Category Archives: London

A timely jackpot at the Hippodrome casino, Leicester Square, London

The timing couldn’t have been better, at least not for the Hippodrome. The moment I walked past the gaming area in the central London casino, one of the slot machines paid out the entire jackpot, handing the person playing on the machine a cool £12,536 on a £1 spin. Considering I was on a guided tour of tour by one of the staff at the Hippodrome, it was pretty good PR.

I was almost as excited as the woman who had just struck lucky – although I was pretty envious too, as I’d just been playing on the machine just along from her on exactly the same game – but my tour guide Michael was pretty nonchalant.

‘Hey, it happens here all the time,’ he shrugged.

hippodrome casino london review
The Hippodrome first opened in 1900 as a circus variety theatre and over the years has been a nightclub, restaurant, cabaret venue and now casino

Now I’m not sure that’s strictly true – the casino wouldn’t be very good at making money if it did – but it was certainly a novelty to see the machines paying out for once. (I know the woman had probably put in more than a pound before her jackpot spin, but I’m assuming she was still considerably in profit after the £12k payout.) I once spent New Year’s Eve at the Grosvenor Victoria on London’s Edgware Road and had a really pleasant time dancing and drinking and dining and, for some reason, trying to work my way through an enormous cigar. One of my friends, though, went downstairs to the slot machines and won £200 instantly. Needless to say, he was delighted. Equally predictably, when he went back the following week to repeat the achievement, he ended up returning the £200 to the machine, with interest. Putting £12,536 back would be rather more unlikely (I hope). With any luck – pun intended – she instantly cashed out and left the Hippodrome, thankful of her good fortune.

The very mention of the Hippodrome is likely to stir up distant memories of – depending on your age – the coolest night spot in town, or a rather dodgy venue with sticky floors and the feeling that the best of its years were behind it. For those with even longer memories, the Hippodrome was the location for the highly successful restaurant/nightclub Talk of the Town, which featured global stars such as Eartha Kitt, Shirley Bassey, Judy Garland, Sammy Davis Jr, The Jackson 5 and Tom Jones, and was where celebrities of the day went to see and be seen (memorabilia including records, programmes and photos are found on some of the walls). Continue reading A timely jackpot at the Hippodrome casino, Leicester Square, London

Rooftop cocktails and a spa make Montcalm Royal London House a top to toe destination

There is something rather special about a rooftop bar in London. The views might not be spectacular – we’re not taking Rio or Hong Kong harbour here – but to rise above the traffic and gaze down at the crowds from on high feels incredibly luxurious. Good rooftop bars in the capital are few and far between, so the arrival of a new one is cause for celebration. Enter the Aviary, the rooftop bar and restaurant on top of Montcalm luxury hotels group’s sixth and newest hotel, Montcalm Royal London House.

Montcalm Royal London House
The roof terrace at the Montcalm Royal London House in Finsbury Square is one of the biggest in London (and would look even better on a sunny day)

I visited on a cold winter’s evening, so my friend and I had the pick of dozens of comfy sofas and retro chairs on the deserted terrace, while more sensible patrons enjoyed their cocktails in the warmth of the restaurant inside. However there were heaters and thick blankets so we were able to enjoy the delights of the Aviary’s eclectic cocktail list al fresco – a sour cherry bomb with Sipsmith vodka and rhubarb bitters was especially tasty.

montcalm royal london house
The terrace is on top of the Montcalm Royal London House and adjacent to the glass-walled Aviary restaurant

Continue reading Rooftop cocktails and a spa make Montcalm Royal London House a top to toe destination

A very Christmassy stay at The Royal Horseguards Hotel, London

I was feeling rather Christmassy anyway after ambling through Covent Garden with a glass of mulled wine and admiring the Christmas lights, but even the most Bah Humbug of Scrooges would have felt full of festive cheer arriving at the five-star The Royal Horseguards Hotel. The lobby was brimming with decorations, from a massive tree with presents and teddy bears underneath, to Christmas wreaths behind the reception, yet more teddies and presents in a central display and a roaring fire.

Royal Horseguards Hotel review
The entrance hall at The Royal Horseguards Hotel

royal horseguards hotel review

The 282-room hotel has an incredibly central location, being just across the Thames from the London Eye big wheel (great views for the New Year’s Eve fireworks), next door to Embankment tube station and just a few minute’s walk from Trafalgar Square, the Strand and Leicester Square.

The massive Victorian building, designed in typical Whitehall style with masses of pale stonework and an imposing tower on one corner, used to be home to the Secret Service. Continue reading A very Christmassy stay at The Royal Horseguards Hotel, London

Lunch with the Queen (and 10,000 other guests) at the Patron’s Lunch

It was the most British of days. The Patron’s Lunch last Sunday had the Royal Family, it had cucumber sandwiches, it had queues and Pimms and cups of tea. And an awful lot of rain. It was as if someone had tried to work out what would make the day as British as possible, and then just chucked all those elements together. If only there had been an impromptu game of cricket down The Mall – then it would have been declared the Most British Day Possible. But of course, rain would have stopped play.

Patron's Lunch
A vital piece of kit…

Thankfully the British cope rather well in the rain, so there was no grumbling in the various queues (no more than 20 minutes in all) to get through security and ticket check and onto The Mall itself. Instead there were lots of wry smiles and hopeful glances at the grey skies, and almost ecstatic delight when waterproof ponchos were handed out.  (Some people took umbrellas through onto the Mall, much to the annoyance of everyone else who’d read the rules saying that umbrellas were strictly forbidden.)

Patron's Lunch
The queues to get onto The Mall – they look long but actually moved very quickly

However the ponchos while being transparent were surprisingly robust and effective. So, swathed in plastic and looking like something out of a sci-fi film, we trooped past Buckingham Palace.

It was a great novelty to see it looking so calm and serene without four lanes of traffic hurtling past in front of it, and indeed the seating area where 10,000 people were setting up to dine was also quite calm and relaxed. I’d expected the crush of a crowd, tempers fraying as people fought to get to their seats, but no, it was all very cheerful and unfailingly polite. Continue reading Lunch with the Queen (and 10,000 other guests) at the Patron’s Lunch

Noble Rot on Lamb’s Conduit Street, a welcome addition to memory lane

It is hard not to start off a review of Noble Rot restaurant – as practically every other reviewer has done – with a nostalgic look back at days gone by, spent in the various pubs and wine bars of Lamb’s Conduit Street.

It seems that every journalist used to work or live just round the corner (I did both). In spite of being stuck in the no-man’s land between Holborn and King’s Cross, Lamb’s Conduit Street still retains a quirky feel – with cafes, independent book shops, the Lamb pub still there after roughly a gazillion years – and a trip back there does feel like going back in time.

Noble Rot London
Noble Rot’s restaurant is cosy and dark even on a sunny day – but it’ll bring back fond memories for anyone who used to live or work nearby

However I shall skip all that – mentioning only in passing that Noble Rot is where Vats wine bar used to be, prompting a massive flash-back feeling when I edged my way down the terrifying spiral staircase to the loos – ‘I remember this!’ I thought, trying not to fall – and will focus on Noble Rot, Noble Rot, and nothing but Noble Rot. Continue reading Noble Rot on Lamb’s Conduit Street, a welcome addition to memory lane