The gal had forgotten that One Aldwych, the luxury hotel at the west end of London’s moon-shaped Aldwych, is so convenient for St Pancras, the Eurostar London hub. This makes it ideal for Parisians and others to take, or host, weekend breaks or longer. One Aldwych is three minutes’ walk from Covent Garden, with boutiques and restaurants galore, and it is the heart of theatreland. It is also very stylish – see the greenery in the hotel’s female washrooms (do the men have the same?) No wonder many guests are repeats.
Stay here and you have access to the residents’ Lounge At One, a daytime speakeasy behind an unmarked door, by the bellcaptain’s desk. In there, it is like the top-flight executive club that is, unusually, so hard to find in London (London InterContinental Park Lane’s is excellent but for some reason most London owners either think their guests do not want a club or consider, generally mistakenly, that the entire hotel is ‘club’ standard. I was making a brief stopover at the hotel, for lunch with its MD Simon Hirst, who had opened the hotel n 1998 and, after a sabbatical, so to speak, in Singapore, is back now in full charge, and more creative than ever.
We ate at Indigo, the dairy- and gluten-free restaurant that has a serious cult following. The menu is so exciting, actually, that you overlook the fact that instead of butter you get some kind of pouring oil to put on the gluten free bread. I actually love the restaurant’s make-your-own-salad, or rather design it for the kitchen to make. Two sizes, and choose a carb and any three sides, say avocado, beetroot and tomatoes, with your choice of dressing. But, as we talked about the forthcoming Masterchef being screened live from the other restaurant, Eneko (overseen by superstar chef Eneko Atxa), in a few days’ time, I became aware of elegant women coming in to tables around us – at 12.45 – not for lunch but for afternoon tea.
And this is not any old afternoon tea. The luxury hotel has cleverly igned exclusivity with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and the tea is so popular they regularly do 160 a day (that is why teatime has taken over not only the main lobby but half of Indigo, too). Open-ended, stay as long as you like and for £44, or more with Lallier Champagnes or cocktails, you get plates first of such savouries as onion, sage and chestnut quiche, and Montgomery cheese scone with bacon jam, and then comes something, or some things, sweeter, with more scones with jams, lemon curd and Devonshire cream, and the highlight, eight-inch high bright pink candy floss. Every iPhone goes click-and-post, which means this afternoon tea’s publicity is self-perpetuating, day after day, week after week, month after month.