Celebrating the art, ritual and elegance of Japanese hospitality, The Prince Akatoki London brings a unique five-star luxury hotel experience to the UK capital, as Natalie Bannister discovers.
Tucked away on a quiet, tree-lined street in the affluent area of Marylebone lies a haven of luxury with a curious mix of traditional Japanese culture and hospitality, with all the contemporary cool of modern indulgence in London.
The Prince Akatoki London, formerly known as The Arch hotel, has undergone a complete transformation under the expert guidance of Prince Hotels, a renowned Japanese brand making its European debut. Inspired by Japan and its inherently understated and uncluttered aesthetic, the boutique hotel boasts 82 rooms and suites, all beautifully designed with a softly spoken and minimalist feel. Natural finishes, a soft colour palette, and subtle mood lighting create a sanctuary for the senses, and a retreat in the heart of busy London (the hotel is set on a row of classic Georgian townhouses a few streets back from Marble Arch tube station, and only a few minutes walk from bustling Oxford Street).
We checked into one of the hotel’s luxe Studio Suites, hidden away on the lower level. Whisper-quiet in both ambience and style, the Studio Suites are individually designed with bespoke furnishings and a separate seating area made for relaxation and rejuvenation, and it’s a welcome haven of calm after the many days of hectic travel we experienced prior. I waste no time in hitting refresh for body and mind, washing the day away in the expansive walk-in rainfall shower before slipping on the traditional Yukata robe waiting in the wardrobe (complete with instructions on how to properly tie it) and brewing a pot of green tea with our in-house Japanese tea set.
Every visual and sensory touchpoint at The Prince Akatoki London is imbued with mindfulness and the peerless hospitality, design and traditions that are synonymous with Japanese culture. Guests can delve into authentic and signature Japanese experiences, including immersive sushi masterclasses, calligraphy, origami and Furoshiki workshops, traditional Japanese tea ceremonies enhanced by live performances by renowned musician Keiko Kitamura, and exclusive Whisky Flights at The Malt Lounge & Bar — a Japanese-inspired hideaway on the hotel’s ground floor that puts a twist on your traditional London bar experience.
The Malt Lounge & Bar focuses the attention on premium Japanese and international whiskies and showcases a variety of rare and unique Japanese homegrown sake. There’s also an experiential menu of signature cocktails designed like a journey through Japan, with each drink utilising combinations of flavours, textures and presentation that represent the unique character and traditions of the country’s many prefectures, all shaken and artfully poured by the in-house expert mixologists.
Our tipple of choice? The Shimane for my partner (bourbon whiskey, VSOP cognac, rice and barley orgeat and Hojicha Bitters poured on toasted rice), and Tokyo (gin, Shubo Shibori Sake, vermouth and Japanese Bitters Umami) for me, all perfectly paired with wasabi peas and nori rice crackers.
The taste of Japan doesn’t end there, as we head to the hotel’s fine fusion restaurant TOKii, where shoji screens and dark woods create an intimate atmosphere. While the Japanese influence is unmistakable, TOKii’s chefs are inspired by international ingredients and the endless possibilities of fusion cuisine, which is served on elegant hand-crafted tableware, an elevated presentation, like art on a plate.
TOKii’s sushi counter menu has been carefully curated by a master from Japan, with the emphasis placed on delivering the true essence of sushi creation. We also order some dishes from the à la carte menu, designed to be shared at the centre of the table: Japanese pickled vegetables, beef fillet tataki with red onion salsa, ponzu and garlic crisps, Kinoko mushroom salad with green peppercorn dressing, mixed vegetable tempura with a yuzu ponzu, and Robata grilled aubergine with chilli, spring onion and ginger miso. We could easily imagine we were dining in a fine establishment in Tokyo or Kyoto.
For the full Japanese experience, it’s all washed down with the finest Japanese sake, made by Akashi-Tai Japanese sake in the Hyogo Prefecture and served either chilled or warm in a fine traditional Japanese serving set comprising a tokkuri (flask) and ochoko (cups).
What sets The Prince Akatoki London apart is its ability to seamlessly blend the best of Japanese hospitality with a distinctly London twist. The hotel’s sophisticated minimalism and understated elegance make it one of the city’s best boutique hotels, while its low-key charm keeps it a hidden gem despite opening a few years ago. Whether you’re seeking a peaceful retreat or an immersive cultural experience, The Prince Akatoki London offers a haven where East meets West, creating a truly memorable and enchanting stay in the UK’s capital of cool.