Rising on the banks of the Thames River, the sleek, blue glass sheathed Hotel Rafayel on the Left Bank is more than just five star London accommodations. Set within the rapidly gentrifying Battersea neighborhood, it is a symbol of the future of London’s south bank. Once part of the bustling industrial heartland of the British Empire, the area declined rapidly after Second World War devastation caused by the blitz. But the Hotel Rafayel is part of the remarkable 21st century transformation of the Docklands, the East End and South London from wasteland into the vibrant, upscale, multi-ethnic residential and commercial city London has become.
Less than five years old, businessman and visionary Iqbal Latif bought the old Falcon Wharf with its panoramic views of the river and trendy Chelsea. The 65-room Rafayel on the Left Bank and the 25 luxury Falcon Wharf apartments share the same ultra modern structure. Comprising the lower floors of the building, the Hotel Rafayel offers all the amenities and convenience a traveler expects from five star accommodations and beautiful river views through the floor to ceiling windows.
By European standards, the rooms are spacious ranging from 220 to 700 square feet. Ultra soft Egyptian linens cover the incomparably comfortable mattresses and allergen-free bedding is readily available on request. The wide screen wall mounted television serves as the room’s central panel for all lighting, climate and entertainment controls. A fully stocked mini bar, coffee and tea service is discreetly hidden behind handsome mahogany doors as is the sizable closet.
The bathrooms are among the largest of their kind this travel journalist has experienced. Premium fixtures by Roca gleam in contrast to the dark hues of Muarno glass tiled walls. A huge mirror spans the wall, organic and all-natural toiletries are provided and the shower allows for multiple water options.
Yet Mr. Latif was not satisfied simply constructing a handsome, modern hotel. He has a profound respect for the environment and the Hotel Rafayel on the Left Bank has garnered praise for its attention to environmental details. Components for the actual building’s construction from the glass walls, the mahogany paneling, the Hypnos beds to the glassware are all made from recycled materials. A state-of-the-art ventilation system electronically balances the heating and cooling needs of the structure. Rainwater for plant irrigation is captured from the hotel’s roof and terraces. LED lighting is used throughout the hotel. Digital newspapers are available on demand and the Rafayel uses no plastic containers whatsoever.
The Banyan on the Thames restaurant has panoramic river views, follows the same fair-trade and sustainable philosophy of the hotel, and offers an eclectic menu befitting its international clientele. Although many restaurants with menus ranging from Thai, Chinese, Indian, English and Mediterranean fusion can become a buffet of mediocrity, in the hands of the Rafayel’s talented kitchen staff it creates the reason why a guest would want to make the Banyan their regular dining venue. Staying true to the signature ingredients, herbs and spices of each cuisine, the presentations are imaginative and elegant.
A composed salad of crabmeat, mango, onion and cucumber paired with king prawns and a mango coriander dressing made a refreshing first course for brunch. Tilapia fish cakes, spiced with an Indian blend and paired with lemongrass chili jam and a tossed salad were so satisfying they were ordered on two occasions as a starter.
Fresh parpardelle in a creamy wild mushroom sauce was an earthy and flavorful pasta lunch entree. Baked honey glazed sea bream with enoki mushrooms and braised endive was moist with a crispy skin. Deeply flavored slowly clay-pot baked lamb in a sauce redolent of Indian herbs, tomatoes and chili paired well with warm naan bread.
The Banyan’s fusion of English and Indian cuisines shined in their version of classic fish and chips. Succulent haddock fillets were fried in a lime and coriander tempura batter and served with chili salt chips. From the dessert menu, the Kheer brulee was a brilliant fusion of a traditional Indian rice pudding and French brulee technique. A select wine list representing Europe’s finest vineyards included excellent vintages from Argentina and Australia, and the bar mixed some of the best cocktails in London, including a truly dry Manhattan.
The comfort of the rooms, the culinary excellence of the Banyan on the Thames restaurant and the location on the Thames River are reason enough to chose the Hotel Rafayel on the Left Bank. The fact that it’s the most affordable five star hotel in London simply makes the decision easier. The reality that its small carbon footprint is assisting the environment only adds to the Rafayel’s 21st century charm.
Hotel Rafayel on the Left Bank, 34 Lombard Road, Battersea, London, SW11 3RF telephone: 020 7801 3600