Luxury Hotels

Staying in Europe’s tallest luxury hotel

Midnight snack

Ever want to go up in the luxury hotel world, physically and, as an add-on, mentally? Well, it is easy in Asia, say rising to the 118th floor of Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, and to lesser extent in the Middle East. In Europe one property stands supreme, Shangri-La At The Shard, London. The gal arrived at night, but one of the first impressions was how striking so many internal images are – see a shot, above, taken outside an elevator going from the 35th floor reception up to a 48th floor room. Another memory was a really welcome midnight snack, which, with a make-your-own gin-and-tonic (both lemon and lime slices provided, with a giant bucket of ice) was honestly just what a sensible doctor might have prescribed.

Dawn breaks over London

A few hours later came the dawn and the full glory of the location became apparent. The 302-room hotel is a few yards south of the Thames, and the all-wall windows reveal a fantastic view of London’s skyline – it is not surprising that this is increasingly a venue for anniversary staycations as well as birthdays. It is also, says GM Paul Brackley, who himself moved across London from The Beaumont, attracting more and more senior business people realising how easily they can get to their offices from the London Bridge underground (subway) station, three minutes’ covered walk from the hotel. And Paul Brackley told me indeed about a recent, now loyal, business guest who was initially attracted by the property’s wine list.

The Tower of London

I did not have time to study the Haut-Brions and Margaux but I was impressed by the charming cocktail menu from Gong bar, up on the 52nd floor. Titled Director’s Cut, it is actually more a book, with drawings of such famous movie names as Peter Jackson, here celebrated via the History Became Legend drink, starring pinecone honey, New Zealand pine wine and other ingredients. Sadly, Gong, designed by André Fu, was not surprisingly closed when I went up to the 52nd floor at six (a.m.). The Technogym is up there, and having games on the screen meant I could work out in my ideal multi-mode capacity, using calories, listening to the news, playing Sudoku and, uniquely, looking down at The Tower of London.

What a farewell!

Breakfast is far down, physically, on the 35th floor. As a video below shows, this is indeed a copious feast, ideal for gourmet hotel guests as well as being a regular venue for sensible local business people who understand the generations-old recipe for success, namely breakfast like a king (or queen), lunch like a lord (or lady) and dine like a pauper. Well, having snacked like royalty, at midnight, and breakfasted to satisfy both a king and a queen, I had to leave this luxury hotel, and come back down to the real world. And there, on her day off AND about to move house in a couple of hours’ time, was my dear friend Andrea Greybanks, come in specially with a colleague to say goodbye. How about THAT for a lasting memory? NOW SEE VIDEOS OF MY ROOM, AND BREAKFAST



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Luxury Hotels

Simply Sunday, keep healthy on the go

Salad bar at Garden

The gal has said it before and she will say it again. The best way to manage continual flights is to keep healthy – and, by the way, it should be pointed out that short flights are just as stressful as longhaul (you still have the nightmare of pre-flight security, and the uncertainty of whether or not your flight will be delayed for a myriad of reasons, and then, onboard, you might suffer, as an entire Business cabin did on a two-hour flight this very week, having two totally useless parents who had no way of soothing a year-old who screamed nonstop the whole way).

Keeping healthy means lots of workouts. Airports offer bouts of exercise, great for the HIIT enthusiast. Take stairs instead of escalators and elevators. If you have heavy bags, all the better for muscle workout. Eat well before a flight – see the excellent salad selection, on the left, at Garden in the Hilton attached to South Terminal at London’s Gatwick airport. If you are flying out of, or transitting through, London Heathrow’s Terminal Five you have the best airport food-to-go I have ever seen, at Itsu. This company, started by Prêt-à-Manger founder Julian Metcalfe, now offers made-for-you healthy smoothies.  They are stocked as shown above, and blended when you buy. Luxury hotels have a challenge being able to offer anything quite like this: the exception is The Conrad Hong Kong, whose foodie-GM, Thomas Hoeborn, puts cold-press blenders, and ingredients, in some VIP rooms.

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Luxury Hotels

Berlin’s new luxury music-culture hotel, Orania

Smallest room in the house

Oriana.Berlin.Hotel.Restaurant.Bar.Concerts – generally just called The Orania – is at Oranienplatz in the Kreuzberg area of Berlin. As a luxury hotel, it opened only August 2017 and it must have got a lot of things right – one guest has just checked in for a 22nd visit. On the restaurant side, the gal was sadly not able to dine there but the venue looked most enticing and apparently all 65 seats are filled every night for dinner. The bar looks super, and a sheet of paper lists concerts every night, with additional jazz specials on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Bathrobes and slippers

The building goes back to the year 1914 when it was built as a café with three letting bedrooms. Fast forward over a hundred years, through periods of hosting C&A and other retail companies, and it was bought by Dieter Mueller-Elmau, an extreme renaissance man whose many talents include founding hotel software platforms Fidelio and Opera – he also owns his family-heritage castle Schloss Elmau. Here in Berlin he wanted to save the building and bring it back to life. He designed the interiors of what is now a 41-room Small Luxury Hotels of the World treasure (SLH is really helpful in making it all work, says Hotel Manager Jennifer Vogel who, with her husband Philipp Vogel, GM and Executive Chef here, previously worked at Hotel Adlon Kempinski, also in Berlin).

Ground-floor bar

There are so many features. The ground floor wraps around in a big-C formation, from the hotel’s entrance on Oranienplatz, immediately past a 360-degree real log fire (with a stack of Berlin-local logs in a stylish black trolley), past bar and casual dining area to the main restaurant, and open kitchen. Here, you might choose winter beets with goat cheese and green wheat, or a Veggie Delight sharing menu, or oven-baked chocolate cake with vanilla sauce. Up in the rooms, even the smallest room, at 190 sq ft, is charming because it looks out at what is basically the five-floor wall of an inner courtyard but in fact gives a vista of beaches, or sunsets, or old movies, projected as needed.

The whole ground floor is light-and-bright

And finally up to the top floor, which is one big salon, the size of two tennis courts. Here is a splendid Steinway, tuned to such perfection that it is often used by mega stars practising before concerts with the Berlin Philharmonic. There are hundreds of polysyllabic books around. Special events are hosted here but every night there are free concerts with, in addition, pay-for jazz twice a week. This week, on March 15th, for instance. at 7 p.m. there was an hour-long jazz special, tickets €12, starring saxophonist Felix Wahnschaffe, and pianist Wolfgang Köhler. This was immediately followed, 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. by a free piano recital from Benedikt Jahnel. A week earlier, the salon hosted a unique ITB party, Luxury Late Night. NOW SEE A VIDEO TOUR OF THE LOBBY



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