Every big Saturday night out needs a good Sunday morning recovery session. Sometimes all you feel up to is dragging yourself from bed to sofa and channel-hopping in search of Friends reruns. But if you can get yourself to the W Hotel, I have a recovery session for you that offers this and oh so much more…
We all know Leicester Square plus Sundays equals tourist overload, and sure enough it takes more than a little patience to dodge your way through map-reading hordes at traffic lights and kids queuing for M&M World. But keep going and sanctuary awaits you at the big W sign at the edge of Chinatown.
W is for wow – so the W Hotels branders want you to think. This place plays cool enough to be known by just one letter and is a favoured pricey cocktail check-in of wannabe celebs and the girls you love to stalk on instagram. It’s everything I expected upon arrival: a sparkly swanky lift lobby and a doorman employed solely to tell you reception is on the 1st floor. But W is also for wary. With a zone 1 location and swanky reputation, I wasn’t expecting a cheap eat. Would it be more style over substance? Suffice to say I was pleasantly surprised.
I first came here last year with a group of friends, and more recently booked it for my sister’s morning-after hen do brunch (when we were sorely in need of recovery time). I learned an important lesson from the first visit: the early bird catches the best seat! They serve brunch in their white sofa-lined bar area, which is transformed from glam cocktail den the night before into an Ibiza-esque chillout venue on Sundays. I suggest booking the earliest slot at 12 midday to get the best area, then arriving 10mins before the rest of your mates. The early half of your group will get comfy on the sofas that go all around the edge of the room, most of them deep enough to curl your legs up around you and perfect for a snooze (though yes, somewhat impractical for eating). The later half of the group will be sat opposite them on little white stools. Trust me, I know which side you’ll want to be on.
Entering the bar is like being gradually cocooned. You’re surrounded by hypnotic deep house music, being played by a female DJ in the corner who looks like she’s been rocking out from the night before and forgotten to go home. Once seated you’re given a pair of comfy tartan slippers (that you immediately wonder how you can smuggle out in your handbag) and suddenly the outside world and its troubles seem a long way away.
The brunch menu is fixed, aside from any veg/special requests, so the only thing you need to decide is how hard you want to hit the booze. You can get unlimited Bloody Marys or house wine for £25, but on both visits I’ve chosen from the £12ish-a-pop cocktail menu instead. I’ve tried the light and floral Lavendar Hill before but discovered a better option last time – The Godfather with a Twist, a whisky-based cocktail which caught my eye by claiming to be ‘sprayed with Laphroaig’. How fabulous. The waitress seemed hesitant to give me one though; I thought perhaps she was questioning whether 12.30pm was a little early for whisky o’clock (as was I for that matter), until she said, ‘Err that’s a man’s drink… it’s very strong, are you sure?’. Lady, there’s nothing you could’ve said to make me want to order it more.
Drinks a go-go and the food parade begins with a granola jar each, one of those cute ones with the metal clip fastener on the side. On my first visit they’d forgotten to sprinkle any actual granola on the yogurt in my jar, but after sending it back the granola-to-yogurt ratio was soon rectified to pleasing levels. Granola pots are followed by a 3-tiered stand containing a Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Bagel, a Haddock and Salmon Scotch Egg and a bowlful of Chicken Caesar Salad per person. All three tiers looked good and tasted great, particularly the scotch egg which I’m not usually that crazy about. There are veggie alternatives to each so just let them know.
If you think that was enough food you’d be wrong – main course is yet to come, in the form of a giant Yorkshire pudding topped with strips of tender roast beef, mash and broccoli accompanied by a mini pot of gravy (which you’ll need as the pudding is fairly dry without it). And just in case you somehow had a teeny bit of stomach space left, they throw in a side bowl of mac ‘n cheese too – and it was this that defeated me! All of that for £25 makes it a reasonable value feed even without the setting.
The best part for me though is how relaxed the atmosphere is; the staff don’t hurry you and it’s like entering a world where laziness is mandatory. They offer a break before serving the roast (which we needed) and in fact we managed to stretch the whole experience out over an indulgent 4 hours, mostly due to all the ‘home comfort’ extras. There’s the Sunday papers to thumb through with your slippered feet up next to a roaring fire feature. There are sweetie jars of cola bottles and nostalgia-inducing popping candy, which you’re encouraged to help yourself to with pic ‘n mix style paper bags (I err may have filled a couple extra to take to the cinema that evening eek). There’s even a small 35-person cinema room attached to the bar screening old episodes of Ab Fab, New Girl and Flight of the Conchords! Each component is designed to make you linger – and makes it even more painful to emerge from the cocoon into the real world afterwards.
There’s room for improvement with the service – it was mostly on point but a few wrinkles such as the aforementioned missing granola and forgetting the odd cocktail order. The supremely relaxed vibe helps with overlooking these though and otherwise the waiters were quite sociable and engaging, one of them amusingly convinced that my mate was a Hollywood actor (he obviously played along and agreed, which earned him a free drink!). Some people weren’t overly enthused by the sofa seating, which requires some slightly awkward lap-balancing or leaning forward, so if you’re someone that needs a proper table to eat (my dad springs to mind here!) this won’t be your bag. You can get by using just a fork for everything but the roast though, and personally I found something quite luxurious about being able to sink back into a big pile of plush cushions once I’d eaten.
The nutshell version: a gloriously lethargic chillout brunch for your mates with decent value food (the drinks less so) but it’s the novelty extra touches that steal the show. Yep, they had me at the slippers.
W Does Brunch, Sundays only, 12-5pm