For the next in our series of our favorite hotel proprietors in London, I spoke to Mark Desira of the Luna & Simone Hotel. It’s another hotel that continues to get great reviews for its helpfulness and hospitality. (Indeed as I’m taking my photo of Mark, a couple of hotel guest remark how they’d like to take his photo too, as he’s been so fundamental to the enjoyment of their stay.)
Q. Tell me a bit about the hotel.
My grandfather started this place in 1970, when he bought the Luna side and it’s been in the family since then. It’s now in the hands of my father and uncle. The Luna bit of the name came about because of a rocket launch at that time – it means “moon” in Italian.
In 1986, they bought the Simone. The previous owner had named it after his niece, whose name was Simone. He would sell, but said the name had to stay the same. So basically, they said, “what if we join the two names together?” Hence the Luna & Simone.
Q. The fact it’s a family business must shape the character of the hotel?
My uncle and father are here at breakfast, and pop in and out. I’ve been working here since I was 16, with a break to study hospitality at university, and I work here in the afternoons. The friendship of the staff is very important as well. The staff is mainly family but, of those who aren’t, I don’t think there is anyone who has been here less than seven or eight years. That’s like a family, which is very important to the business of course. It makes it a very family friendly hotel.
Q. Has the area changed a lot over the years?
I lived around the corner until I was four, and moved back here after university. It’s much cleaner now. The number of hotels has expanded over the years, because it’s such a good location. There are also so many restaurants now – 20 or 30 restaurants close by. In the area, they’re spending billions on the redevelopment of Victoria at the moment, and Battersea Power Station too. It’s changed a lot.
Q. What do you like about your location?
It’s excellent for getting about London, and to and from the airports too. We’re close to Victoria Station and Pimlico, and the number 24 bus is a big plus as well. It goes to Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Trafalgar Square, all the way up to Camden Town. We’re very lucky to have that bus!
Q. What do you advise your guests to do in London?
Take a trip on the 24 bus up to Camden to see the markets. Portobello is worth a visit too, to visit the antiques market. I like the Natural History Museum – the museums are free to get into – and the Tower of London is one of my favorites as well.
There are some great deals on theatre tickets if you go to the half-price ticket booth in Leicester Square and if you don’t mind going on the day, and are not too fussy about what you see.
My personal opinion is that eating round here, in the local community is better value and much nicer than eating right in the centre.
Q. Is there anything that visitors to London should be prepared for?
The size of the rooms! This building is historic, built in 1845, which means the rooms are smaller than our customers might expect. I remember going to Las Vegas and getting a huge room – London certainly isn’t like that. Our philosophy is good, clean rooms and at a good price for this location.
Thank you Mark!