Radio and Marconi Lounge, London

Mark Ludmon visits the Marconi Lounge and the newly opened Radio bar at London’s ME Hotel

ME Hotel Radio Bar

In 1922, the first regular radio programmes were broadcast from Marconi House in central London. Over 90 years later, the landmark site has been transformed into the luxurious ME Hotel where you can now sip cocktails such as the Radio-Active or the AM/FM in the rooftop Radio bar or the ground-floor Marconi Lounge.

The design-led hotel, which has 157 guest rooms, is the flagship of international group ME by Meliá and is the first hotel project where both the exterior and interior were designed by top architecture and design practice Foster + Partners. The façade of the 1904 Marconi House has been retained alongside the new build to create an elegant combination of classical with contemporary design.

In the lobby is the Marconi lounge bar, named after Guglielmo Marconi who invented the radio. Separated from the corridor by an undulating wall of vertical chrome tubes, the space is full of curves and circles, with a warm colour palette of grey, cream and deep brown. There are three different zones: an oval bar counter, a library with low shelving, candles, magazines and tapering armchairs, and a central lounge with a fireplace and two sofas, centred on a 200kg disc of chocolate-coloured marble, inset with a real flame. Each space is lit by round chandeliers, creating rings of light, which, like many of the furniture pieces, were custom-designed by Foster + Partners.

A dedicated express lift takes you up to the 10th floor to the light and airy Radio bar. With a monochrome colour palette and onyx walls, it has minimal decoration alongside mid-century-style brown sofas, black tub chairs, light blue upholstered stools and white-topped high tables.

Foster + Partners partner Giles Robinson adds: “The flexible, light-filled space is subtly divided into intimate niches to relax, with deep sofas, indoor seating areas behind full-height windows, and an onyx-clad bar which is back-lit to spectacular effect.” The central focus of the interior is the steel-latticed peak of the nine-storey cathedral-like pyramid that runs up the core of the building, providing views down to the reception below.

Radio’s terrace sweeps round two sides of the building, providing fantastic views of London. With stylish furniture in black and white, the 64-capacity terrace has covered cabanas that can be booked in advance. With the option of extending the bar to include the two-storey Suite ME inside a glazed cupola, it is proving a popular space for events.

Along with the hotel’s restaurants STK and Cucina Asellina, the bars are run by The One Group, which operates bars, clubs and restaurants at locations such as the Gansevoort hotels in New York City and London’s Hippodrome Casino. In the Marconi Lounge, the focus is coffees, juices, pastries and afternoon tea in the daytime through to cocktails in the evening. There are more comprehensive menus at Radio, including Mediterranean-inspired dishes for lunch and high-quality light bites.

As well as offering twisted classics, the bar’s cocktails are modern and accessible, put together under general manager Brendan Stegmann, formerly at Kettner’s in Soho. The Radio-Active combines Grey Goose vodka with lime, basil and jalapeño, while the AM/FM mixes Bacardi rum and Chambord black raspberry liqueur with mint, lemon and passion fruit.

Other interesting recipes include the Hollywood & Vine, mixing Woodford Reserve bourbon, grapes, Tuaca liqueur and agave syrup, and the Waterloo Sunset, made with 23-year-old Zacapa rum, coffee beans and lime. Rum, vodka, gin and tequila are well represented behind the bar, from George T Stagg whiskey and Appleton Estate 21 Year Old rum to Johnnie Walker King George V and Hibiki 17 Year Old whiskies.

Open from 11am to 3am Fridays and Saturdays and till 1am other nights of the week, Radio has regular late-night DJs to confirm it as a party destination. Since opening in March, the cold weather has not deterred people from enjoying cocktails on the terrace so, as spring and summer approach, it is time to get in line.

Radio, ME Hotel, 336-337 Strand, London WC2R 1HA Tel: 020 7395 3400

Marconi Lounge

Marconi Lounge

Who did it
Architects, interior: Foster + Partners
Fit-out contractor: Mivan
Lighting: BDSP
Bars, kitchen: Horizon Foodservice Equipment
AV: Willow Communications
External stonework: Bishops
Atrium lantern: Bellapart
Mechanical, electrical, plumbing: Estel
Furniture: Andreu World
Furniture (Marconi): Edra, Cappellini, Davison Highley, Johanson Design
Chandeliers (Marconi): Aktiva
Lighting (Marconi): Viabizzuno
Fabrics (Marconi): Gaston y Daniela
Furniture (Radio): B&B Italia, Walter Knoll,
Outdoor furniture: Dedon, Kettal
Carpet (Radio): Stepevi, BIC Carpets
Fabrics (Radio): JAB Anstoetz

Originally published in the May 2013 issue of Bar magazine

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