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Raffles London at The OWO

by Patricia Nugent

raffles london

at the owo

london, england

The feeling that history was packed into every cell of the building was palpable, which creates a sense of belonging and awe. It is a very special place. So many fascinating stories. 

Set in one of London’s most historic landmark buildings—the Old War Office—Raffles London at The OWO is a testament to history and opulence.

Built on the site of a former palace, the architecturally exquisite neo-Baroque structure is a towering presence in London’s skyline, just a stroll away from Downing Street and Buckingham Palace.

Originally constructed in 1906, the iconic building served as the center of the British Army’s administration through 1964. This is where Sir Winston Churchill masterminded the Allied victory over Hitler. Throughout the years, many secretaries of state and prime ministers have resided at The OWO. Since MI5 and MI6 were founded here, and spies came and went, there was a discreet side door, which was, and will continue to be known as “the spies’ entrance.”

The OWO even found its way into pop culture. Since Ian Fleming was working for Britain’s Naval Intelligence Service when he was inspired to write the James Bond novels, the building was featured as a backdrop in several Bond movies.

Purchased by the Hinduja Group in 2014, Raffles was appointed as the hotel operator in 2018, and it opened its doors following extensive renovations in 2023. Every bit of its storied grandeur—from original crystal chandeliers to the marble staircase and hand-tiled mosaic floors—was restored and renewed.

An escape in the heart of the city

The OWO’s Guerlain Spa and Pillar Wellbeing Centre bring together notable experts in wellness and beauty. 

According to Robert Jeffers, director of wellbeing, “With four floors, nine treatment suites, a 20-meter swimming pool, plus steam and sauna rooms, we offer a truly unique escape from the outside world an indulgent wellbeing experience in the heart of the city.”

Spanning 27,000 square feet, the spa offers a personalized, holistic approach. The pioneering Parisian beauty brand has designed spa treatments exclusively for the hotel that capture the essence of England and all its energy and contrasts. 

“Every detail of our space and offerings, from design by Goddard Littlefair to exclusive London-inspired treatments from Guerlain and personalized training and recovery from Pillar Wellbeing, has been carefully considered,” he adds. “We even have two spacious Lifestyle Suites on the fourth floor of the hotel where those seeking wellness facilities in their room can be accommodated.”

I caught up with Organic Spa magazine founder and publisher Bev Maloney-Fischback, who recently stayed at Raffles London at The OWO, for some insider’s information.

Were you there for a specific work trip or leisure travel?

I was meeting with our new London PR team and visiting venues for our upcoming 2024 London Experience Wellness & Travel Summit in October.

You’ve been all over London, what made this hotel stand out?

The OWO is the first Raffles hotel in London and one of the most profound, conscientious and formidable renovations and masterpiece designs I’ve ever seen. It’s absolutely stunning, extremely posh and impossibly elegant. A phenomenal sense of history plays out in every inch of the space. I adore London and we also love the Accor brand and specifically Raffles and Fairmont hotels. 

What was your favorite meal while there?

Since there are nine restaurants and three bars on the property, there’s an eclectic variety of cuisines to explore. Led by world-class Chef Mauro Colagreco, who’s earned three Michelin stars, the meal I enjoyed at his signature restaurant was incredible. Its delicious and organic dishes took farm-to-table to the next level, a real ode to British terroir. Each plate highlighted a seasonal garden specialty, such as fennel or Jerusalem artichoke. And I enjoyed a delicious craft mocktail made with natural citrus essences. After dinner I headed down to the subterranean speakeasy called The Spy Bar. The only thing missing was Daniel Craig and a shaken-not-stirred martini. Housed in space once used by MI5, the bartender recommended I try the signature drink, the Vesper. It was mysteriously delightful. I asked him what was in it, but he couldn’t tell me. It’s classified. 

Which spa services did you enjoy?

When I am traveling through time zones and need a good reset, I always opt for a classic deep tissue massage. My masseuse was excellent, but what was more memorable was the entire experience and the lavishly appointed treatment room. 

Why would you recommend it to travelers?

I’m a lover of historic properties and meticulously restored spaces. The feeling that history was packed into every cell of the building was palpable, which creates a sense of belonging and awe. It is a very special place. So many fascinating stories. When being shown my room, I mentioned how wide the hallways were and I was told by the staff member that they had to accommodate bicycle messengers going both ways, who were common in the The Old War Office primarily through the war years, 1919 through to 1945. No doubt they were delivering clandestine messages of great historic significance.  

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