Those looking for a place to stay in London for a week or two used to have little option but to pick a hotel. Those days are long gone in the age of AirBnB, while places like the Cheval Residences offer a top-end alternative. James Fisher went along to try it out.
The penchant that the English have for foreign words is curious, especially when you consider their translation back into our native tongue: ‘Ah yes, I would absolutely love a mouth amuser before my meal, s’il vous plait,’ said absolutely nobody ever. But, perhaps an amuse bouche? Ah, now there’s a fug of smoke and sophistication as you guzzle your gazpacho.
This linguistic sleight of hand is endemic in the labours of luxury, especially in London, but often equates to false advertising – the product itself is not particularly special, but hurl a few French words at it, and suddenly visions of Coco Chanel stepping off a yacht in the south of France spring to mind.
So, an eyebrow was raised when I arrived at the Cheval (‘Horse’) Three Quays in Tower Bridge, London, just the other day, under strict instructions to inspect one of its serviced apartments – the Tower View Penthouse, no less. And they say there’s no fun in journalism.
It’s pretty obvious as to who and what Cheval is for. The entrance is unassuming, not quite to the levels of, say, your favourite speakeasy, but as someone who lived in the area for two years, I’d never noticed it before. However, once in, there’s a tasteful opulence that quickly dictates to you the type of client that is expected to stay here. Donald Trump is the Ritz — he’s rich and he wants you to know about it. Cheval is more Jim Ratcliffe, whom you’ve never heard of, because he likes it that way.
The lobby is moodily lit and slathered in granite, and contains little of significant interest other than the reception desk. Here, you are greeted by the most charming of check-in staff, who, unlike most Londoners, look genuinely pleased to see you. ‘Oooh!, the Tower View Penthouse,’ one chirped upon my arrival. ‘I’ll show you to your room. I love looking around it’. I hope this doesn’t get her in trouble, but it was extremely refreshing to have a concierge who was more excited about my room than I was.
And it didn’t take long to figure out why. The Tower View Penthouse is a beautifully decorated space that eschews the desperate grip of modernism for a more eclectic and antique feel. The kitchen is sublime, with a central island and induction hob, and the living room is spacious and comforting. There are very few walls, which encourages a natural circulation around the space that immediately lends itself to entertaining.
The bedrooms are of a similar mould, with beds you could play cricket on and en-suite bathrooms that could double up as spas, such are their luxuriousness and calming nature.
The master suite’s bathroom contains a TV, and, as I am a journalist who leaves no stone unturned in my quest for the truth, I discovered that, if, say, you didn’t want to miss a single-kick of the Spain v Portugal game in this year’s World Cup, it is entirely possible to walk from the living room to the bathroom and back again with a television somewhere in your line of sight. I do these difficult tasks because I love you.
None of this is particularly unexpected of somewhere as determinedly high-end as Cheval, but what will shock you is the view. London is not a particularly brilliant city to view from the air, despite the advertised attempts of The Eye and The Shard, but sitting nine floors up, with nothing between you, the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, is magic. A glass of rosé, as the sun sets, looking out across the City and the Thames, elicits a brand of contentment that can normally only be obtained via prescription.
The housing market in London is either a never-ending oil spill or fiscally robust, depending on your point of view. However, what is certain these days is the ‘disruption’ to the hotel business that is being caused by short-let tenancies – many via websites such as Airbnb, but increasingly more coming through the big estate agents. The London offices of Jackson-Stops, for example, report a ‘huge increase’ in demand for short lets, as everyone from film crew to short-term contract workers now want homes in the capital for stints of weeks or months rather than years.
Cheval is trying to stay ahead of the storm. For those who have the fortune to chase the weather, the sales, Wimbledon or whatever it may be, serviced apartments like Cheval provide the ideal flexibility for folks who want a ‘home away from home’, but can’t face the anxiety of not remembering whether or not they’ve locked the back door. And if you have the chance to use the Tower View Penthouse, you can do most of your sightseeing sitting down, in a dressing gown, with a cup of coffee, which, I think, is the best way to do it.
One-bedroom apartments at Cheval Residences from £240 per night. For more information, please visit: www.chevalresidences.com
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