Hip young London, your hotel is here

Next month, the pounds 45m Metropolitan opens its doors. Drenched in designer touches, it promises to be the capital's top spot for the style conscious. Andrew Tuck reports
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The Independent Online
On 17 February London gets its first genuine designer hotel, thanks to the elusive and wealthy Mr and Mrs Ong. The Metropolitan has taken two years and pounds 45m to create and has been designed to lure in style-conscious corporate and leisure clients, aged from about 25 to 40.

Squeezed in between the Hilton and the Intercontinental on Park Lane, the Metropolitan has been carved out of the old Londonderry hotel which, before the arrival of the Ongs, had been boarded up for six years. There are now 155 rooms starting at pounds 175, plus VAT, for single occupancy, but to stay in the penthouse suite you will need to spend pounds 1,200 a night. For the first few months all rooms and suites will be offered at special introductory rates.

The Ongs run numerous fashion stores in the capital, such as Giorgio Armani, Emporio Armani, Donna Karan, DKNY, Prada, Guess and Bvlgari, as well as another celebrated and stylish hotel, the Halkin. Rupert Sellers, director of sales and marketing, is confident that the two establishments will attract slightly different clients: "The Halkin is a hideaway, the Metropolitan will be more of a hangout."

The Metropolitan is inspired by US hotelier Ian Schrager's legendary fashion inns, including Morgans, the Royalton and the Paramount in New York, and the Delano in Miami. With these properties Schrager has started a hotel revolution by creating modernist environments that appeal to young visitors who have money but no respect for the traditional five- star trappings of chintz curtains, reproduction antique furniture and concierges who think a good night out could involve tickets for Cats.

When Schrager launches a hotel he hires cutting-edge designers such as Philippe Starck to make everything from the light fittings to the beds, offers kiosks selling the hippest international magazines and builds unques- tionably cool bars. Indeed, Schrager always makes sure that his hotels cater for the city's residents, and is famous for saying that hotels are to the Nineties what nightclubs were to the Eighties - the places to meet and be seen.

Like a Schrager hotel, the Metropolitan has the Met Bar, that will open at 6.30am every day to serve "express breakfasts" but at night will be transformed into a martini lounge. The bar has a 3am licence and will operate as a private club serving both Londoners and hotel guests. On the first floor Nobu, the hip Manhattan restaurant company, is in charge of catering, offering "new style" Japanese food in a chic white dining- room styled, like the rest of the hotel, by United Designers (the people who devised the look of Conran's restaurants). All the staff will be dressed by DKNY.

Rooms are spacious, uncluttered, free of framed pictures and with sound- proof double-glazing and state-of-the-art air-conditioning. Many have views across Hyde Park or Mayfair. Other features include voice mail, fax, modem and ISDN lines, mobile phones on request, jogging maps of Hyde Park, Egyptian cotton sheets and grey goose-down duvets.

The Metroplitan is set to lure in the kind of people who dine at Coast, Mezzo, Quo Vadis and the Atlantic Bar & Grill (indeed, several members of staff have already been poached from these establishments), and its egalitarian approach to dispensing style (unlike the grand but minimalist all-white Hempel hotel which recently opened in Lancaster Gate), should be an instant hit.

But how long can the Ongs dominate the market? There has been speculation that Schrager intends to open in London, although a programme of renovation at the LA Mondrian should keep him tied up. Terence Conran and Oliver Peyton (owner of Coast and the Atlantic Bar & Grill) are poised to enter the fray. For this season, however, the Metropolitan will be the hippest hotel in the city.

The Metropolitan, Old Park Lane, London W1Y 4LB (0171 447 1000). Rooms from pounds 175 a night.

BEDROOMS TO BE SEEN IN

Blakes, 33 Roland Gardens, London SW7 3PF (0171 370 6701). Singles from pounds 140, luxury suites from pounds 540. Owned by Anouska Hempel, this discreet hotel is a hit with people in the fashion, film and music worlds.

The Halkin, Halkin Street, London SW1X 7DJ (0171 333 1000). Rooms from pounds 240, suites from pounds 425. A favourite among celebrities, it is owned by the Ongs, who also run the Metropolitan.

The Hempel, 31-35 Craven Hill Gardens, London W2 3EA (0171 298 9000). Rooms from pounds 230, suites from pounds 411. Anouska Hempel's eponymous hotel is a stark, minimalist invention with a restaurant serving food that looks designed by an architect. A brave, bold venture.

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