Set in London’s West End, with rooms starting from $380 a night, Nobu Portman Square is conveniently close to Selfridges, the well-known department store, and ten minutes away from Hyde Park. With the Wallace Collection and Wigmore Hall very near for cultured types, the hotel is in the area of Marylebone that has developed of late with its boutiques in the High Street and happening places such as Chiltern Firehouse and Trishna.
It opened with a huge new glass façade in winter 2020 as the 13th hotel in the Nobu brand, co-owned by Robert De Niro. Inside the staff hover in kimono-sleeved dresses or black polo necks. The foyer is light, spacious, and airy with its stunning silver spiral kinetic sculpture stretching 16 feet and suspended from the ceiling. Very much the signature item as it rotates above a display of gorgeous green glass vases.
Using light and glass, both The Lounge and Nobu Bar on the ground floor are very classy and elegant with their contemporary green and aubergine furniture and their glass tables with fish-scaled patterns and a glut of textural concepts that include a backdrop of black and gold geometric lines. It all felt very balanced with their masculine and feminine shapes, their straight edges softened by circles and curves.
Of the 250 or more guest rooms most have balconies and all have floor-to-ceiling windows through which the light floods. Mine had a modern and luxurious king-size bed dominating a minimalist, Zen-style décor of Japanese design comprising natural fabrics, pure, clean lines, and light wood. The doors slide in true Japanese fashion and besides the pictures of curlicues done in their calligraphic vernacular, there was an inviting kyūsu tea set. My bathroom had marble flooring, a deep indulgent tub, a kimono dressing- gown, and, of course, a Toto toilet. All was neutral, simple, and highly tranquil.
Along the left-hand ‘tower’ side of the building is ‘The White Box’an experimental gallery space used for artist residencies while in the right ‘tower’ I entered one of the three treatment rooms at the Wellness Centre to benefit hugely from my Portman Signature Fusion. Created by Mauli Rituals it comprised a head-to-toe treatment as well as a combination of ancient Ayurvedic and other massage techniques. It was intended to get to the deepest parts of my body and began with a ritual involving Ayurvedic oil being poured over me and then some hot stones laid across my back before a touch of acupressure and finally some bamboo rolling massage. All rounded off by a facial to make me glow and a final release of some muscle tension leaving me feeling light and, yes, complete and at ease. Very impressive it was in every sense and, relaxed as I surely was, I was able fully to appreciate my green tea served almost ritually, certainly ceremoniously, with the weight of the pot and the handle-free cup drawing my attention to the joy of the experience. All very grounding.
With daylight in the foyer, the contrast upstairs is one of darkness in Nobu Restaurant. To enter this long gallery of a room, with its open kitchen, its canteen layout, and its sushi counter there are sensual textures of elements such as rain at play on glass and mist and patterns on dark wenge wood. The lanterns are at a low level beneath a ceiling of lattice screens and the colors of dark leather banquettes and yellow ochre or grey chairs are reassuringly grounding.
And the outstanding food is Nobu’s trademark ‘Nobu Style’ familiar to all Nobu menus globally. Generous portions and fantastic presentation as irregular-shaped bowls carry food served with an eclectic mix of shapes in the parcels of sushi, of textures in the three-day marinated and miso-glazed black cod, and of colors in the deliciously chewy mochi ice creams. I lucked out further with my beef Toban Yaki which arrived sizzling on the table perfectly cooked as medium rare.
On a Sunday autumnal night, with a wonderful mixture of nationalities and age groups, it was near to its capacity of 200 diners which, for those who know London, is saying something. Quite something for quite a restaurant in quite a hotel.