Walking around the tiny cobblestone alleyways of Southwark all feels a bit Dickensian. In keeping with the theme, The Dixon, nearby (and with a killer view of Tower Bridge) is setting up shop in a Grade II-listed building that served as a magistrates’ court until 2013. Don’t worry, you won’t find any stuffy lawyers or dusty filing cabinets here; it’s been given a new lease of life as a boutique hotel and the latest addition to Autograph Collection – Marriott’s design-led portfolio. The verdict? A business hotel that doesn’t skimp on the cool factor.
The area between Southwark and Bermondsey has often felt like a no-man’s-land, but these days, change is afoot. The area is seeing a bit of a resurgence with the newly opened The Bridge theatre as well as cool East London restaurant Gunpowder’s second outpost and The Ivy (yes, it’s an offshoot of Soho’s glamorous private members’ club). There’s all the old favourites within walking distance too, like Tower Bridge (of course), the Tower of London and Tate Modern, if you’re a first timer to the city.
The hotel wholeheartedly embraces its past life as a magistrates’ court. It’s all grey walls and wood panelling in the show-stopping lobby with gigantic central staircase, gold-brushed lighting and mint green runners. Artworks are fashioned from former cell benches (complete with prisoners’ etchings to boot) and walls embedded with old cell keys. You wont be slumming it behind bars here – the 193 rooms and suites are bang up to date with glossy dark wood and plush fabrics rendered in a moody palette of mustard, grey and teal. Marble bathrooms feature toiletries from hipster barbers Murdock.
In the oak-panelled Courtroom Bar (yes, where all of the action happened), mugshots of petty criminals gaze at you disapprovingly as you sip cocktails such as the Tall Judge Martinez (a heady combination of pinenut-infused gin and rose vermouth). Provisioners restaurant is a cheerier affair, with its pastel Bauhaus-inspired décor and compact-but-creative menu (the culurgiones with pecorino and winter truffles are worth venturing across town for) – and you’ll still find two restored jail cells in the centre of the restaurant. You might be jostling for space in the small (but perfectly formed) gym.
Execs looking for an upgrade from the usual staid business hotels, as well as the tourists intrigued by the Dixon’s salacious backstory.
While the overarching penal theme could come across as gimmicky on paper, The Dixon’s interpretation certainly does, ahem, justice to its colourful history.