2018 update: This hotel is now the Canary Riverside Plaza, and I haven’t stayed there since this change.
When you’re staying at a hotel do you like the staff to be friendly and chatty or do you prefer them to be more reserved? I much prefer the former because, to me, it feels welcoming.
Four Seasons Canary Wharf
Last Friday night my 17 year-old daughter and I stayed at the Four Seasons hotel in London’s Canary Wharf. We were looking forward to reviewing the hotel because it’s luxurious, it’s in a wonderful riverside location and it has great facilities, including a spa and an infinity pool overlooking the Thames. What I wasn’t expecting from this five-star experience was how welcoming and kind all of the staff that we met at the hotel would be.
I checked in on Friday afternoon using the Four Seasons app on my phone. Once my daughter arrived home from school we caught a train to London and then the Jubilee line to Canary Wharf Underground station in the docklands area in the East of the city. It was an easy journey, and it took about ten minutes to walk from the station to the hotel, passing besuited office workers who were enjoying a drink after work in the many bars and restaurants in the area.
It was already dark when we arrived at the hotel. Four Seasons Canary Wharf is in a modern building, designed by Phillippe Starck, and has 142 rooms and suites over 10 storeys. We were greeted by a friendly doorman who was expecting us, knew our names and had our room keys ready. He escorted us to the reception desk, where the staff also knew our names already, and we were given a personalised list of suggestions of things to do and places to go while we were staying at the hotel, including the best places to shop and some outdoor activities. My daughter was delighted to be taken to the ‘sweet shop’ in the lobby and presented with a bag of treats (personally I think that adults should be welcomed in this way too!).
We were staying in room 516, an Executive Suite overlooking the Thames. The first thing that struck me about the room was the space – it was huge. The next thing I noticed was that there were fireworks going off across the city – it was the beginning of November and we had a grandstand view of the Bonfire Night celebrations from the huge windows of our suite.
We were happy to find a dish of chocolate and fruit on the dining table to welcome us, as well as some crisps and drinks on a low table by the window.
The suite has a main sitting room, with an en suite cloakroom, and an interconnecting bedroom, with an en suite bathroom. The furnishings are modern and luxurious, there are all of the gadgets and gizmos that you might need (including a Nespresso machine stocked, for me, with decaf coffee: I’d mentioned when I checked in that afternoon that I prefer decaf). We felt at home straight away. There’s free wi-fi throughout the hotel for guests, which made my daughter very happy. Here’s a video that I made of the suite when we arrived:
My favourite part of the room, which I didn’t notice until the next morning, was the leather window seat in the lounge area. It was the perfect spot for contemplating the river and the city beyond.
Dinner at Quadrato
We’d been invited to eat at the hotel restaurant, Quadrato. The hotel was pretty quiet that evening (I was told that it’s much busier during the week, as people stay there on business) and so dinner was served in the bar area rather than in the main restaurant. There were a few couples there as well as a family with a baby. Our waiter, Cataldo, was charming. It turns out that he’s from the same part of Sicily as my husband’s family, and we chatted happily about our visits to the island.
We chose a couple of ‘small bites’ from the winter menu to share as starters: vegetable spring rolls and homemade hummus with pitta bread, which was all very tasty. Next my daughter chose fish and chips, which she enjoyed, while I had vegetarian ramen (a dish with noodles and vegetables), which was good but difficult to eat with cutlery or with chopsticks! The chef then sent us a small dish of spinach and ricotta ravioli which tasted divine. I was pretty full after that but I had some fruit while my daughter opted for a chocolate brownie – I tasted it and it was delicious.
Back at our room I decided to have a bath, and it was so comfortable that I actually fell asleep in there. I then found that my daughter had installed herself in the super king-sized bed rather than in the single bed that had been set up in the lounge area. I didn’t want to sleep in the single bed either, and, as there was plenty of room for both of us, I joined her in the big bed (my husband and son and the dog could probably have fitted in there too).
Next morning I woke up at 7am and decided that I had to swim in the gorgeous infinity pool which we could see from our windows, right next to the river. Hotel guests can use the facilities at the Virgin Active Health Club next door, including the stunning 20-metre long infinity pool which featured in the film Skyfall – Daniel Craig swam there as James Bond. I had the slow lane to myself as I swam a few lengths of the pool before breakfast, and it was a fabulous feeling swimming along next to the Thames.
The health club also has a gym, sauna, steam room and hydrotherapy pool which looked very inviting. Children can swim in the pool as long as they’re with an adult – there was a lifeguard on duty when I was there.
Breakfast is served in the airy Quadrato restaurant on the ground floor. I love hotel breakfasts, and this one was of a very good standard. There were pastries, fruit, bread, cold meats and porridge on offer as well as hot dishes prepared by staff in the open kitchen at the side of the restaurant.
There was a selection of daily papers to read and we were served hot and cold drinks at our table. The staff were very attentive and friendly.
After breakfast we went to look around the shops in Canary Wharf. Canary Wharf is a modern part of London and has some striking architecture. During the week it hosts thousands of finance workers (including my husband) and offers hundreds of high-end shops, bars and restaurants, mostly inside shopping malls. At the weekends the shopping area is pretty quiet, although there are some fantastic shops there. We popped in to Massimo Dutti, Top Shop, Zara, Moleskine and the most upmarket Boots that I’ve ever seen.
In the area
We had to check out and set off for home at midday as my daughter was going to a friend’s house that afternoon. If we’d had more time I’d have liked to visit the nearby Museum of London Docklands and go to the Canary Wharf Ice Rink – we’ll just have to go there another time.
Everyone at the hotel was so kind to us that I couldn’t help but wonder if they all knew that I would be writing about them. Then I looked at the Four Seasons directory in our room, and was interested to read a piece by the company’s chairman, Isodore Sharp. He wrote that the single basic principle of Four Seasons is ‘to treat others as you wish to be treated yourself’. Back home I asked my husband about his experience of Four Seasons (he travels a lot for work). He told me that he loves staying at Four Seasons hotels because the staff are always great and make him feel at home.
I really enjoyed staying at Four Seasons Canary Wharf and would definitely recommend it. Our suite was great and the views were amazing, best enjoyed from the window seat. I loved swimming in the pool. I was particularly impressed by the friendliness and kindness of the staff. Canary Wharf has fast connections to central London so this would be a good place to base yourself for a few days in the city.
My daughter says: ‘The bed was really comfortable and the pillows were comfy and very squishy. The towels were nice and fluffy. The bath was a good bath. Everything that could be comfy was comfy. The food was nice. I didn’t like the cherry liqueur with my brownie. The staff were really helpful and friendly.’ (On being welcomed with sweets) ‘If you’d just come in from a really long journey then those sweets would really perk you up.’
More on London…
If you’d like to see more of my reviews of places to stay in London you can read about Amba Hotel Marble Arch here, Hilton London Metropole here, Go Native Apartments here, Royal Garden Hotel here, and there are more reviews in the Where to stay category.
If you’d like some inspiration for great things to do in London with kids, I publish a monthly round-up of what’s on offer – you can find my latest London round-up here. Do let me know if there’s anything which you think should be included.
Disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links, which means that if you clicked through and booked I may receive a small commission. We stayed at the Four Seasons Canary Wharf free of charge for the purposes of this review. All opinions, text , video and images are my own, as ever.