What happens when you send a middle-aged person to a hotel designed for millennials

Live in a hotel

Live in a hotel

“We thought it would be good,” said my editor Rachel, “if you stayed at a hotel that wasn’t necessarily on your street.” hmm. That, I thought, could mean one of three things: it’s painfully trendy; he is sensual and sexy; or it’s vegan.

“Great idea,” I replied cheerfully. I’m a good girl, I am, although my heart actually stopped. I still hadn’t recovered from the utter contempt with which I was treated at fashionable Costes in Paris by a receptionist who had nothing more than a diamond stud in her navel; nor the wave of early eco-hotels where bean bags were strewn about, everything was made of macrame, and alfalfa sprouts were almost all you could eat.

As for sultry and sexy, the W Hotel in Leicester Square will always remain in my memory. Its corridors were so dark you needed a serious flashlight to guide you to your room, and chips and chocolate bars were mixed with a selection of sex aids.

“The hotel is called Inhabit,” Rachel continued. “It’s about wellness, yoga, meditation and plant-heavy, meatless food. And it’s in Paddington.” Paddington? How in Bear? As in studios and shabby hotels?

Inside: a suite at the Inhabit Hotel

Inside: a suite at the Inhabit Hotel

In fact, on closer inspection, Paddington has become a lot wiser than it used to be, and around the corner from Inhabit Queen’s Gardens, which the hotel’s website describes as Bayswater, is definitely charming. Fine as a base in London for a night or two, but when it comes to vegan yoga – is that what I want when I’m staying in a London hotel?

This is the story of how Inhabit was created. Nadira Lalja’s family was expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin as part of the 1972 Asian expulsion. They came to Britain, then settled in Canada, prospering in real estate, and later returned to London to build a portfolio of 20 hotels, including the Montcalm, on the Marble Arch.

Several years ago, Nadira graduated from Harvard and then Cambridge, where she won a scholarship, but her father’s serious illness made her worry about her mother and the future of the family business.

She sought strength and solace in meditation, mindfulness and Ayurveda. After her father’s death, she and her cousin Rahim took over the business, intending to modernize their hotels and focus on sustainability, eco-friendliness, community, arts and restaurant practices.

Inhabit Restaurant/Lobby/Reception/Library open

Inhabit Restaurant/Lobby/Reception/Library open

They started by converting their former Park Hotel on Southwick Street into the first Inhabit, and now doors have opened to Inhabit Queen’s Gardens (with 158 small but perfectly formed rooms) and Inhale, an underground wellness centre. More Inhabits will appear as the pair changes their properties.

Key employees are touchingly enthusiastic about the company’s new position. “This is the future,” said Fernando, the passionate restaurant manager, pointing to the open restaurant/lobby/reception/library at Inhabit Queen’s Gardens.

I looked around, trying to look appropriately delighted with the relaxed, unassuming Scandinavian-style space. It occurred to me that, in fact, hardworking people like Fernando, whose heritage is a quarter of Spaniards, Romanians, Equatorial Guineans and Cameroonians, are the real future.

Fernando, of course, is thinking of eco-friendly furniture, nature-inspired artwork on the walls and a vegan menu created by Yeotown, a Devon wellness center beloved by Nadira and her mother. The service was (we get used to it) very slow at times, but my soy burger with cavolo nero and seaweed salad on the side was much tastier than I expected.

Live in a hotel

Live in a hotel

Remember I was hungry. They could have given me sawdust or even alfalfa sprouts and I would have swallowed them. As I mentioned, I’m a good girl, so I spent the afternoon delving into the hotel’s Inhale Wellness Program, run by an enthusiastic young team.

First, I indulged in a deeply calming two-hour full-body massage using heavenly Gaia oils. This was followed by a quick session in the gym (I hate gyms) and half an hour in the steam room and salt cave. At the end I had a private and very intensive one hour yoga and meditation class with the head of wellness, Maria.

I’m not good at yoga – I’m better at massages – and frankly, an ox would be more supple. But Maria was brilliant and I’m determined to stop falling over, so I signed up for lessons at home. I never thought a London hotel would say thank you, Rachel.

Double rooms from £170 per night; breakfast from £10

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *