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On tour with Karma Kabs
On tour with Karma Kabs
Downtown London
St Martin's Lane Hotel
A shop for the stars

Funky London

Thursday, May 30, 2002
If you're in search of the hippest, most happening, funny, funky and foxy place — welcome to new-age London!

Over the past few years, the city of London has experienced a renaissance. No-one is sure when it began, or in fact if it will last, but right now it rates way up there with the hip cities of the world.

One very notable change is the type of hotel appearing on the scene. Most London hotels always looked and felt like London hotels, with conservative decor and service, safe colours and an atmosphere where one felt one had to whisper.

Enter design virtuoso Ian Schrager, who pioneered the boutique hotel concept, and interior master, Philippe Starck. They have ventured across the Atlantic and set the London hotel scene on fire.

St Martin's Lane was their first, followed by the Sanderson. Ian Schrager loves to create firsts, and his hotels must stimulate the senses, lift the spirits, provoke and entertain without the slightest hint of gimmickry or contrivance.

The 204-room, seven-storey hotel is in the heart of Covent Garden. Entry is made through huge revolving doors and you find a row of gold molars on one side and garden gnomes on the other. Salvador Dali is side-by-side with Louis XVI. Bedrooms are spacious, airy and some have a patio, and interior lights can be changed to any colour to suit your mood. There is a truly unbelievable mini-bar, DVD and wide-screen television and room service incorporating the hotel's restaurants.

Asia de Cuba offers an eclectic choice of food, the Saint M Brasserie has an outdoor courtyard, the Sea Bar offers light refreshments including sushi being created as you order, and the candle-filled Light Bar or Rum Bar offer more than 160 options to quench your thirst.

Shopping has taken a new turn in London as well. Vintage fashion is the current clothing trend, and sought-after antique pieces carry huge price tickets. Clarendon Cross is Nicole Kidman's favourite place to shop in London, Dolly Diamond Vintage Fashion is in trendy Notting Hill Gate, and back in Covent Garden is Koh Samui.

Koh Samui might stock the same designers as other in-favour boutiques, but word is they seem to choose the best pieces. It boasts a wonderful mix of established labels and up-and-coming talent, and is never afraid to take a chance with the avant-garde. Once an insignificant little shop, it was discovered by Madonna, Elle, Goldie Hawn and Kate Moss, amongst others with unlimited spending money, and that put Koh Samui on the map. They also carry a great selection of shoes and accessories.

To travel between these trendy shops and hotels, it would seem rather trite to travel in your normal, black London cab. Tobias Moss spent many years travelling on the Indian sub-continent and this is where his inspiration for Karma Kabs was born.

Tobias's guiding philosophy is the Taoist belief that the journey is more important than the destination, and he wants people to attain Nirvana without hardships. The fleet of three Ambassadors was made in Calcutta, based on the old Morris Oxford.

The Purple Haze has its bumper bars decked with flowers, the seat covers are pink and sequined, and the roof and door interiors a floral. It continues the finest traditions of the palaces of the Muglal emperors.

The Majaraj has seats covered with colourful saris, tapestries on its roof and ornate chandeliers. A vision of regal splendour for urban gurus and goddesses, basically.

The Karma Sutra has leopard skin seat covers, sequined roof and velvet and silk interiors. It provides sensuous and exotic stimulation to body and mind.


London, the capital of England.


St Martins Lane rooms start at around $620 a double a night.
Karma Kabs cost about $120 an hour and seat up to four.
Qantas flies daily to London, starting at $2099 per person from the east coast, Adelaide, Perth and Darwin.
Please note prices are valid at time of transmission and to the best of our knowledge are inclusive of GST.

More information

St Martins Lane
45 St Martin's Lane,
London, WC2N 4HX
Ph: 0011 44 207 300 5500
Fax: 0011 44 207 300 5501
Karma Kabs
Notting Hill
Ph: 0011 44 208 933 7052
Fax: 0011 44 208 905 5122
Koh Samui,
65-67 Monmouth Street,
Covent Garden
Ph: 0011 44 207 836 9434
Qantas: Ph: 13 13 13

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