Christian Huhnt recounts an evening at the launch of La Suite West
I have a personal connection to Inverness Terrace as twice in my life I’ve had to crash at my friend’s place there. It’s less than a minute from the new Anouska Hempel-designed hotel, La Suite West, and runs parallel to Queensway.
Bursting with cheap Chinese, Arabic and Mediterranean restaurants, this is an area that has great transport links to Oxford Street and the city centre that is also a very short walk from Hyde Park. As a result it’s full of tourists. Here, they arrive and depart every day, wandering around with heavy luggage trying to find their way. Most of them look like they’re hopelessly lost and in need of a good scrub. The tourist density here is almost equal to that of Victoria Station’s Gatwick Express exit or the Piazza San Marco in Venice.
Please don’t get me wrong though. I have always felt that this place, the heart of Bayswater, has been totally underestimated. It is charming with lots of London Plane trees and a very cosmopolitan feel. Lady Weinberg, better known as the visionary designer and sometime actress Anouska Hempel, plainly agreed as she integrated all that was good about this atmosphere into the hotel that she has cleverly designed.
Arriving at the hotel entrance, you get a feel of how important it was for Hempel to grasp this outside space and use it as a communal environment for the guests. I was invited to visit on the evening of the hotel’s launch and this was the area where guests congregated. Here, along with the champagne, they served molecular bites including Nutella ice cream that had been shock frozen using liquid nitrogen. This, they told me, had been done to avoid ice crystals appearing and the result was a very smooth and creamy texture. I’d put money on this having left the menu now though as just days later I read news reports of a girl in Lancaster losing her stomach after drinking a cocktail made in a similar manner. With hindsight, I must say that my stomach is very glad that they got the measure just right.
When you enter the hotel, which first opened to guests three months ago, you feel as if you are visiting a Scientology church or traversing the ramp of a Star Wars space shuttle. Coming “onboard,” you enter a reception hall, in which a friendly concierge welcomes you. The whole interior is very minimalistic and has been reduced to hues of only black and white. A long fireplace leads you deeper into this shuttle, onto a main corridor, past the dining rooms and connects into to labyrinthian walkways that transport guests to their appointed suites.
I was told that the hotel rooms are all decorated in the same style and have similar layouts. They differ only slightly in size. On the evening of the launch, the largest could be admired and all of them had a very independent feel as they benefited from their own access to the street. Essentially, the rooms are quite small but all offer the contemporary luxury that any jetsetter would expect. The bathrooms have a particularly sophisticated feel and are clad in marble throughout. The extendable televisions hidden in the bed frames perfectly fitted with the minimalist design, but where this became bizarrely rigorous was the flexible water hose in the bathrooms that dispensed with the need for good old European toilet paper.
La Suite West is a great step forward. In fact, it is a very audacious move towards upgrading a whole area that clearly has potential for more and which, at the time of writing, does not offer anything better than shabby hostels and seedy bed and breakfasts. The hotel is a well-arranged concept and evidently Hempel put a lot of thought into the execution of it. The design is well composed, but being German I did notice some of the carpets and minor details could have been a little better.
One last piece of advice: the management might want to ship in some bog roll. Some ageing Brit might decide to show up and I’m sure nobody would want a scene from Fawlty Towers to be played out in that rather smart lobby.
La Suite West, 41 – 51 Inverness Terrace, London, W2 3JN. Telephone: +44 (0) 20 3642 3928. Website: http://lasuitewest-px.rtrk.co.uk
Images by Andreas Kirchberger and Christian Huhnt.