The Handbook
The Handbook

We checked into one of London’s most COVID-secure hotel stays with arguably the best views across the city. Here’s what happened when we hauled up in West London’s Royal Lancaster Hotel.

Where

My first experience of The Royal Lancaster Hotel in leafy Lancaster Gate was about 10 years ago when I went to meet a friend there after her work conference. In truth, I remember very little about the building other than that is was skyscraper tall – an alien towering over the white multi-million pound town houses and greenery of Hyde Park it shares its setting with – and it was just that, quite unmemorable, a classic work conference kind of place.

That’s until now.

The hotel has undergone an impressive rebrand and refurb (to the sum of a cool £85 million), swapped Powerpoint conference vibes for all-out luxury, dodgy carpets for sharp interiors and suites with captivating views you’d be hard pushed to find better elsewhere in the city.

The location is just one of the hotel’s biggest sells with Hyde Park across the road – and it’s the best part of Hyde Park too.

The hotel has swapped Powerpoint conference vibes for all-out luxury, dodgy carpets for sharp interiors and suites with captivating views you'd be hard pushed to find better elsewhere in the city.

The hotel sits just by Lancaster Gate tube, but is in fine walking distance to some of London’s must-visits. Across the road you’ll find the charming entrance of Hyde Park that takes you past the park keeper’s cottage, through the Italian Gardens with its photo op fountains and over to the Serpentine. There’s also Holland Park further along, and the bustle of Notting Hill and all it’s pubs, restaurants boutiques and famous Portobello Market. Head half an hour on foot in the opposite direction and you’ll be at Selfridge’s for a Food Hall refuel and retail therapy.

The interiors

The foyer of the Royal Lancaster is sprawling and full of marble. In fact, the hotel holds an obscene amount of the stuff throughout, which could tip it into tacky territory quite easily but is curbed with a well-chosen colour palette of velvety jewel tones, from teal to mustard to a rosey cerise.

There’s a huge open bookcase with curated books and accessories perfectly placed but not to be touched and a sprawling reception desk, glittering with gold 60’s style mirror. The sheer size of the place also plays well into life amidst a global pandemic – even if the hotel were busy, you’d all still get your allocated two metres and then some just about everywhere in the building.

The suites

Hotel stays in London have changed: nightcaps knocking knees in the hotel bar are over at 10pm; you can get a table in even the most popular of restaurants and in general, the city has lost a little bit of its famous buzz, as much as we hate to say it. But the Royal Lancaster has been smart in this post-COVID world, it’s been nimble and come up with ideas that offer guests a just as memorable stay but at a slower pace.

Firstly, booking a room is relatively affordable given a hotel of this height – it sprawls 18 floors with 360 degree views of London – and this amount of marble. You can currently book a deluxe room for £199 with breakfast included, which is cheaper than a lot of tiny, pretty average Central London offerings. But it’s worth taking advantage of their autumn offer: upgrade to an Executive room or Suite with a 50% discounted supplement offer throughout October and you’ll bag yourself wrap around views, enviable interiors and thread count sheets you’ll want to replicate at home.

We stayed in one of the Spires Suites, nested in south west corner of the hotel up on the 16th floor. London is in no short supply of good views, from the Shard to the Heron Tower, but they are seriously high and looking down on London, if the weather allows, feels somewhat disconnected. The Royal Lancaster’s more modest 18 floors allows you to sit just above the city, looking down on a real life London toy town, with all the quintessential pieces you could wish for, from the broccoli headed treetops of Hyde Park to red phone boxes, black taxis to the black tiled stoops and white pillared terrace houses of W2.

The Spire Suite has wrap around views across two sides of the building and you can while away an hour just mesmerised by the shrunken down city below. It’s so called, we imagine, due to all the church spires you can spot from the windows – one standing impressively just to the right of the hotel, so close you feel you can almost touch it. Look closely and you’ll see a number of charming London delights like the Hyde Park and Ross Nye Stables – a tucked away horse stables slap back in the middle of the capital, located on a traditional London mews. It’s  a unique sight as you watch ponies being groomed and heading out for rides in the park alongside red buses and black taxis.

From the broccoli headed treetops of Hyde Park to red phone boxes, black taxis to the black tiled stoops and white pillared terrace houses of W2, the Spire Suite offers one of the most charming views in London.

Once you pry yourself away from the windows, the interiors are equally as plush as those throughout the hotel. From the citrine velvet corner sofas to the art inspired lighting, the full marble bathroom to gold accessories and London books dotted in corners, the suites are just waiting to be Instagrammed. There are of course all the mod cons, from two TVs – one in the bedroom, one in the living area; all the entertainment apps; coffee machine; spa menu to the room, etc. In short: you could book in and quite happily not leave the room for 48 hours.

The food

Which brings us to the food. Due to COVID restrictions, the hotel’s Nipa restaurant remains closed, but its kitchen is in full working order for overnight guests. Serving authentic Thai cuisine from a traditional all-female, all-Thai kitchen team, the restaurant is led by Head Chef Sanguan Parr, and has been going for an impressive two decades. Order the Pad Thai and the crispy fried prawn dumplings up to the room, don your robe and a fully PPE’d room service will bring it up to you. The masks and the gloves all feel a bit Black Mirror, but the world feels a bit Black Mirror right now so may as well enjoy it where we can. 

The food is genuinely delicious, unfussy and authentic. There’s also a regular room service menu with the classics like club sandwiches and the like, if spice is not your thing.

The verdict

If you’re after a London staycation at a slower pace and in one of the most COVID secure places in the capital, this is it. We might not be partying into the small hours and choosing our eating out options more wisely and less frequently, but The Royal Lancaster offers a real London moment in your very own little bubble. And, as hotel stays go in a notoriously expensive city, this comes at a rather refreshing price tag.

Until 31st October 2020 book a room from £199 per night.

The Royal Lancaster London, Lancaster Terrace, Bayswater, London W2 2TY

www.royallancaster.com


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