london Travel Guide
The best tea in London?
It’s a question of such monumental proportions that it will ruin your trip to London if you get it wrong. Which London hotel does the best afternoon tea?
The easy answer used to be to consult the Tea Guild’s anonymous reviews – but the guild has rebranded now (as the UK Tea and Infusions Association) and as part of the revamp, has ditched its reviews. Big mistake. Huge.
London Hotels Insight is equally outraged, so they have created their own list. How? By calculating the “excellent” and “very good” ratings for tea on TripAdvisor. Doing it this way, they have come out with some surprising results. Their list reads:
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While we’ve struggled on the holiday cheer front so far, a few minutes in the lobby of the hotel on Brook Street may have managed to help even us get into that festive feeling. The 8-metre tall tree is the centerpiece of the decoration throughout the lobby and public spaces, which, together with candles here and there and soft lighting, is hard to resist for even the most cynical of spirits.
You know the feeling. You’re checking into a hotel, maybe a little late. You get into the elevator a little wary. You emerge onto your floor, hoping that the room won’t be directly opposite the elevator door, or that it won’t be overlooking a rubbish dump, that it won’t be a disabled room if you don’t need it – hey, you might even be hoping for a particular layout or color scheme, we won’t judge.
Well, UK chain Thistle Hotels wants to quell your anxiety with its new “Choose Your Own Room” service, being trialed at its London Euston property. They reckon that 48% of British hotel guests have asked to change rooms before (this being Britain, we reckon that means at least another 48% have wanted to ask but felt too impolite to do so), and 40% feel some kind of anxiety about getting saddled with a dud pre check-in.
With Choose Your Own Room, you can, unsurprisingly, choose your own room, with 360-degree virtual tours of available rooms, so you can pick the one you want. According to the Telegraph, who gave it a whirl:
After booking a room at the Thistle Euston, guests are sent an email granting online access to the hotel floor plan. On a Wednesday night, I was given the option of picking between five different rooms available over two floors in my price category. There were also photos for each room, including a 360-degree interactive “tour”.
The photos included views and different color schemes, in order to pick the exact one you want. Which is almost more anxiety-inducing, in a way – what if you pick the wrong one?
This is not the first time a hotel has done this (see The Grand Hyatt in Cairo) but it is the first hotel in London to do so. Also, given the boycott of the Dorchester Collection that happened this summer because its owner, the homophobic Sultan of Brunei decided to enact Sharia Law in his country but not at his hotels, pulling alcohol and pork was kind of a ballsy move.
However, a spokesperson for the hotel, which is part of the Bespoke Hotels collection, told the Huffington Post UK that same-sex couples will be allowed as guests. Right now, it's just alcohol that is no longer being sold but guests can bring their own alcohol. Pork products will stopped being offered after Christmas.
As of today, the hotel's website doesn't make it overtly clear that the hotel has stopped selling alcohol but they have changed the name of the GB Grill and Bar to just GB Grill. Rooms for this weekend are sold-out but next week rates are just 164 GBP a night.
[Photo: Bermondsey Square Hotel/Facebook ]
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We may have known that The Lanesborough London was going for a full-scale renovation (including auctioning off all furniture and trinkets from inside the hotel), but in a surprising twist on the road to its reopening next year, it will no longer be a St. Regis Hotel, but become part of the super-posh Oetker Collection instead.
That means a whole range of things: an exit for St. Regis from the London market, Starwood being one property down (Luxury Collection’s Park Tower is a few minutes west, Sheraton Park Lane a few minutes east), and Oetker Collection debuting another major capital property in addition to its Parisian palace Le Bristol (the seven other hotels lean towards resorts, like the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc).
Along with the announcement, we have a first glimpse of the Albert Pinto-designed interiors, with a rendering of a suite above. While brand new, the interiors look to stay true to the Regency era the hotel took its design cues from before. The suite brings in red / burgundy tones, while a room rendering below goes for a warm green.
Because our list of new hotels for east London wasn’t long enough, here is another one: the Great Eastern Street Hotel. No points for guessing which street the hotel is on, which means that once complete, it will be a hop and a skip from The Hoxton Shoreditch and Nobu Shoreditch. In fact, you can just spy a sliver of the building that will be torn down to make way for Nobu in the aerial view above, to the right of the leafless tree, one block behind Great Eastern Street.
The 70,000 sq ft project will have a 125-bedroom hotel, taking over a site that was derelict for over a decade. Incorporating the façade of a Victorian warehouse, the Grade-II listed Griffin Pub will be restored, with “upper levels being converted to residential use”.
Last week, we looked at unknown-to-us Shiva Hotels and their expansion in central London, and promised you an update on their plans around St. Paul’s Cathedral, which include the razing of an existing office building and replacing it with a 300,000 sq ft hotel.
Above a rendering of the future Millennium Bridge House, at the northern edge of the bridge of the same name that connects straight to Tate Modern across the river. While the entire backdrop of Shiva’s website shows these night-time renderings, the hotel is not yet listed in the group’s portfolio, but that may have something to do with the fact that there is a lot of work to be done – check out what it looks like today below.
Earlier in the week the internet geeked out over The Harry Potter Hotel in London also known as The Georigan House Hotel. So many Harry Potter nerds (including us) were dying to see what the rooms looked like, that we all crashed the hotel's website. But once we read the room description and saw the photos, we were entirely unimpressed.
The "Wizard's Chambers", as they are called are and which should be your first clue that things aren't quite right here, are not officially sanctioned by Warner Brothers, who own the rights to the Harry Potter brand.
Indeed, the rooms sport no mention of Harry or Gryyfindor but rather just some vague wizarding touches like walls that look like castle walls, mirrors that look like castle windows and furniture that looks like castle furniture, along with some plaid blankets, old luggage and other items that might be found at Hogwarts. There isn't even a quidditch broom lying around!
The Georgian is simply taking advantage of the fact that Harry Potter took place in London and that the city now offers a "Muggle Walking Tour" and the Warner Brothers Studio Tour--The Making of Harry Potter. Neither of these tours are included in the £209 Wizard Chamber room rate, although breakfast is. But lest the hotel try to pull a fast one over
Warner Brothers you, they included this disclosure on their website:
Please note that the Wizard Chambers at the Georgian House provide a unique magical experience, and are not part of the Warner Bros official tour and have not been endorsed, sanctioned or in any other way supported, directly or indirectly by Warner Bros. Entertainment, the Harry Potter book publishers or J.K.Rowling and her representatives.
If there ever was a real Harry Potter Hotel opening, we'd be the first to know. But we don't think it will happen for a while. Warner Brothers won't even let all the hotels at Universal Studios in Orlando do anything Harry-themed with their rooms.
[Photo: Georgian House Hotel]
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Well this isn’t very true to character. The Exhibitionist Hotel in South Kensington, which we told you about last month, is opening earlier than its scheduled 1 December date – rooms are available to book from 10 November.
An early opening is weird in itself, but what’s weirder is that the hotel’s own website, which was imminent last time we checked in, is still not up and running - there’s just a placeholder page with email addresses to contact. Less than two weeks to go and no website? That’s brave.
You can, of course, still book through the Preferred Hotel Group, which is showing rooms from £368 on opening night. But if you’re planning to book, you should do it through flash sale site Secret Escapes, which has it for £199 – good value for the location.
Never heard of Shiva Hotels before? Neither had we, but we have a sense they’ll be on our radar going forward. Why? They may be behind the new Hilton at London’s Heathrow Terminal 5 and the even newer Hampton by Hilton at London Waterloo, but the small UK group seems to be upping its profile further with more properties in the city.
First up is the Kingsway Hall Hotel, just east of Covent Garden, in what was once a Methodist Church. Shiva recently acquired the hotel and is planning on sinking £15 million into a renovation. Check out the 'before' below.
He was the beautifully understated world-class chef. She was the equally lauded chef at a top London hotel. Together, they came together for the good of the people – coming to the capital for one night only, on Monday 10 November.
Yes, on 10 November Hélène Darroze is lending her kitchen at The Connaught to Massimo Bottura, who, along with the team he’s bringing over, will serve an eight-course menu taking all the best bits from Osteria Francescana, his restaurant in Modena.
If you haven’t heard of it, you should have – it’s twice been ranked the third best restaurant in the world. Luckily for Londoners, the Connaught is one of Bottura’s favorite hotels – hence the collaboration.
We were thrilled to hear earlier this year that London’s Sheraton Park Lane would be getting its long overdue makeover, ripping out dated and faded guestrooms and freshening up public spaces. Now we can we show you a bit more of what you can expect post-renovation in the 303-room hotel.
Starting with accommodation, by mid-next year all rooms will look like the above, a huge leap forward compared to today. There is the Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Bed at the heart with the requisite fresh white sheets, Art Deco influences in lighting fixtures and furniture, and what looks like an etched glass mirror panel above the bed.