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?