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Part of the new lobby area
One can only assume one’s invite got lost in the post. Fresh off its recent closure, refurbishment and total transformation of the lobby area, The Goring threw a party this week, partly to celebrate its new look, but officially to mark its birthday – 105 years young! Guest of honor was Kate Middleton, who, of course, stayed there during her wedding celebrations and even had the reception there. (Obviously, Kate had seen our photos of the new-look lobby and hurried to see for herself. For unflattering pictures of Kate, see here.)
The party took the form of a lunch, and Kate attended in a personal capacity, while Prince William is on an official visit to China. Eight months pregnant and still dressing up and wearing heels? Guess she didn’t want to fall foul of the Goring’s no-sneakers dress code.
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As we said before, they’ve souped up the amenities – so there are complimentary (non-alcoholic) minibars, blazing fast WiFi, Hypnos (ie great) beds and that infernal, ubiquitous Nespresso machine in every room.
The beginning of March should have allowed us to cross the first of our five London hotel openings for 2015 off of our list, but it was not to be: the M by Montcalm Shoreditch has been delayed until mid-April.
Where reservations had been moved up to March 1 previously, we’re now looking at April 14 as the first day to stay at Montcalm’s “manifestation of glory”. Rates have crept up slightly with the six-week delay, starting at £187 ($289) a night rather than £170 ($262) before.
Room descriptions continue to ramble on about Deluxe Twin rooms that have “a super comfortable king size bed” (?), that “ooze personality”, and are designed with “oodles of luxury”. Two new photos have shown up, which we will say make those rooms look slightly more appealing than before.
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Our scepticism about that (already delayed) March reopening for The Lanesborough London turned out not to be unfounded – the hotel now talks about an “end of Spring” return. That makes our estimate of June(ish) feel about right, and a recent walk by Hyde Park Corner does show some progress: the scaffolding that has obscured the hotel from view for so long is starting to come down.
Underneath is a freshly painted/cleaned exterior, and a few glimpses of the interiors are available courtesy of The Lanesborough butlers having taken to Twitter. Hashtags and the Albert Pinto-designed Regency interiors may seem a little incongruous, but among all that period design will be some advanced technology in the form of Crave tablets. From booking a spa treatment to getting a hold of your butler, all you need is the tablet.
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We popped into the bar on Saturday for an opening day drink. The bar itself isn’t so new – they’ve done up one side of it to look like the other, including layering the ceiling in gold leaf – gold leaf!
The rooms have been redone, but we didn’t get a chance to see them – expect pictures next week.
But it’s the lobby that’s seen probably the biggest change – from a traditional, even staid, plain white affair, to this hand-painted number.
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Service charges – a topic that’s been in our minds on HC recently. The ethics of room service charges got us all wound up the other week, but what about normal service charges – the type that get added automatically to your bill, before you can say whether or not you wanted to leave a tip?
Automatic gratuities are becoming the norm in London now, with 12.5% the normal whack (apart from our funny little friends at Belgraves who automatically add 15%, thank you very much). For reference, 10% is what one would normally tip in London.
But here is the genteel way to present your service charge:
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Pont St on Sunday, which we'd been told was fully booked
We need to talk about Belgraves.
When Thompson’s first London (and first non-US) hotel opened three years ago, there were teething problems. Many. I stayed on opening night, and my stay was so amateur that when I outlined what had happened at check out, a manager offered me a voucher for a free night’s stay any time in the next year to make up for it. I never cashed in that voucher, because I was so bummed out by my first experience that I couldn’t really be bothered to go back.
As it happens, I live pretty near Belgraves, and, over the last three years, I’ve tried to give it a chance. I’ve gone for drinks, breakfast, dinner, an abortive attempt at afternoon tea (we left after trying to get the server’s attention for over 20 minutes). The service has been mediocre to dire every time. I had given up on it.
But now I am getting worried about Belgraves.
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Empty plates at the Ten Room, just waiting to be filled with your home-brought food
Open kitchens and chef’s tables? Over. The latest idea in hotel restauranting? Get the guests to bring their own ingredients.
The Ten Room at Café Royal, which, to be honest, we haven’t heard much about since it opened to rather disastrous reviews, has just announced a Bring Your Own Ingredient menu, in which you literally bring what you want them to cook.
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The 3D TV
Anyone who loves hanging out in hotels* will know that the downside of gorgeous spaces, people-watching and nice bathrooms is usually the premium price. £15 for an entry level cocktail in a nice London hotel? Yeah, we’ll reluctantly swallow that, it’s par for the course.
Not so at the Eccleston Square Hotel, though. Until the end of March, it’s offering £4.95 cocktails from 5pm-8pm Monday to Saturday.
Yes, cocktails for under a fiver. In London. In a nice hotel. And not at an hour where drinking incurs funny looks.
The W London Lounge
Last week, I found myself in central London with a colleague, with an hour to spare between meetings. It was lunchtime. We both had work to do. We’d been out and about all morning.
We were near Covent Garden. My colleague suggested a restaurant. I mooted the Lounge at the W London. I won.
But when we got there, he was shocked. It was so fancy! All the staff were so beautiful! Everyone around us was so… rich looking! “Do you have to be Scandinavian to work here?” he asked me. He called his wife to marvel at the “eurotrash” and the “too beautiful” people surrounding us. He brought it up in the meeting we went to afterwards. The other meetingees were equally baffled and entranced by the idea of going to this insane, snazzy, eurotrashy hotel, when we could have gone to Starbucks.
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Things we never expect to change in London:
The royal family.
The never-ending roadworks.
The inability to make any kind of eye contact on public transport.
That bastion of poshness, the Goring Hotel.
Edit: those were things we never expected to change until this weekend, when we walked past the Goring and found it closed – closed! For the first time in its 105-year history! – for renovation.
As we told you, the bed-in started on Monday night and is being live-streamed on Youtube. Here are some of the highlights: