Cutting-edge design at The Dixon
Nestled just a stone’s throw from Tower Bridge lies London’s newest design-inspired luxury hotel. While cool interiors and sleek furnishings are a staple in London’s hotel scene, The Dixon has taken this concept and propelled it to awe-inspiring heights. BY SAMANTHA READY
Everything in The Dixon has been painstakingly thought of. There are nods to its past life as a magistrates’ court echoed throughout the design and every detail tells a story. Its name is taken from John Dixon Butler, the Edwardian architect who designed the now listed building that dates back to 1905, and imposing, solid oak entrance doors automatically open into an entrance hallway that’s dominated by two design triumphs: a grand central staircase leading to the upstairs chambers with stunning vaulted ceiling and skylight, and a beautiful hand-blown Italian chandelier containing 60 delicate glass handcuffs.
The dramatic hallway – far more art gallery than thoroughfare – boasts monochrome photos of famous former SE1 residents (Charlie Chaplin included) as well as preserved original benches upon which local scoundrels carved out their names while waiting to be led into the dock.
In a clear nod to the change of power, the judge’s oak canopy in the Courtroom Bar remains, but the marble-clad bar itself is sunken beneath and sentencing now involves a range of cleverly conceived cocktails. The Long Garden Vodka, a fruity refresher for ‘indecent exposure’, and the Rum Throw-Back, a rum-based Old Fashioned for ‘false imprisonment’ come highly recommended and taste all the more glorious against the backdrop of another inspired light piece, this time featuring 193 bulbs to represent the hotel’s 193 stylish bedrooms.
With separate street access that belies its position as a hotel restaurant alone, Provisioners, the restaurant and coffee bar at The Dixon, is a cool, chic space. By day, the coffee shop is light and breezy, while the restaurant is a hub of activity with decadent breakfast buffet tables, freshly brewed coffee and a mixed bag of guests including young families, couples and business travellers with their laptops already open.
By night, the coffeeshop transforms into a bar and the perfect spot for events and gatherings, while the restaurant changes pace to reflect the welcoming and unfussy approach to its European-influenced menu.
The oxtail croquettes with red onion jam were deep with beefy flavour and finished with a hint of sweetness (I’d return for those alone); classic crystal prawns were elevated with a spicy homemade chilli sauce; the Harlequin and Crown Prince squash soup with toasted seeds and oil drizzle was rich and earthy; and the eight-hour slow-cooked lamb shoulder was full of flavour and served with a tasty jus. All were exemplary.
The Provisioners design is classic yet contemporary: light wood panelling, bold clean lines and modern tables and chairs. Look closer though and you’ll notice the subtleties – the wooden floors with striking tiled accents showcase the footprint of the former jail cells on which it’s been built, the menus come in the form of courtroom dockets, and the central jail cell has been preserved and reimagined as a coffee store. Of course it’s not just any coffee store… In another nod to history and a story involving a policemen who taunted inmates by wafting the aromatic scent of coffee into their cells, The Dixon now brews (behind bars, naturally) its own artisan coffee, Shakedown, which is available at Provisioners, in the hotel bedrooms’ coffee pods and in the Courtroom Bar’s Espresso Martinis. The latter simply had to be ordered to wash down our rich Valrhona chocolate mousse with silky caramel, and a perfect peanut parfait with brown butter ice cream.
Never has a journey to a bedroom been more inspiring. The outer lift wall is awash with original keys salvaged from the building, some with their original Metropolitan Police insignias and all dipped and sprayed to the same metallic finish evident throughout the hotel’s design scheme. Intricately designed console tables on each landing are carved from the salvaged court benches and dipped in metal, and artwork by local artists or featuring local faces pops with contemporary colour from a largely black and white palette.
Our own fourth-floor bedroom, as well as offering dual aspects across London rooftops and glimpses of Tower Bridge, provided a comfortable, modern space with oak, grey and aged glass finishes, generous king size bed, a sleek marble bathroom with local Murdock London toiletries and yet more modern artwork – a calming and suitably charismatic respite to end our stay.
211 Tooley Street,