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Travel writer and editor
Two new breeds of hotel room are rising. At one end of the spectrum, you have the super-luxe super-suite. At the other, the no-fuss capsule hotel. The one thing they have in common, says Mark Jones, is you – the modern-day traveller.
Here are two London hotel rooms I’ve reviewed recently. See if you can spot the difference...
The first is the Opus Suite at The Berkeley. At 278 square metres, it is one of the largest so-called super-suites, which are beginning to appear in the capital. It has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a dining room and a kitchen.
The second is Room 102 at the citizenM hotel. In truth, we could have chosen any room; the spec is identical. At 14 square metres, it is one of the smallest rooms in London. It has a day bed, a shower, a washbasin, a small cupboard – and not much else.
At the Opus Suite, you get 24-hour butler service. There are signature restaurants run by Pierre Koffmann and Marcus Wareing. They will cook for you on request and deliver a daily basket of seasonal food from Borough Market. At citizenM, there is a self-service check-in and canteen restaurant, and it is quite easy to spend the night there without interacting with a single member of staff.
The Opus has views over the tree-lined streets of Knightsbridge, the most opulent district of London. At citizenM, you look over a busy south London thoroughfare and a supermarket.
Though the Opus suite only opened at the end of 2013, The Berkeley traces its history back to 1897. It is a fine, Portland stone-clad structure with a rooftop swimming pool. citizenM, which opened in 2012, is a former office building.
The Opus suite will cost you £10,000 a night; citizenM, £169.
You may have spotted a few notable differences between both rooms and hotels. Let’s try a harder question: where’s the similarity?
It’s this. Both have been created for the new breed of traveller. And both tell us something very interesting about the way travel is evolving.
The Opus is for people for whom an ordinary luxury suite won’t do. Guests so far have included captains of industry, a high-flying art dealer, a Hollywood star and one of the world’s greatest sportsmen. The CEOs can hold board meetings there; the stars can invite the media in without having to hide their spare socks and underwear. It’s also a response to the fashion among high net-worth people to travel in family clans or with entourages of assistants and security. It’s a rare top-end hotel today that doesn’t offer interconnecting rooms as well as the marbled acres of the actual suite.
CitizenM is for the new breed too: people who want to travel light, fast and unencumbered by luggage, family, colleagues or the traditional hotel impedimenta of check-in, check-out, concierge, bell hops and tipping.
But what really links the two breeds is their refusal to compromise. At the Opus you pay for the Zimmer+Rohde wall panels, the Christian Cadelli sculptures and the bathtub hewn from a single piece of marble. At citizenM you get Egyptian cotton sheets, LCD TV, mood lighting and a top-of-the-range rain shower.
Maybe hotels, like the world in general, are becoming more unequal. Or – also like the wider world – maybe it’s the middle that’s getting squeezed. If so, both the super-suites and luxury capsules have got a great future ahead of them.