THIS is a hotel with so many elements of surprise it just keeps giving and giving.
From the heaving and buzzy bar to a smartypants and elegant library bar to an hypoxic gym and a theatrette, the Ham Yard hotel is a self-contained community right in the middle of what is the coolest part of London: Soho.
But the one thing that really got me going? The bowling alley.
Yup. I’ve seen some pretty interesting hotel additions in my travels but this is certainly one of the quirkiest. And cutest.
The Ham Yard is all cool, quirk and more.
It’s been over 20 years since first Firmdale hotel group, owned by designer Kit Kemp and her husband Tim, have opened the likes of the Charlotte Street Hotel in Fitzrovia in 2000, followed by a handful of other hautey haunts including the cult-like Covent Garden hotel, also in London.
The Pelham hotel popped up in London from the Kemps years ago and now the design and art-fuelled luxury boutique hotel chain has become world-renowned for its quirky, bespoke and simply stylish decor in each of its London and New York inns.
Exquisite interiors aside, the piece de resistance must be the Croc bowling alley. The alley was actually bought over from Texas by the Kemps and the walls that surround it are adorned with Howard Hodgkin paintings; there’s a very chic bar and there’s a dance floor complete with crocodile artworks on the walls.
You’ve got it. This in no ‘normal’ hotel, a mix of meeting place, sleeping place, shopping, eating and art gallery.
OK, so aside from the bowling alley, the attention to detail at this place is extraordinary.
There is not one room that is the same as the other and unlike some of the more minimal ‘boutique’ hotels dotted around the world, a Kemp hotel is anything but stark.
The actual Ham Yard is like a U-shaped community enclave that, aside from the 91 hotel rooms, there are short-term and long-term apartments available (that have proved very popular with entertainment industry folk) as well as shops like Australia’s Dinosaur Designs and Jac & Jack.
The thing about this hotel is it doesn’t feel like a hotel. The staff aren’t scurrying around looking too formal and stitched up but they will suddenly appear out of nowhere and are there to cater to any whim.
Whether you need to know the best place to eat, drink, go to the theatre or shop, the concierge, just like *that* have it sorted and booked for you.
If the weather is ‘good’, the view from the rooftop garden and bar (they grow their own veggies up there too) is sensational and overlooks Soho’s chimneys, churches, streets, buildings and clocktowers.
Once you go down a flight of stairs from the lobby level, there is another huge bar that then darts off into other event spaces and even a theatrette that seats nearly 200 people.
Corporates often use that entire ground floor space for product or entertainment unveilings. Oh, and did I mention there is a spa? It’s a marble and wood space called the Soholistic Spa that even features an hypoxic gym for those who need their altitude training for their next trip to the Himalayas!
But back to the bowling alley …
The beauty of the alley is that it is not a mad owners whim or a feature just for hotel guests but a fully functional and bookable event area where people can host a full-on party.
The beauty of the Ham Yard is that it is full of (great) and continual surprises and let’s face it, that is exactly what every traveller wants.