Q: What is it? A: It’s south of the river. It’s happening south of the river. Location (south of the river) is stellar. Staff is nice. But they need to improve when it comes to an unusual yet very important field… which has nothing to do with what side of the river this hotel sits on.
Tom Dixon’s vision: The hull of a ship. Therefore a ginormous, copper clad wall runs from outside the building, through to the lobby and on to the river side of the hotel. Made me think about Captain Nemo. It’s special. The PR caca released by the hotel will tell you that 160,000 thousand nails were used to create this.
Another shot from the lobby. Belgium company Six Inch were chosen to create the monster blue chain sculpture. This can be used to sit on and is actually quite comfy. Yep. The cuddly guys at Six Inch are experts on foam.
Squeaky-clean this was. See? Two pieces of furniture designed for sleeping in. For all you narcissists: The mirror has an interesting place on the wall. For all you others: Nothing morally inappropriate happened here. Stating the obvious: This would be the bedroom, then.
Where you take care of your shitty business. Quite roomy. Clean. All that. Practical? Ummm… It seems like most of these bathrooms didn’t take into account that guests bring a whole lot of things with them. Bottles. Tiny packages. Stuff. Haven’t seen a place like this that looked like the designer envisioned it after the content of that toiletry bag was spread out.
Yea and behold – this is the minibar area. Here’s where you would find a little oyster-like metal piece which doubled as a fortune cookie. And surprise! What if you found a message in said fortune cookie that meant something special?
It has a spa in the basement. I repeat: It has a spa in the basement. It’s another extension of the aqua spa brand (there’s already one of those in effect at the Sanderson. Q: So, how is it? A: Can’t tell. As I’ve mentioned a couple of times on this website, I’m not a spa guy. Something that may have to change…
The nicest item in the lobby if you ask me: A miniature Queen Mary, the original is 310.7 meters LOA, which went on its maiden voyage 1936. It’s a quite impressive piece, but I liked the models of huge cargo merchant ships in the breakfast area better.
It has a bar menu. Bar menu has those mandatory sliders. The audience is a healthy mix of locals and hotel guests (always a good sign). Service is friendly but may sometimes be a bit sluggish at rush hour.
The southern entrance of the Sea Containers London. This area is currently being redeveloped, essentially turning the next few blocks into construction sites. Definite proof that more and more things are happening south of the river. No landmarks around? Tate Modern is a mere five-minute walk away and The Shard is precisely one mile away.
Finally, the hotel exterior as seen from the northern side of the river. After being designed by U.S. architect Warren Platner, originally conceived as a luxury hotel, it turned into an office for Sea Containers (and that name stuck). Bought by a developer’s group in 2011 it is now being used as intended.
A welcome addition it is. Welcome to London.
First of all, it’s a blessing to find so many things happening on the South Bank. New buildings, new museums, new reasons to stay away from Piccadilly and Oxford Street. Plus, being close to the river in London is always a good thing. On the inside, you’re looking at the works of Tom Dixon and his company Design Research Studio. They kick it off in a spectacular style with the lobby, ”where a 68-metre-long patented copper hull starts as an exterior canopy, slices into the building and connects the Lobby with the riverside restaurant and bar.” The folks at the Sea Containers’ PR-department claim that 160,000 nails were used to construct this.
Did they take a coffee break when it was time to design the rooms?
Sorry, I’m just in a bad mood today. Rooms are OK. They have a bit of glitz and glamour attached to them (the area with the minibar in particular) and a slightly unpractical bathroom. But to put it bluntly, they fall into the design-boring category, if there ever was one. Efforts were clearly focused on public spaces, something the Morgans Hotel Group excel at. Especially the bar area facing the South Bank prom is easy to like.
The staff’s performance has its particular ups and downs.
An unusually slow check-in, with doormen not really being on full alert, made for a rather bad start. But most other staff members were attentive and nice. But a rather unexpected event made me question a few things; the fire alarm going off at 5:15 in the morning. The smell of smoke wasn’t there, but you simply don’t want to take the risk, do you? Corridors were filled with guests heading for the stairs. As it was rather cold outside the lobby turned into a waiting room. Young and obviously worried/scared staff members did very little to create a calm atmosphere. This, dear Sea Container management, is a quite serious matter. Please, take it into account when designing your staff training program.
It’s good, albeit not great.
While you can’t protect yourself from fire alarms going off*, you can always make sure that guests feel like they’re in good hands if something happens. That and the slightly sluggish attitude from front desk (something very unusual in my book) are occasions that taint my stay at the Sea Containers. It is, however, a rather new place so management may need more time to turn it into a clockwork operation. Most other things with this hotel are highly likable. I may return in a while. Yes, I actually may…
Sea Containers London
20 Upper Ground
London SE1 9PD
*Epilogue: Two likely culprits.
I later learned that the fire alarm was set off by some guests. Two drunk blokes (lacking a better word for them) were shouting and dancing in the lobby when the hundeds of guests were packing the space. Their interpretation of the Electric Boogie wasn’t even pretty. Guilty until proven innocent is a good principle, but in this particular case I am prepared to make an exception.