Tag 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

Montcalm London City and The Jugged Hare: brewing history and the wow factor

The joy of reviewing hotels and restaurants is that with every new visit there is often something which will surprise, delight or even shock you. The Montcalm at the Brewery London City hotel in Chiswell Street in central London and its adjoining gastro-pub, the Jugged Hare, managed the hat-trick and did all three.

A hint that it was going to be an unusual experience was found straightaway in the hotel reception. I had arrived from the pouring rain, only to discover it was raining indoors too – water cascades endlessly down one wall of exposed brick inside the entrance hall. (‘Imagine having to work listening to that all day long!’ sighed the receptionist.)

Montcalm London City
The reception at Montcalm at the Brewery, London City. Sadly the watery wall is just out of shot

Thankfully such modern touches haven’t come at the expense of the historical nature of the building which dates back to 1750, when Whitbread started brewing beer on the site. The Whitbread clock is still ticking away in the courtyard, and next to the check-in desk was a plaque showing that HM The Queen and the Queen Mother had visited the brewery in 1962. The man registering next to me had his tiny baby in a sling: ‘His great-grandfather used to work here,’ he said proudly.

Continue reading Montcalm London City and The Jugged Hare: brewing history and the wow factor

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

My stay at The Marylebone: a room with a view and a seriously nice roof terrace

A definite perk of reviewing luxury hotels is that ‘wow!’ feeling when you walk into a hotel bedroom for the first time and find something completely unexpected. Unlocking the door to my suite at The Marylebone in central London was one of those moments.

marylebone luxury hotel
Perfect for people-watching or sun-bathing…

It wasn’t sparked by the private staircase to my door off the main corridor, the wacky green circular coffee table or even the huge mirror which I later discovered was actually a television screen, but by discovering that I had my very own roof terrace.

Now it’s rare enough to find a room with a balcony in London but this was a proper terrace, decked out in the style of a ski chalet with wooden walls, cosy sofas with lots of cushions and a roaring (electric) fire, over which was another vast TV screen. A retractable roof and sides meant you could enjoy sun-bathing in a heatwave or stay warm in the winter, and while a view over the rooftops of central London are never going to match the Alps or rolling Tuscan hills, it was great fun seeing London from a totally new angle. Continue reading My stay at The Marylebone: a room with a view and a seriously nice roof terrace

A cooling terrace (and a cocktail or two) at The Bloomsbury, London

When it’s hot in the city, your first instinct might be to run for the hills (or the coast) but just steps from the sweltering heat of Tottenham Court Road tube station, The Bloomsbury hotel is a great spot in which to cool down.

Bloomsbury hotel London
The Dalloway Terrace at the Bloomsbury hotel is a lovely spot whatever the weather

Its hidden secret is the Dalloway Terrace which runs along the side of the hotel: from the outside it doesn’t look like anything special, but those who ascend the steps will find a lovely two-tiered terrace with lush plants  – the perfect place in which to shelter from the boiling sun and enjoy afternoon tea, a cocktail or two, or even an al fresco dinner as night descends.

Bloomsbury hotel London
The grand lobby of the Bloomsbury hotel

Having endured a sweltering Tube journey across town, I was somewhat surprised to be asked: ‘Would you like a hot towel?’ when I checked in at reception. Rather than risk over-heating, I accepted a cooling mint water instead from the water coolers in the lobby and headed up to my room, a studio suite, which was on the fifth floor. Continue reading A cooling terrace (and a cocktail or two) at The Bloomsbury, London