London luxury at The Halkin

A European business-vacation hybrid in London, England, afforded me the chance to visit one of the brand’s first hotels, The Halkin by COMO. The 41-room-and-suite abode embodies what is meant by the term “boutique hotel” with individualized service and a branded design that is unique to The Halkin as well as the COMO umbrella.

Nestled in the quiet, uber-posh downtown neighborhood of Belgravia, The Halkin is also renowned for its dining selection, recently launching Ametsa with Arzak Instruction, shepherded by Elena Arzak, the joint head chef of the Michelin 3-star restaurant Arzak in northern Spain. To discuss all this, I sat down with Simon Wakefield, The Halkin’s general manager.

Simon Wakefield
Simon Wakefield

Larry Mogelonsky: COMO Hotels and Resorts has two properties in London: The Halkin and the Metropolitan. What is unique about The Halkin?

Simon Wakefield: I think it’s important to point out that all COMO Hotels and Resorts are very individual in their approach. When The Halkin by COMO opened in 1991, it was seen as the first design-led boutique hotel in Europe — contemporary, stylish yet functional. This approach translates into all COMO properties with the mutual goal of creating a home away from home and introducing guests to new experiences throughout their stay, whether it’s on a cultural level or through adventures, wellness or cuisine.

The distinct difference between The Halkin and Metropolitan by COMO is that they are both attracting a different type of traveler. Guests of The Halkin are usually mature travelers who are looking for a central location along with a discreet place to stay with its own identity and personality. The Halkin also has a very different restaurant offering with the newly launched Ametsa with Arzak Instruction, a new Basque cuisine eatery that was launched in partnership with Elena Arzak and her father, Juan Mari Arzak, as well as the Arzak Instruction Team. The Halkin is cozy and chic at the same time, which makes it a special property amongst other London hotels.

The Metropolitan, on the other hand, attracts a younger crowd who wants to be seen and enjoy the hustle and bustle of Park Lane. The Metropolitan is also much larger with its 141 bedrooms, a dedicated COMO Shambhala Urban Retreat, the famous Met Bar and, of course, Nobu, the Michelin-starred Japanese-Peruvian restaurant. It’s the perfect place for people who want fast-track access to the vibrant metropolis.

LM: London is a city that I would consider saturated with luxury and super-luxury properties. What are COMO and The Halkin doing to distinguish its brand from competitors?

SW: I think both properties are interesting for travelers who like to do things out of the ordinary. A stay at one of our properties provides personalized service, consistency and privacy, but also an “in the know” feeling. To stay at a well known property in London often seems obvious, but doesn’t provide the same experience we are able to deliver. We have also always been trendsetters when it comes to gastronomy and hospitality at large.

LM: What are COMO and The Halkin doing to innovate the hotel experience, either through technological integration, amenities or new service offerings?

SW: It may seem straightforward, but what the luxury traveler really wants these days is making things practical. For us that means complimentary Wi-Fi in all hotels, which is unfortunately still not common amongst luxury hotels, especially in London. This also includes easy use of in-room technology including plugs, switches, air conditioning and many others as well as support from our techno butlers whenever there is a problem. Plus, we have above-the-norm television channels in several different languages to satisfy all of our international travelers, and our in-room amenities are developed by our sister brand in wellness, COMO Shambhala.

LM: What trends do you feel will play an important role for luxury travel in the next five years?

SW: A big trend will be connectivity and communication. Guests want to know they are looked after from the moment they make the reservation to the point of checkout. Social media will also continue to be hugely influential on the guest’s perception of a luxury brand.