The Ned in London isn't a business hotel, it's an 'urban resort'

Don't even think about calling the Ned a business hotel.

Yes, behind its grand 1920s Midland Bank facade it's the size of a convention centre property, with 320,000 total square-feet of space. And yes, it's located smack in the middle of the London's finance and business core.

But a business hotel is the very last thing the Ned's founders set out to create. Based on repeated warnings from their handlers, they seem to consider those two words nothing short of anathema.

The Ned is the first collaboration between Andrew Zobler and Nick Jones, red-hot hoteliers with a gift for attracting the creme de la creme of the creative class. Jones founded Soho House, while Zobler is chief executive of Sydell Group, which develops and operates acclaimed properties like the Nomad in New York, the Freehand (in Miami and Chicago), and the Line (in Los Angeles and Washington D.C.).

An urban resort is more appropriate term, they say. And yet, when it opens on April 27, the Ned will be the best business hotel in town, make no bones about it.

Business hotels need to learn to cater to a younger demographic

Jack Ezon

Blockbuster proportions

If Jones' Soho House hotels have been like indie movies, he characterised in an interview, then this is his big blockbuster.

The project is massive terms of both size and investment: 252 rooms in 13 categories; seven public restaurants; a private members' club; three bars; a rooftop pool; six meeting and event spaces; a barbershop; a women's hair studio; separate salons for facials and skin rejuvenation bar, make-up, and nail; a fitness club; and a spa.

While the team declined to comment on their total budget, the recent restoration of the glitzy Corinthia, another sprawling London hotel, cost a cool $650 million. And despite the prowess of both hoteliers, neither was willing to tackle the project alone.

"Nick had never done anything of this scale, but he understands London as well as anybody and has a great aesthetic and style," said Zobler of their partnership. "We understood the hotel business and development very well. Together we made a great team."

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Jones concurred, "We've been responsible for the design, and they've been responsible for the implementation-it's been a super successful collaboration."

Bigger is better

"Lifestyle hotels used to be synonymous with this idea of 'boutique,'" said Zobler. "Small meant better. More intimate." He sees that changing. "Growing in scale means you can offer a larger range of amenities," he explained.

Those separate men's and women's salons perfectly prove the point: they'll come in handy whether guests are going to black-tie weddings or buttoned-up board meetings. Ditto the meeting rooms with private terraces or the 24-hour British brasserie called Millie's (as convenient for locals' post-party munchies as it will be for suits with late-night flight arrivals).

"Nobody wants to stay in the same boring business hotels with the same restaurant menus and the same ugly awnings," said Jack Ezon of Ovation Travel, whose company books at least 30,000 corporate room nights in London annually. "You want a cool place with a great vibe that gets you in a good mood, especially if you're entertaining. And if you can combine that with big, nice rooms it's even better," he added.

The Ned, he says, ticks those boxes. Entertaining will be easy with eight restaurants that include a sister to Cecconi's in Mayfair; a Jewish deli; a Parisian-inspired cafe; and several spaces that will be for guest use only, like a bar in the bank building's old vault space, a rooftop grill, and a ritzy American steakhouse.

"For business travellers, the Ned is a game-changer," said Ezon, estimating that the project will likely see 60-80 per cent of their occupancy ticking the business box on their immigration forms. 

Public and private offerings

"You have to be a member to walk into a Soho House building, but a good night at the Ned will see every sort of person in there – that's what will make it interesting and exciting, I think," said Jones, whose previous projects have always been characterised by a sense of exclusivity. "The Ned is for everyone."

And yet, that's not entirely true. While a bulk of the restaurants and public spaces will in fact be open to the public, a private membership club will still give the Ned an elite bent.

Included in the membership cost (which starts at £1500 GBP, or around $2500) is access to a series of private spaces like the aforementioned restaurants, a marble-clad gym, and a spa with a hammam, sauna, and swimming pool. Perhaps the hardest tables to book on property will be those at the Princes Dome and Poultry Dome Bars, two visually spectacular watering holes built into round rooftop atriums.

Though a long-held focus of Soho House clubs, getting admitted here won't require you to be a creative professional. The hotel's position will force it to open its network beyond the traditional editorial-, art-, and fashion-types.

"What we're really hoping for is a blend of people," said Zobler, who said that "getting the alchemy right" would require a diverse mix of business travellers, start-up entrepreneurs, transient locals, leisure types, and beyond. "We're trying to cultivate that through the diversity of the offerings," he explained.

The bottom line

"Business hotels need to learn to cater to a younger demographic," said Ezon. "They need to capture local energy, and have some life to them." That's exactly what the Ned is designed to do.

So call it an urban resort if you must, but we'll raise our glass to Zobler and Jones for creating the business hotel of the future: one that's not strictly-for-business at all.

Bloomberg