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LONDON (TheStreet) -- The London hotel market is one of the few in the world that outpaces its American competition in terms of trends. As the birthplace of the boutique hotel concept, London is home to more stylish hotels per capita than almost any city in the world.

In the past year one trend has stood out as the one to watch: gastro-hotels, in which top city restaurateurs offer accommodations aimed at diners who don't always want to go home after dinner in the city.

St. John Hotel

is the newest in town, a trendy restaurant with hotel near Leicester Square in the former Manzi's Seafood Restaurant, walking distance to the West End. Its fun-loving and entrepreneurial owners operate two other St. John-branded eateries in the city and plan to open a bakery this year.

St. John Hotel is a leading example of a London gastro-hotel, with ground-floor restaurant, upstairs bar and 16 guest rooms for those who want to stay over.

St. John Hotel has a ground-floor restaurant, upstairs bar and 15 mostly all-white guest rooms and a top-floor suite priced from about $318. Owners Trevor Gulliver and Fergus Henderson redesigned much of the space themselves, including the hip new staircase connecting it all. It is by far the duo's most ambitious and dressed-up venture, departing from their leanings toward no-nonsense utilitarianism.

"Fergus trained as an architect and I have always designed my earlier projects," Gulliver says of the inspiration behind the hotel, "so the design comes from a physical interpretation of our philosophy of St. John, the purpose of the building and for those elements of Fergus' thought unique to him."

As to opening a business in today's economic conditions? "For independents it's not easy, but patience and rigor will see you through if you're good enough," Gulliver says. As for his own London favorites, he "loves a martini at Dukes and cannot wait to visit the

refurbished Savoy


Despite the obvious customer base -- theater diners, local media and the banking business -- the owner claims there is no real target market. "Just folk in London," says Gulliver, insisting with refreshing pragmatism that the restaurant and hotel is for everyone from ordinary passers-by to regular ol' "loving and working" Londoners.

Conran does Boundary in Shoreditch

Sir Terrence Conran is hardly a new name to the London restaurant scene, having been the primary force behind such restaurants as The Soup Kitchen, Avenue, Plateau and Bluebird -- local mainstays for years managed mostly by D&D Restaurant Group.

Last year Conran debuted


in a period building with namesake boundary stones in London's Shoreditch neighborhood, once a 19th century manufacturing center called home by Karl Marx himself. It's now fully hipsterized; Conran -- in partnership with wife Vicki and Peter Prescott, who worked at Conran's Bluebird after stints at Claridge's and Grosvenor House -- has added three restaurants, two bars, bakery, gourmet store and a 17-room hotel.

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In addition to London tourists, the concept has become popular with city dwellers from Clapham or Hampstead who descend on Shoreditch for single- or two-night stays, combining dinner in the restaurant and late-night drinks in the Boundary Rooftop with a stay in the hotel to avoid a cut-throat chase for a pricey cab or possibly drunken drive home.

Dining guests find a basement-level restaurant space that recreates the atmosphere and menu of a French brasserie with strategic English design details, including monochromatic china and chunky cutlery from Conran's own line. Open for lunch and dinner, the menu ranges from charcuterie plates and steak tartare to baked Dover sole and whole rotisserie chickens followed by traditional English puddings for dessert.

On the ground floor is Albion, a hybrid cafe and bakery popular with local loft-dwellers and tourists scouting foodie souvenirs. On the roof, another bar with firepit and 360-degree London view is arranged in a chic garden setting designed by Chelsea Flower Show winner Nicola Lesbirel.

Entry-level guest rooms, including period sash windows with Conran signature furnishings and collectible pieces by Le Corbusier, Charles Eames and Andree Putnam, are on four floors. Four duplex suites come with outdoor terraces and artwork on loan from the Conrans, who designed two of the suites themselves.

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Michael Martin is the managing editor of, a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in InStyle, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine and on ITV and the BBC.