s not all.
Koestler Arts were also commissioned to select a collection of art created by serving prisoners. The well-known prison arts charity helped to facilitate the exhibition, and the multi-media work is on display as a permanent collection. The installation includes a sad-looking, large-eared English bull terrier, a giant matchstick made from matchsticks, and a clock with bat wings entitled Time Flies.
The audacity of the collection is excellent, and it’s amusing to think of it on the walls of Britain’s most famous former police station.
Food & Drink
Food and drink at Great Scotland Yard Hotel are a distinctive part of what makes the place more than just somewhere to rest your head. Overseen by notable chef-restaurateur, Robin Gill, the offer is as dynamic and as story-led as the building.
The Yard by Robin Gill
Hailed as ‘a slice of the country in the city’, this all-day restaurant is just that: modern British cuisine in a farmhouse setting. It’s an interesting space that feels very different from the rest of the building. The barrelled ceiling gives off the feel of a wine cellar, the tan leather banquettes and dried wheat, barley and flowers on the tables evoke a country retreat. Exposed brick and foodie illustrations on the walls add a cosy ambience. The open kitchen is calm and efficient adorned in blue motif titles.
While staff are dressed in inmate-chic uniforms, and the gals wear knuckle duster keyrings (don’t mess), they are friendly, warm and knowledgeable. We’re here for lunch, and at £19.50 for two courses, we are bowled over by the quality, ingredients and flavour.
Homemade wholemeal sourdough bread is the first to arrive, and it’s a triumph. Spongy, aerated and delicious, so I order more to take away. If they don’t open a bakery by the end of the summer, it would be a crime worthy of these walls.
The food is wholesome and warming in a seasonally comforting way. My crispy hen’s egg, with cep, Brussels sprouts and chicory is a tasty starter. I wash it down with a glass of Hungarian Tokaji Furmit recommended by Jitka the sommelier; and I find the pairing a complete delight. For mains, we try the jowl of Tamworth pork, with spiced red cabbage and mash. It’s utter comfort food and works superbly well with a glass of Ribera del Duero from Spain. The pairing of pork and the bold complex red is perfect for a cold winter’s day.
The seabass is perfection; its skin salty and crisp. Pieces of Parma ham on a bed of buttery crushed potato add flavour layers to the essentially simple dish, that is anything but basic. Jitka again impresses with her pairing, the Domaine du Clos des Rocs Macon-Loche En Pres Foret white from France. The long lunch is lovely and Gill, who’s supported by executive chef Alex Harper and his team, should be delighted with The Yard.
At the heart of the hotel stands 40 Elephants. An all-day cocktail bar and meeting place created to celebrate an all-female crime syndicate who time-and-time-again eluded the Metropolitan Police. Known as the Forty Elephants, the sticky-fingered vixens were infamous for their jewellery, department stores and noble-home heists. Operating in the 19th and 20th centuries, the crew were fierce, smart and too fast to catch.
Their ‘Queen’ was Alice Diamond, and while she kept a low profile, the ‘face’ of the organisation was Lillian Rose Goldstein (née Kendall) aka the Bob-Haired Bandit. Her portrait, a five-colour screenprint by Nicola Green, hangs above the fireplace alongside artworks, artefacts and art pieces that celebrate the criminal collective.
The beautiful bar also features a shards of glass installation by Lasvit, which hangs below the domed window in the centre of the room. Entitled Diamond’s Hostage, it represents the tenacious nature of the Forty Elephants. It’s as if the gang were breaking into the hotel to steal its jewels.
A fascinating story, it has inspired the cocktail menu, which pays tribute to key players. Each cocktail is designed with their characteristics in mind, and outlines their criminal records. The Six Cylinders Martini is a cracking cocktail that pays homage to the Bob-Haired Bandit, the 40 Elephants get-away woman. The brazen thief was the gang’s best driver, and was able to operate a six-cylinder engine and outrun the best police drivers. The cocktail nods at her slippery nature with a combination of Scottish potato vodka, dry vermouth, Mexican cedron-infused hemp oil and gentian bitters.
We also loved The Mary Carr, a fresh, dry and aromatic cocktail with pineapple Riesling vermouth, forest floor gin, Manzanilla sherry and dry white port. It was pretty, easy to drink, and a few too many could get you into trouble.
Síbín, in Gaelic, means ‘illicit drink’, and the hidden whisky den is an ode to the many illegal distillers of years gone by. Accessed through a faux bookshelf (a nice touch), the den is a little treasure trove hailed as one of the best whisky bars in London. Whisky and Poitín (Irish moonshine) are the main fare on the small but perfectly formed liquor menu.
We begin exploring with a cheese pairing whisky flight. The Californian Sonoma Rye with Mongomery’s Cheddar from Somerset is a bold start of heat and salt. The Nomads Outland—’born in Scotland, raised in Jerez’—was a heavily sherried whisky that was paired with Sinodum Hill goats cheese, which we found harmoniously sweet and pungent. The Talisker 10 and Barkham Blue was the last pairing, and we wondered why we hadn’t paired cheese with whisky before.
When Michal and Alec, chief whisky experts, had a moment, they sat with us to discuss the cocktail menu. They insist, as did the rest of the hotel team throughout our stay that we try some of their cocktail creations. We oblige them and settle in.
The Clear Conscience comes highly recommend. It’s Alex’s own creation, and he’s rather proud of it. It’s a secret blend of Bán Pot Still Irish Poitín with clarified cream, mint and cocoa. Served with a sculpted ice boulder, it’s almost entirely clear, but tasted of fiery sweet milk. How he created it, only he knows, but the cocktail was deliciously intriguing and definitely unusual.
An Arresting Experience
There are notable extras that the hotel has to offer including the glamorous Parlour tearoom, a gym, the Townhouse and much more. While the rooms are muted and extremely comfortable, we’d recommend at least two days to experience everything that The Great Scotland Yard Hotel has to offer.
We adored the playful cheek of the concept, and felt that everything has been skilfully considered. The little homages to criminals of years gone by, the hidden secrets, and the constant narrative around every corner all make for a delightfully unique experience. The long arm of the law has never felt so welcoming.