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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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→
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.
Just a few weeks earlier I’d been at The Kensington hotel in central London to drink cocktails at the launch of its new bar, the K Bar. Now I was back at the luxury hotel to spend the night and to see if the cocktails I’d sampled before were as good as I remembered.
The hotel, part of the family-owned Doyle Collection, has 126 guest rooms and 24 suites, as well as a gym and restaurant, and is just minutes from South Kensington.
I’d been given a suite for the night which was very pleasant, comprising a lounge with a vast, squashy sofa, a small but smart bathroom and a opulent bedroom with a four-poster bed. Having been in the area for lunch, I arrived at 2pm, a good hour earlier than expected, but the friendly receptionist was unfazed and allowed me to check in.