Every press call this hotel has made (in re: the Marconi and Radio) has been about how it was the place to “see and be seen”.
I’d rather not be.
The Marconi Lounge comes with the minimalist New York gloss of silver and monochrome. It isn’t uncomfortable, but its effort for chicness somehow robs the lounge of it. Keeno, I believe the kids call it. The most memorable aspect of this visit was that the service was utterly, unshakably, unforgivably appalling. Slow, rude, miserable – and the place was practically empty. A bartender who obviously wasn’t, conjured up this mess of a cocktail after which we absconded to the rooftop expecting something perhaps a bit better with a view.
Service on the roof was swifter, but just as cold. The terrace comes equipped with couches and several tables and heating lamps, the works. What really sells (probably all that sells) the Radio Rooftop is the incredible view. The OXO, Somerset House, the Southbank in its glory, all the way East to the Shard. After a game of ‘I can see my house from here’, we finally settled onto the deep beds and had a whisk through the menu.
I do have a natural prejudice against rooftop bars – the aloof attitude of paying far less attention to service, cocktails or clientele simply because they are offering a terrace where visitors can pretend to be self-important for a moment. Perhaps this is exciting the first couple of times, maybe it’s because I grew up in a city made of high-rises, but I’m not so grabbed anymore, and am less desperate to forgive the misgivings. I will give it this, of the various rooftop bars around London, this provides one of the best vantages.
The Sex and the City atmosphere is reflected in the whimsical drinks that came off more as juices than cocktails. If you can imagine four actresses on a terribly unfunny HBO show clinking Cosmos together, you are getting a drift about the cocktail list. I settled for the MY Cherry (their all-caps) – a whiskey and cherry affair. The scent wasn’t masked, so was harsh on the nose, peculiar considering the drink tasted essentially of a cherry/lemon juice. I was really wondering what that 10 pounds was worth. It feels like the cocktails are trying to impress, but aren’t. There is no sense of it being aware that it isn’t spectacular, there is a genuine belief that it is. Not much different from the clientele.
You know that trope that states that if you look in the modern day, or really far back – nothing looks uncanny. But somewhere in between, things get strange. This stereotypically 90s venue is essentially that. Avoid the Marconi Lounge at all costs, and come up to the Radio Rooftop for the view. Not as an escape from the bustling streets though, because it’s crowded up here, too.
I did always say avoid velvet ropes.
PS: They usually forget to cover the sofas, so if it rains 3 days before, all the sofas will be stinking wet. Who has bets on mould?
Drinks: Marconi: *; Radio: **
ME Hotel London,
336-337 The Strand,
London WC2R 1HA