The Australian - Wish Magazine - - HOTELS -

In the golden age of bank­ing, it was essen­tial the head­quar­ters of fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions be grand, stern-faced and pros­per­ous-look­ing. How else to in­stil the con­fi­dence in ma­jor in­vestors to de­posit their mil­lions? The Mid­land Bank build­ing, in the fi­nan­cial and busi­ness heart­land of Lon­don var­i­ously known as The City and The Square Mile, was a typ­i­cal ex­am­ple of such mon­u­men­tal de­sign when it opened in 1924, a ca­reer tri­umph of pres­ti­gious ar­chi­tect Sir Ed­win (Ned) Lu­tyens who also de­signed the par­lia­men­tary precinct of New Delhi. But fast-for­ward to dig­i­tal bank­ing, branch clo­sures and staff cuts, and an ed­i­fice such as this has out­lived its orig­i­nal pur­pose.

Be ush­ered through tall front por­tals and, wow, you are in The Ned, Lon­don’s new­est and most talked-about ho­tel. It im­presses from that first step into the Grand Bank­ing Hall, an es­tate of 3000sqm. The one-time re­cep­tion podium now serves as a stage for live jazz. Seven restau­rants are clev­erly ar­rayed around this L-shaped ground floor of flow­ing spa­ces, with en­try­ways from Poul­try and Princes streets. The place is abuzz with ac­tiv­ity. Stock­bro­ker-look­ing chaps are knock­ing back sig­na­ture grape­fruit-spiked Ned­gro­nis in the 24/7 Mil­lie’s Lounge where, my porter tells me, big deals are done late into the night on mo­bile phones to for­eign time zones. Cel­e­bra­tory sales of cham­pagne are strong around mid­night, ap­par­ently. Ninety-two orig­i­nal col­umns fash­ioned from glossy African verdite form gi­ant pal­isades; stick­y­beaks and ar­riv­ing guests seem trans­fixed by the scale and scope. Where to drink, eat, sit or stroll?

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