Canary Wharf, as a destination beyond conspicuous wealth creation and corporate drudgery, is somewhat Marmite. A marvel of architecture and modern invention, it is also a place devoid of human charm. The Four Seasons has set up shop in Canary Wharf primarily to service corporate affairs and business travellers, and I am here to see if it can be more than that – a real heart in our economic heart.
On first impression, Canary Wharf as a potential holiday retreat doesn’t convince. With its pristine and somewhat sinister buildings, man-made greenery and enough artificial lighting to illuminate an entire country, it manages to make even Brent Cross shopping centre, the most offensively banal place in London, seem pleasurable.
However, the Four Seasons may just have the answer. Conveniently placed in the thick of the action, it sits restfully on the banks of the Thames, offering beautiful views of the city and, on the weekend, a surprisingly calming pit stop as the streets of Canary Wharf whistle in the wind, abnormally absent of the clobber of brogues and suits and the buzzing of phones.
The hotel itself was thronged with guests, many staying for the night for a Lady Gaga concert at the nearby O2 arena. Clean, sophisticated and unfussy, it fit in perfectly with the standard one expects from the Four Seasons group, and while the rooms were fairly standard, the selling point was the location, views, and impeccable service.
The restaurant was decidedly quiet, surprising given the quality of the food. Sumptuous blackened cod and an exquisite molten chocolate cake rounded off a lovely meal at Quadrato, the hotel’s Italian restaurant, which featured an elegant wine trolley where some of Europe’s finest vintages could be sampled.
The hotel is running a fantastic weekend break, ‘The Time Traveller’s Experience’, in conjunction with the Maritime Museum, and for a combination of luxury and education, it can’t be bettered. Four Seasons time-travellers get complimentary tickets to the museum and the observatory, as well as a ride on the Thames Clipper.
Organised to celebrate the museum’s new exhibition on the developments of maritime horology, longitude and latitude, it covers the daring few who redefined naval exploration and placed Greenwich on the map as the centre of time. With rare objects, historical tidbits and virtual storytelling, it was equally engaging for parents and children. The exhibition then extends up the hill in gorgeous Greenwich park to the Observatory, where not only does the learning continue, but breathtaking views of the capital can be enjoyed. If only learning at school had been this much fun.