As much as I enjoy the comforts of home, it's nice to get away once in a while and what could be better than a stay a top London hotel?
Just a short walk from Lancaster Gate tube station and overlooking Hyde Park, the Lancaster London is a mid-20 Century icon which offers world-class hospitality.
When we arrived on a Saturday evening in January there was a small queue at the reception desk to check in. For a hotel to be busy in winter is a good sign we thought and so it proved.
After a warm welcome we hopped aboard one of the Lancaster's speedy and efficient lifts and headed for the 18 floor. You don't need to worry about room keys because, like most hotels these days, you are issued with a swipe card to unlock your door. Somehow I always manage to forget which pocket I have put this in!
Once in our room it was everything we hoped for – spacious, luxurious, with large comfy bed to relax on after a busy week at work, arm chairs and desk (many clients being business executives we reckoned), power shower in the sparkling en suite bathroom, a safe for your valuables and a classy bottle of white wine on the table.
But what really sets the hotel apart is the panoramic view, which was simply stunning! From our top floor vantage point we could see Hyde Park sprawling before us and all the amazing lights of London and its famous landmarks like Big Ben and the London Eye. This alone is worth the price of the admission and is perfect for a romantic occasion or if you are out to impress.
One of the hotel staff told us she had been working at the hotel on New Year's Eve and had watched the London fireworks from the 18 floor which must have been amazing.
After getting changed and flicking through channels on the TV we ventured down to the award-winning Nipa Thai restaurant where we'd reserved a table. Looking luxurious and authentically Thai, the restaurant – which we found out has 55 covers and was only recently decorated - looked stunning, and the waitresses traditional and elegant. We expected the clientele to be mainly hotel guests, and of course there were several, but also quite a few regular customers there.
Interestingly its dishes are prepared by an all-lady kitchen brigade managed by head chef Sanguan Parr, who has been with the restaurant for 16 years. Such is its success that it won a Thai Select award from the Thai Government for its authentic cuisine.
My wife enjoyed a prawn starter while I sampled Kao Krieb Pak Moh – a sauteed chicken dish with roasted peanuts which arrived in distinctive blue, green and yellow colours – definitely unexpected. My Thai curry and jasmine rice was cooked to perfection and spicy without being overpowering. My other half, who is more of a Thai and Chinese connoisseur than I, commented that it was among the best Thai food she had tasted. We washed all this down with a fine wine and sampled the deep fried ice cream and bananas for dessert – yes you read that right deep fried! It's basically ice cream coated in a kind of batter, and I would love to have seen how it is made.
After a thoroughly good evening we paused for a quick drink in the bar before repairing to our room. From the window I also noticed a sign on one of the lower laying floors drawing attention to the fact that hotel is a friend to the honey bee and makes its own honey on site, which is a charming quirk.
It has one a few awards too - AA Eco Hotel of the Year 2012, Considerate Hoteliers’ 'Considerate Hotel of the Year 2012' and and the Green Tourism Business Scheme’s Gold Star Award 2013-2014. Apparently the Lancaster organises and hosts the annual London Honey Show in October to educate guests on urban beekeeping.
The following morning we enjoyed a hearty full english breakfast at the Island Grill which was well stocked with all the options you would imagine, plus choices for far eastern palates as well as a range of tasty breads. And you could go back for more if you liked so we left full and set up for the day.
By day we could appreciate how hotel enjoys a privileged position in central London, close to the shopping centres of Oxford and Bond Street and the nightlife of the West End, plus tourist attractions. For business guests, the financial district is only 15 minutes away, and for anyone for whom the thought of being close to nature in a vibrant capital city is of appeal, the great Hyde Park is on doorstep.
Our stay at the Lancaster London was a welcome weekend of luxury and some breathtaking. We thoroughly enjoyed our all too brief stay.
Steve was a guest of Lancaster London. The hotel has 416 rooms situated across 18 floors, with the option of city or park views. Weekday rates start from £179 per room per night, whilst weekend rates start from £159. For reservations call 020 7551 6000 or visit www.lancasterlondon.com
The hotel has recently launched a 'Romance in the City' package for lovebirds, costing £239 per night. For that you get a bedroom with city views and decorated with rose petals, and chocolate-covered strawberries and champagne delivered by room service. It includes breakfast and is customisable to include your evening meal.