With new countries being added to the UK’s quarantine list every week, now’s the time to rediscover places closer to home. With that in mind, Ellie Smith checks into The Dixon, located within one of London’s most prominent cultural boroughs.
One of London’s oldest boroughs, the red-bricked streets of SE1 boast a rich history. From the 15th century on the area become renowned for its inns and theatres – many of which remain today, including Bankside’s Globe Theatre, where many of Shakespeare’s plays were first performed. Southwark is also the site of Marshalsea prison, in which Charles Dickens’ family were incarcerated – and the borough is rife with associations from his novels.
This eclectic history lies at the heart of The Dixon, a 193-room hotel perched on Tooley Street. Part of the Marriott’s luxury boutique Autograph Collection, the hotel is housed inside a Grade II listed building that once served as a magistrates court and police station. This is fundamental to the hotel’s design: ‘at this central London hotel,’ they say, ‘the rebel hearts of SE1 live on.’
Echoes of The Dixon’s past are peppered throughout. The hotel is named after the building’s original architect, John Dixon Butler – a mysterious figure of the 1800s – while 60 pairs of glass handcuffs are mixed into the lobby’s sparkling chandelier and walls are embedded with original cell keys. Art is a key focus throughout, with photographs of former SE1 residents George Orwell and Charlie Chaplin sitting alongside black and white mugshots of prisoners who once stood in the dock – both given modern embellishments.
Rooms are found either in the older side of the building or in a newly built extension. The former features Edwardian mouldings and high ceilings, while the latter offers a more modern design: think marble bathrooms and grey timber furnishings. Though the historical element is retained through interesting artwork, the design strays a little from the jail theme here – so don’t worry, you won’t be sleeping next to prison memorabilia. Beds are huge and very comfortable, with some rooms looking out onto Tower Bridge and The Orwell Suite offering views of The Shard.
The hotel may have a spooky backstory, but new measures have been implemented to ensure you feel safe during Covid-19. On arrival you’ll be met with a non-contact temperature scanner and hand sanitiser station, and you can use the Bonvoy Marriott App to check in and out and make payments.
The main ‘do’ draw here is its location: located bang in the middle of the city, The Dixon is perfectly situated for a weekend of exploring. Catch a socially distanced play at the recently reopened Bridge Theatre, wander round Tate Modern or head for some food at the nearby Maltby St Market. You’re also on the doorstep of Tower Bridge, the Thames and plenty of charming riverside pubs.
Dine at Provisioners, a Bauhaus-inspired restaurant overseen by Clive Watson – the man behind The Blixen in Old Spitalfields Market and Lorne in Pimlico. The space once hosted the courthouse’s 20 holding cells – two of these remain in the restaurant’s centre, and you can see markings on the floor where the others used to be. Yet Provisioners is anything but gloomy: think pastel pink booths, coral walls, gold furniture and a candy-stripe ceiling. Breakfast is currently being served here, with a choice of either continental or a Full English – there’s no breakfast buffet at the moment due to Covid, and you’ll need to pre-order your morning meal.
At the moment dinner takes place in The Courtroom Bar, which sees the original structure of the judge’s bench turned into a bar. Menus are available digitally via QR codes, with standout dishes including a deliciously creamy burratina with aubergine caviar, succulent wagyu beef burgers and Kashmiri spiced corn-fed chicken. There’s an impressive cocktail menu too, featuring a particularly good Espresso Martini – made with the hotel’s own brand of coffee, Shakedown, which is roasted on-site. All this is served by a friendly, enthusiastic team.
THE FINAL WORD
Despite being part of the Marriott group, there’s a boutique, artsy feel to The Dixon. And for culture vultures looking for a weekend exploring the city, it couldn’t be better placed.
Rooms from £123, thedixon.co.uk
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