Panoramic views across central London make the Royal Lancaster Hotel to lovely viewpoint to watch the ebb and flow of the city
Review by Andy Barnham
The signs of a mid-life crisis are well documented; a fast car, a younger partner and impulse purchases are all combat indicators of someone trying to escape the inevitable march of time. In its heyday the Royal Lancaster London, which originally opened in 1967, hosted Mohammad Ali, Princess Diana and was a location for Michael Caine’s classic film ‘The Italian Job’ (Caine’s Charlie Croker is met by a harem of young ladies as part of his coming out party). However recently the Royal Lancaster felt that it had lost a certain amount of its glitz and piazzas. So is the hotel’s £80 million renovation the equivalent of a mid-life crises? Who knows, but it has certainly changed the complexion of the hotel and given it a new lease of life with the entire front being re-modelled with a double height reception area, acres of white marble and refurbishment of all 411 rooms in the 18 storey hotel.
In terms of location, it’s hard to beat the Royal Lancaster; the hotel sits above Lancaster Gate underground tube station on Bayswater Road and is a 10 minute walk to Paddington Station and the Heathrow Express to the north and just a 15 minute walk to Marble Arch and the western end of Oxford Street and the commercial heart of London. Situated in the middle of the northern edge of Hyde Park, the hotel has stunning views over the Park extending to the Canary Wharf skyline from one side of the building and Wembley on the other. In the morning these views provide a wonderful sight as you wake up and watch the city rise and stir whilst a glass of wine is the perfect way to watch the lights blink into existence as the sun goes down.
Walking into the newly renovated Royal Lancaster, the hotel now feels lighter and larger due to the white marble decking on the floor and height of the reception area, behind which is the new Lobby Bar open all day for light meals and drinks.
The room, a Classic View in this case, was spacious with a king size bed with plenty of room either side. A personal gripe when it comes to hotels are rooms with large beds so close to the wall you have to squeeze down the sides; not so in this case as there was enough space to swing a cat. There’s a sofa at the end of the bed, giving guests the option of how they’d like to watch the TV or relax in the room and while the electric blinds looked thin, they were surprisingly efficient, blocking out a large swathe of the dawn and morning light. The bathroom, located at the back of the room, was comfortable with a separate bath and a very large shower.
However and maybe the most useful part of a guests’ stay at the Royal Lancaster is the Handy phone. Offered in all of the rooms at the hotel, the Handy is a smart phone offering calls both locally as well as to six international countries (France, Germany, the Netherlands, USA, Australia and Hong Kong). The phone is preloaded with a number of Apps (such as maps) but guests are free to download their own choice of additional Apps and to take the phone with them to help navigate around London using unlimited mobile internet. And before you ask, everything I’ve just listed is free (additional international calls will be charged). Yes ads do appear while using the phone, but don’t worry, you’re not going to be spammed with random and annoying pop ups, the ads are geo specific offering deals and discounts for the retail therapy opportunities in your vicinity.
If you feel the choice of eateries in London is overwhelming or just tired from a long day, there are several restaurants and bars in the Royal Lancaster from which to choose from. For a pre-dinner drink, try the Lobby Bar. There is the Lounge Bar on the second floor, though the lack of natural light and seating laid out in the corridor between the hotel restaurants means, whilst it does hold the attention of some hotel guests, it’s a pass from me.
Nipa Thai located at one end of the Lounge Bar serves, you guessed it, Thai food, whilst the Island Grill offer casual dining in a fun, friendly and buzzing environment. My wife absolutely raved about her blue steak and claims it’s the best she’s eaten in London while the chocolate fondant desert required two spoons to overcome this death by chocolate. For breakfast, there is the third and final restaurant in the Royal Lancaster, the Park restaurant offering a choice of either Continental or English breakfast; situated in a corner of the building the best views are the ones overlooking the pedestrian gate into Hyde Park, a must for people watching. Whilst the dishes could do with some TLC on the presentation front, my Eggs Florentine were nonetheless perfectly tasty but my wife did pass on her scrambled eggs. A discount of £6 and £5.50 for the continental and English breakfasts respectively are offered when booking rooms, otherwise be prepared to pay close to £20 per person for your morning meal. If breakfast is not your most important meal of the day, a local café for a coffee and pastry may be more up your street.
It’s great to see a hotel with such a glamorous past be given a new lease of life and the renovation has given the Royal Lancaster a shot in the arm. And while I didn’t use the Handy phone personally, were I visiting from abroad without access to mobile internet I would have grabbed it with both hands and wouldn’t have let it go. The last word needs to go to the spectacular view, be it while watching the sun go down with a drink in hand or waking up in the morning while watching the city go to work.
Enquires: Royal Lancaster Hotel, Lancaster Terrace, London W2 2TY / 0207 5516000 / www.royallancaster.com/