It is often said that the best things come to those who wait. Patience, although perhaps not always a virtue most associated with children, does have proven rewards. This is certainly true for Sea Containers House; an imposing property located on London's Southbank, which is sandwiched in between the OXO Tower buildings and Blackfriars Bridge.
The giant building was originally conceived as a luxury hotel, but its purpose was changed before completion due to its close proximity to the city, and turned instead into offices for Sea Containers Ltd – hence the namesake. ‘Sandwiched’ is perhaps an unfair way to describe it now, since it has (finally) been transformed into the glamourous Mondrian London hotel, with skyline city views to easily rival cities such as New York or Bangkok.
Location and style
The process of transforming such a building into a place that falls in line with the rest of the glittering Morgans’ portfolio of hotels (including the Delano in Miami Beach, the Hudson in New York, the Mondrian in Los Angeles, and, of course, the Sanderson in London – to name but a few) was three years in the making. But it opened in 2014 to a rapturous welcome from tourists and Londoners alike; for here is a central London hotel with a fabulous spa, sparkling rooftop bar, award-winning cocktail bar, and a restaurant serving gastro food on generous sharing plates. To top it off, there are Kids’ Menus and toys, which can be provided: giving style and comfort, without compromise.
Creative families will get a kick out of discovering details in the cool design. Although there aren’t any slides or swings, the Mondrian London is definitely a playground for the imagination. Design Research Studio and designer Tom Dixon have created a vast copper reception, which looks like the hull of a boat sailing through the building. The original 1970s building was designed by Warren Platner, who famously designed the Windows on the World restaurant at the top of the World Trade Centre. There are hints at this history, with metallic, brass and glass touches throughout the hotel. In the evening, the hotel and bars are low lit and moody, and during the day, the light floods in through the huge glass windows.
I spotted the familiar golden ‘S’ and ‘C’ letters, which used to be part of the ‘Sea Containers’ sign on the rooftop of the building, hanging on one of the walls in a private dining room – an innovative tribute. There are plenty of nautical features (cabinets filled with ships, anchors, and… jars of Marmite?!), which are sure to keep young guests amused. Look out for the characters in each of the lifts. In a stroke of genius design, every person in the prints on the back of each are people who were involved in the design and concept of the hotel. One houses a print of an astronaut - Tom Dixon.
Family friendly features
The hotel is very welcoming of families. Many of the suites rooms connect with other room categories, and children aged 12 and under stay free on a rollaway (Studio or River View Deluxe) or on a sofa bed (Loft Suite or above.) There is a Curzon pop-up cinema housed inside the hotel and children’s and family movie showings take place in the 56-seat screening cinema on Sunday mornings.
Adorably, the hotel offers guests scooters and helmets to borrow, which is an ideal way of getting the kids zooming along the traffic-free Thames path on the Southbank. It is a great base from which to explore all the amazing sights and experiences that are just a short scoot away. There’s the London Eye, the Tate Modern and the Sea Life London Aquarium, to name just a few. Also, the new 4D Shrek Experience, which opened this year.
We stayed in a River View Balcony Suite, which offers unfettered views of the Thames and lots of its trademark buildings, including St Paul's Cathedral. The rooms are as light and bright as the bars are moody and dimly lit. There is a definite pop art vibe to the place, with lots of black and white furnishings accented by neon pink doors and throne-like chairs.
Our top rated features? The bed was wider than it was long and super comfortable, two private balconies both with far reaching views, a sofa room with television (the sofa makes into a bed) and our freestanding bathtub was roll top with no plug end. We did miss having a socket next to the sink for drying hair, but there was one by the door with a full-length mirror. There’s so much space here that it’s impossible for any little people to get under your feet while getting ready for an evening’s dining.
Food and drink
There are two places to choose between for pre-dinner drinks - the rooftop drinking area, called the Rumpus Room, and on the ground floor, Dandelyan, which is headed up by Ryan Chetiyawardana, AKA Mr Lyan and founder of White Lyan in Hoxton.
The menu at the Sea Containers restaurant is divided up into Small Plates, Larger Dishes, Dishes for the Table, Raw, Flatbreads, Market Salads and Accompaniments. We chose to embrace the ‘concept’ and share everything, ordering starters, accompaniments and a large dish to share. Needless to say, we shuffled our way through to Dandelyan for a nightcap cocktail. You can quite easily pop out to the Southbank for a breath of fresh air, or up to check on the children, in between sittings. Babysitting can be booked through the hotel's concierge at a cost of £85 for 4 hours (minimum), then £22 per hour after that.
The children's food menu is designed with mini diners in mind, with a dish entitled 'Ants on a log' (celery sticks, cream cheese, peanut butter and dried cherries), as well as other healthy options including green pea hummus and homemade flatbread, a selection of crudites and steamed seam bream, as well as mac and cheese and scrummy mini fish and chips. Well, when in 'Sea Containers House'...
Mondrian London’s Kids on The Southbank package includes English breakfast for two adults and two children daily, complimentary wireless Internet access and complimentary in house children's movies. otherwise, room rates start at £195 + VAT. Find out more and book at Mondrian London online.
Curzon cinema at the Mondrian London
Adult tickets cost from £8; Children (under 15) £5 and Kids Club tickets £3.50.