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.
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.
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.
The view from the top of the 5 star ME London hotel is a tourist’s delight, taking in the London Eye, Big Ben, St Paul’s, Tower Bridge, The Shard and everything in between. Having evening cocktails on the Radio Rooftop bar in the sun, however, feels like you could be in a bar thousands of miles away – Las Vegas, for example, or Dubai.
The luxury 157-room ME London hotel, designed by acclaimed architects Fosters + Partners and part of the Spanish Melia Hotels International chain, also has two restaurants and a lobby bar in its central London location on The Strand, but it is its rooftop bar which really stands out. Drinking in London is usually such a ground level experience (often below ground) that it’s a shock to be 10 storeys up in the sky, in the sunshine. It feels exotic, which isn’t usually the case when you go for a mid-week drink.
I’d been to the bar on top of the ME London hotel, which is on the corner of The Strand and Aldwych, a couple of years ago, and had been completely put off by the clipboard-wielding doorstaff at ground level. They glared at me while saying things like ‘Your name’s not on the list’, glared at me even more when I pointed out my name was on the list in front of them, and were very reluctant to let me into the lift up to the roof.
However Guillaume Marly, the extremely capable and friendly general manager of the hotel who has previously worked at The Ritz, The Connaught and former hotspot Chiltern Firehouse, says that he changed 90 per cent of the staff when he took over last year, and the staff are now chosen for welcoming personalities rather than their ability to make everyone feel they shouldn’t be there.
Thus everyone at the Radio Rooftop was ultra-friendly, from Jonathan the fabulous bar manager, to the longest-serving member of staff Renato and various others who showered us with cocktails. I was reviewing it of course, so they could have been on their best behaviour, but the way they were meeting and greeting other drinkers and rushing around fulfilling orders implied that this was the new, friendlier way of doing things. Continue reading A room (and cocktails) with some serious views at ME London luxury hotel→
Its claim to fame is that it is the closest hotel to Harrods, and it’s true that less than 30 seconds walk will take you right into the iconic department store. But thankfully The Capital hotel, just round the back of Harrods on a quiet Knightsbridge street, is more than just a place to stagger back to after a hard day’s shopping. Opened in 1971 by hotelier David Levin, it is still owned and managed by him and his family today, which gives it a far more friendly air than a corporate chain hotel.
While the hotel does a special ‘Shop till you Drop’ package which includes a £50 Harrods voucher, afternoon tea and a drink to restore you (if not your credit card) after your retail therapy, I went to the Capital with cocktails, rather than shopping, on my mind. Bar manager Cesar da Silva has been at the Capital for 15 years and is still extremely enthusiastic about teaching other people to make cocktails in his popular Cocktail Masterclass, which is just as well as apparently he often does 10 of these hour-long courses a day. Continue reading The Capital hotel: London’s venue for a cocktail masterclass→
Mention Las Vegas and most people would immediately think gambling, casinos, showgirls, Mariah Carey, the Bellagio fountains and stag weekends. What might not spring to mind is fine dining, vintage wines and cocktails, but that’s where food festival Vegas Uncork’d is hoping to make the difference.
Now in its ninth year and backed by Bon Appetit magazine, Vegas Uncork’d bills itself as ‘The Ultimate Wine and Food Experience’ with a four-day long extravaganza of tasting, making, scoffing, slurping and swilling at some of Las Vegas’ best-known hotels, including Caesars Palace, MGM Grand, the Cosmopolitan and the Bellagio.
I’d been to Las Vegas a couple of times before, the last time being with my mother which made for a memorable week [see article here] and have really enjoyed my visits – there is something quite unique about Vegas which makes it unlike any other place on earth. This trip, however, I was not going to spend my time sunbathing, drinking free gin and tonics while playing on slot machines or taking a helicopter to the Grand Canyon. Instead I was going to really get to know the food scene and I couldn’t wait.
It is hard to avoid Gordon Ramsay. He’s either being snapped triathlon-training on a Malibu beach getting in and out of his wetsuit, or on our TV screens shouting at hapless (and hopeless) restaurateurs.
Only last week tabloid readers were treated to the revelation from his daughter that he apparently likes to run round his house in the nude. So it was with some trepidation that I arrived at his recently-opened Heddon Street Kitchen. Would the great man himself be streaking through the kitchens? And what would health and safety (not to mention hygiene) inspectors have to say about that?
Thankfully there were no naked chefs in sight in Heddon Street itself – that little pedestrianised offshoot of Regent Street which has become a restaurant enclave – and the Heddon Street Kitchen looked very inviting, with outside tables, lots of pot plants and big windows through which the lights shone out into the cold February night.
Inside it was also very pleasant: a large space saved from turning cavernous with the use of some thoughtful room design, the brown floorboards and furniture made less gloomy by well-placed lighting, and even the heavy presence of 80s-style exposed pipes in the ceiling couldn’t detract from a calm and relaxing atmosphere.
There was a lion right outside my hotel room. Well, to be more accurate, a Lion King.
The Lyceum theatre in Covent Garden, which has been home to the hugely successful Lion King musical for more than 15 years, was about 10 metres from my bedroom window. I peered down on the crowds as people started gathering for the evening’s performance, safe and unseen in my warm sanctuary…that is, until I realised that I was being spied on in turn, by people peeping out of their window at the very top of the theatre. It was time to stop people-watching, and retreat to the spa.
One Aldwych hotel is situated right on the corner which marks the beginning of of the Aldwych semi-circle which also houses the Australian and India High Commissions and Bush House, once home to the BBC World Service. As a Central London location it is hard to beat, with not just Theatreland on its doorstep but Covent Garden, the Strand, Holborn, the South Bank and Somerset House all just a few minutes walk away.