Beside Trafalgar Square and with an unimpeded view down The Mall and of Buckingham Palace, Admiralty Arch has long played a central role in the life of London.
Recognised around the world as a momentous backdrop for processions such as Trooping the Colour, the building had fallen into disuse before being purchased in 2015 on a 250-year lease.
It is currently being transformed into a luxury hotel, upmarket apartments and a private members’ club.
Though the hotel isn’t due to open until 2020, the first pictures of its interior have now been released.
Designed by Sir Aston Webb as part of the Queen Victoria memorial scheme and completed in 1912, Admiralty Arch has borne witness to innumerable historic events — after both World Wars, victory parades passed through its central arch (opened only for such special occasions); crowds gathered here to watch the pageantry of the Queen’s coronation procession; the London marathon passes through the landmark today.
An image from circa 1946 shows troops passing under Admiralty Arch during a victory parade CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES
It’s a setting that few luxury hotels in London will be able to compete with, and the hotel’s developers and majority owners — Prime Investors Capital — are now working to ensure interiors, amenities and service are equally impressive.
The company was behind the development of the capital’s Bulgari hotel and has stated its aim is to open “the finest hotel in London”. So far, 12 of the world’s leading luxury-hotel groups have expressed an interest in managing the property and promoting it as part of their international portfolio.
During my own recent tour, there was little of the property’s new hotel infrastructure in place save some mock-up suites, but much of how the hotel will function has already been decided. Grade I-listed, the building is subject to strict regulations but clearance has been given for the expansion of the property’s basement.
Already two storeys deep, it will ultimately descend for four storeys and fan outwards beneath The Mall to allow for the creation of a subterranean swimming pool, spa and ballroom, alongside facilities for back-of-house staff.
The Mountbatten Suite bathroom CREDIT: DERRY MOORE
Perhaps most exciting for Londoners will be the hotel’s restaurants and bars — there may be up to six in total. Its most high-profile restaurant will stretch across the first bridging floor that extends directly above the building’s arches.
This room has never before been open to the public and on special occasions its window seats should become some of the most desireable reservations in the city — I was able to look directly upon Buckingham Palace from this setting and the view will no doubt be phenomenal during royal ceremonies.
The dining concept hasn’t been confirmed as yet, but, unsurprisingly, it will likely have a focus on British cuisine. Bars will open inside and outdoors on the building’s rooftop.
The view from what will be the hotel’s signature restaurant
The property’s expected 62 bedrooms and 38 suites are expected to be appropriately classic in style. Much of the interiors are being designed by the firm Mlinaric, Henry and Zervudachi, which specialises in homes and commercial projects and has previously worked on London’s Berkeley hotel, the V&A, the Royal Opera house and British embassies in Washington and Paris.
Some furniture will be created by David Linley, china will come from Wedgwood. Considered use will be made of more modern amenities too. Artisans have been enlisted to ensure original features are restored to their full glory.
Key members of the Admiralty Arch team pictured within the hotel. From left to right: interior decorator David Mlinaric; Rafael Serrano, CEO PIC; historic-interiors consultant Andrew Damonte; Hugh Henry, co-founder of Mlinaric, Henry & Zervudachi CREDIT: DERRY MOORE
Admiralty Arch once served as office space for the Royal Navy and rooms within provided accommodation for some of its senior members. It is expected that the hotel’s suites will be named after different admirals with connections to the building.
London is already home to a plethora of vast, expensive ‘super suites’, but two suites in particular here should attract significant attention.
The three-bedroom Mountbatten Suite, already largely complete, features curved corridors, a vast living area with 84-inch television hidden behind glass and audio equipment by British brand Meridian, and a dining area with ‘love seats’ embedded in its Mall-facing windows.
One of the hotel’s bedrooms CREDIT: DERRY MOORE
Amenities include a humidor, espresso bar, working gas fireplace and an oversized safe that includes a jewellery holder that will automatically wind watches while guests sleep.
I was also taken to what will be its Royal Suite. It will occupy the entire expanse above one of the building’s arches and will include a private terrace with impressive views of central London.
Whoever is lucky enough to stay there during the likes of Trooping the Colour, can expect to enjoy one of the most impressive panoramas possible of the celebrations, entirely in private.
A suite’s marble bathtub CREDIT: DERRY MOORE
Other distinctive elements may not remain in situ long enough to be appreciated by those first guests. A cabinet office before its closure, the building includes in a lower chamber hundreds of boxes of prime ministerial notes.
I caught sight of a folder of notes relating to Margaret Thatcher’s visits to Northern Ireland; historians would no doubt be enthralled by its contents.
Elsewhere, past a corridor currently lined in ugly, cheap green carpets and beyond canary-yellow walls a basement room held two full-sized billiards tables that were used by the building’s employees in their spare time.
Buckingham Palace as seen from Admiralty Arch
Those tables may conceivably be reupholstered and utilised in the hotel or perhaps in the members’ club (which will operate from 7am to 3am and is expected to open at around the same time as the hotel), and with so much heritage to draw from there’s no question that there will be plenty more surprises in store.
Expect the opening to make a massive impact on London’s luxury hotel market when the time eventually comes.