St Ermin’s Hotel, Westminster, London – Review

St Ermin's Hotel

By Kirsty Masterman, May 2024

When looking for somewhere to stay, I always like to try and find something a little bit quirky with some history to it. So, when my daughter and I recently took a trip to London and a hotel that sounded like something that belonged on the set of a James Bond movie popped up, it seemed like the perfect choice.

Tucked away down a quiet backstreet in Westminster is St Ermin’s, one of London’s most prestigious hotels with a fascinating history of espionage. This red-bricked, Grade II listed, 4-star hotel is part of the Marriott Autograph collection. Boasting 331 rooms, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was just another generic, corporate hotel. However, there is much more to this hotel than meets the eye.

Dating back to 1890, St Ermin’s was originally built as a mansion block, designed by none other than Edwin T Hall, who was also responsible for the famous department store Liberty’s. Built on the site of a chapel dedicated to St Ermin (hence the name), it was later converted into a hotel in 1899.

St Ermin's Hotel

“Grand staircase”

The proximity of the hotel to the Houses of Parliament means that it has long been a favourite of politicians. There is even a division bell in the lobby to alert MP’s to get back to Parliament for votes and it is rumoured there is a tunnel leading directly to the Houses of Parliament under the grand staircase. Churchill was a regular in the hotel’s Caxton Bar and from the 1920s, the headquarters of MI6 were based just around the corner, meaning the Caxton Bar was a regular meeting place for agents.

During the 1930s, St Ermin’s was a hub for espionage, with MI6’s Section D using it as their headquarters and later forming ‘Churchill’s Secret Army’ (official name, secret Special Operations Executive or SOE), subsequently taking over a whole floor of the hotel and operating under the guise of ’Statistical Research Department.’ The likes of Ian Fleming, Kim Philly and Guy Burgess are also known to have worked from here during the Second World War.

St Ermin's Hotel

“Beautifully manicured courtyard”

My 9-year-old daughter Jessica and I arrived on a rather pleasant Spring afternoon. Our stay, an overnight stop before we were to fly to sunnier climes the next day.

On approach to the hotel, we were met with a tree-lined, beautifully manicured courtyard, complete with patio seating. But it’s when you step inside that you see the real beauty of the hotel. Greeted by the incredibly welcoming staff, we stood mesmerised by the lobby. Dominated by a sweeping staircase, it has a theatre-like feeling to it, with sparkling chandeliers dripping from the ceiling and marble floors, scattered with an eclectic mix of furniture and furnishings.

As our room was not yet ready, we decided to take the chance to explore the hotel and surrounding area by taking on the spy-themed hunt provided by the hotel. With landmark attractions such as Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and St James’s Park in such close proximity, there is no wonder this is one of the most interesting and child friendly scavenger hunts I’ve ever had the pleasure of doing. The friendly concierge offered his help, should we need it – which we did!

During our exploration, we uncovered some of the hotel’s more unusual features, including a lamp perched on a pair of duck’s legs, animal caricature cushions and a rather impressive collection of teapots to name but a few.

St Ermin's Hotel

“An eclectic place to stay”

We even discovered an incredibly grand ballroom, with the biggest chandelier I’ve ever seen, and uncovered a handful of lounge spaces with extremely comfy sofas to relax on. The blend of period styles found throughout the hotel, from Victorian balustrades to art deco furniture along with the mis-match of furnishings, certainly makes for an eclectic place to stay.

One of the highlights for me, was the James-Bond-esque cabinet of gadgets on display in the lobby, containing a small collection of the gadgets used by SOE agents. These included RAF pilot boots with a knife hidden inside, a brush with a hidden compartment containing a saw and compass, along with books and pipes with hidden compartments. There is also an original SOE silk, which was used by agents to send secret coded messages.

However, the pièce de résistance for us, was the surprising discovery we made on the rooftop – the ‘bee & bee hotel’, which plays host to 350,000 bees. These busy bees pay for the privilege of staying in such luxurious surroundings by producing in-house honey. Guests can take a trip to the third floor and watch the workers from behind the glass. It is also home to a kitchen garden.

St Ermin's Hotel

“A somewhat quirky room”

We were appointed a family guest room overlooking the courtyard. A unique U-shaped room, we each had our own ‘wing’ with a queen-sized bed and spacious, marble bathroom complete with White Company toiletries. Upon entering the room, we were struck by the brightly coloured decor, and bold botanical prints. These, combined with the stylish dark wood furniture, made for a somewhat quirky room. There was also a separate seating area to relax in.

Having settled into our room, we headed down to the Tea Room to sample the famous afternoon tea.

I chose the option with included a glass of champagne alongside a selection of finger sandwiches, pork pies and tarts all perfectly paired with plain and fruit scones and other sweet treats, which came perfectly presented on a silver tea stand, accompanied by a selection of expertly recommended Tea Makers of London Teas along with St Ermin’s very own blend. A particularly nice touch is the sand timer used to tell guests the perfect brew time.

Jessica opted for the Kid’s Afternoon Tea (available during school holidays and weekends), which included a slightly simpler affair of sweet and savoury treats, including a mini honey cake made from the resident bees.

Dinner that evening was at the Caxton Grill. The hotel’s cosy, upscale restaurant. Overlooking the courtyard, the atmosphere here is relaxed and informal, which is just as well with a giddy 9-year-old in tow. The candle lanterns and votives made for a warm, inviting atmosphere.

St Ermin's Hotel

“Incredibly enjoyable stay”

With a rather extensive menu of British fare, using many ingredients from the kitchen garden, I eventually opted for the St Ermin’s gin cured beetroot salmon, trout and horseradish sauce starter followed by the rib-eye steak, which was cooked to perfection. Jessica chose the garlic bread and Conchiglie pasta.

We couldn’t quite manage dessert, having only had afternoon tea a few hours ago!

“Can we hang out in the bar after?” requested Jessica. This was music to my ears – a chance to sample one or two of the hotels signature ‘spy’ cocktails.

After an extensive buffet breakfast the following morning, we were sad to say goodbye, to what had been a brief but incredibly enjoyable stay at one of the friendliest hotels I have ever had the privilege of staying at.

As we departed for the next leg of our trip, and the concierge bid us goodbye, Jessica replied, “We’ll see you again soon”.

I think it was safe to say we had both enjoyed our stay.

Prices start from £329 per room per night for a Standard Double Superior Room. To book, visit
Kirsty and Jessica travelled direct to London from Howden on Hull Trains, where prices for an advance ticket start at £34.


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