How does one fully capture the spirit and flavour of The Ned in writing? The question may seem fatuous but anyone interested in Golden Age elegance who has experienced the gracious ease of The Ned will probably sympathise with our dilemma.
For starters, The Ned is a large hotel but, clearly, it is also more than a hotel. The same can be said of several, historic grand hotels, like the Ritz, Dorchester, Connaught, etc. which are as famous for their bars, restaurants and ballrooms as they are as a very fancy place to sleep. Achieving comparability such classic grand dames a full century later is no mean feat.
In this era of multi-channel retailing and cross-selling, there are other venues which deliver several hospitality services at the same location. The Zedel’s complex comes to mind and in many ways this marks a return to the pleasure palaces of the Belle Époque, such as the London Trocadero of J. Lyons fame. And yet, The Ned seems to us the apotheosis of the multifunctional hospitality concept.
Perhaps it makes sense to start from the plain facts of the place and go from there. The building that houses The Ned was erected between the 1920s and 1930s, to house the City offices of the Midland Bank. It is a Grade I-listed commercial palace, with entrances on Poultry and Princes Street, near the Bank of England, designed by notable architect Edwin Landseer Lutyens (whose familiar nickname was ‘Ned’).
After Midland Bank’s successor, HSBC, closed down the offices and sold the property, it remained unused for nearly a decade until the imaginative souls at Soho House and New York-based hotel developers Sydell Group came to the rescue.
As the name they chose for their revamp suggests, they were determined from the start to retain as much as possible the details and tone of the historic fabric. In addition to the vast banking hall, they refurbished several of the grand boardrooms and the like. They also retained some unusual touches such as the large bank vault and its impressive armoured door.
Overall, this resulted in a floor space of 320,000 sq. ft. over 11 storeys, just over 250 bedrooms, a Spa, a gym, event spaces and a rooftop terrace with swimming pool. Along with all that, they created ten bars or restaurants some of which are open to the public while others are members-only.
Among the readily accessible spaces are: the Nickel Bar (a cocktail bar with a short but effective food menu), the Electric Bar & Diner (with NY-style deli and diner favourites), Kaia (Asian-Pacific fusion), Lutyens Grill (steak and seafood), the Parlour (jazz and cabaret bar) and Malibu Kitchen.
With the exception of the Lutyens Grill and the Parlour, all these separate offerings are housed in the former banking hall. What stops that space from becoming the world’s fanciest food court is the understated subdivision of its acreage, aided by the existence of two separate axes (the two principal entrances are at an obtuse angle to each other).
Enumerating what The Ned offers, however, does not capture the degree of care that has been put into the refurbishment of a space that, while gloriously representative of the period in which it was built, had been somewhat shop-worn by decades of use. Having seen the ‘before’ and ‘after’, we can confidently state that the current version has benefitted from a great deal of polishing up.
One example might be the light fixture, based on designs by Lutyens and eminently superior to the ones visible in the early 2000s. It is also worth mentioning that the central information desk structure has been turned into a mini stage from which appropriate live music is often being played.
Another very nice touch, in stark contrast to many other hotels that revel in their period charm ‘downstairs’ only to decorate the bedrooms like a tarted-up motel, The Ned‘s guest rooms exhibit significant period charm, despite being entirely new and with all the mod cons guests expect.
Having run through the quantity and quality of the place, is there more to say? We think that there is, because The Ned embodies a number of qualities which we prize very highly and, what is more, it does so with deceptively easy grace.
The Ned is assured in its urbanity, both in terms of its City setting, its diverse clientele and its unapologetic sleekness. It embodies tradition in Mahler’s sense of building upon and perhaps improving on the past. It wears its formality lightly by exuding a purposeful gentility, without being unnecessarily rigid. The style of service benefits, too, from The Ned being part hotel and part private club, perhaps the last refuges of solicitous help in our unmoored age.
What more can we add other than to say that The Ned falls into that category of places which, whenever we visit, we tell ourselves that we should really come more often.
27 Poultry, The City, EC2R 8AJ
Tel.: 020 3828 2000