London’s top five hotels to visit, even if you don’t stay

Best for food, St John, West End

This boutique hotel (it's really more of a restaurant with rooms) was launched last spring by the bon viveur co-founders of London's nose-to-tail restaurants St John and St John Bread and Wine with the new mantra of "from table-to-bed". Set just off Leicester Square, Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver's latest spot serves food until 2am and is worth visiting even if you're not staying. Inspired creations such as devilled pig skin with cod roe, or gurnard, tomatoes and aioli are served with delicious baked goods from the St John Bakery, but be warned, after a couple of their "little buns" – filled with bitter chocolate, prune or anchovy – you might have to book yourself in for a nap.
• 1 Leicester Street, WC2, 020-3301 8020, Two?course set lunch ?17.50

Best for views, Boundary, Shoreditch

The rooftop on Terence Conran's boutique hotel in a former printworks has panoramic views across the capital, taking in Canary Wharf, the Gherkin and the rooftops and spires of east London. The rooftop, with its beautiful Nicola Lesbirel-designed garden, featuring olive trees, a large sail-like canopy and big open fire, has to be one of the most striking and comfortable in London. It has its own bar and grill producing simple sharing plates and meat and seafood.
• 2-4 Boundary Street, E2, 020-7729 1051, Entrance in Redchurch Street. Open daily from noon

Best for wellbeing, K West Hotel & Spa, Shepherd's Bush

This hotel, a mere waddle from Westfield shopping centre, won best luxury hotel spa in the UK in the 2011 World Luxury Spa awards – and for good reason. The "Snow Paradise" experience, for example, involves you stinging your senses in - 15C powder snow but there is also warming comfort in the form of a hydrotherapy pool with built-in massagers. For just ?50 a day (which sounds a lot, but compares well with some more central hotels), non-guests can use the gym or hydrotherapy pool, snow room, sauna, steam rooms and relaxation areas. A lovely range of holistic treatments are also on offer. Coffeeberry yoga facial anyone?
• Richmond Way, W14, 020-8008 6600, Treatments from ?55

Best for cocktails, The Zetter Townhouse, Clerkenwell

Worth a visit for its amazing taxidermy alone (there's a tabby cat in a frock with a parasol), this 13-bedroom Georgian townhouse is the eccentric little sister to the trendy Zetter hotel and serves up some of London's most interesting cocktails. Sumptuous sofas, rugs and oddities, and walls hung with gilt-framed paintings make the cocktail lounge a suitably vivid setting in which to enjoy the creations of Tony Conigliaro – who earned a reputation for his groundbreaking cocktail making at his other venture 69 Colebrooke Row. Conigliaro pays homage to Clerkenwell's rich history, drawing on old recipes for tinctures, bitters and herbal remedies in concoctions such as the pine needle gimlet and les fleurs du mal – a mixture of rose vodka, lemon juice and a hint of absinthe.
• St John's Square, 86-88 Clerkenwell Road, EC1, 020-7324 4444, Open Sun-Wed till midnight, Thurs-Sat till 1am

Best for afternoon tea, Browns Hotel, Mayfair

There are few things as British as sipping afternoon tea from delicate porcelain cups with dainty finger sandwiches in one of London's plushest hotels. Browns Hotel took the Tea Guild's top London afternoon tea award in 2009 and has an entire space – The English Tea Room – dedicated to the tradition, where you can sit amid the wood panelling, log fires and tinkling of the baby grand, and take your pick from 17 tea varieties. The hotel's pastry chefs are out to impress with their assortment of pastries, fruit and plain scones and cakes (which come wheeled to you on a trolley), and you can opt for the "champagne" tea if you're really pushing the boat out.
• Albemarle Street, W1, 020-7493 6020, The English Tea Room serves afternoon tea Mon-Fri 3pm-6pm, Sat-Sun 1pm-6pm. Traditional afternoon tea from ?39.50

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