The gal was amazed to discover a part of London she, who was born in that city, had never visited. South of the Thames, immediately across Tower Bridge from the Tower of London, the name, which could mean Beornmund’s island, appears in the Domesday Book as Bermundesy and Bermundesye. Today it is a multi-cultural happening place, with colourful buildings, as shown above, enticing fashion boutiques and the Fashion and Textile Museum, currently celebrating 50 years of Zandra Rhodes. There is also a highly popular market, sadly closed Sundays. But on the supposed ‘day of rest’, other impromptu markets spring up. The food stalls shown here, for instance, are probably in a disused carpark, elegantly carpeted in astro-turf. All these, and much more, are within ten minutes’ walk of London’s sky-high luxury hotel, Shangri-La at The Shard.
I was taken walkabout by the hotel’s creative director of sales and marketing Stefan Mueller. He wanted to show off Bermondsey Distillery, a gin haven in one of the ‘under the arches’, below mainline trains going in and out of London Bridge station every few minutes. The pale-pistachio work space holds the sparkling stainless and copper stills where gin-loving Dane, Christian Errboe Jensen, produces 30,000 bottles every year – watch a video in which his Icelandic manager explains the products. Stefan Mueller includes in his offer to small meetings tasting visits to the Distillery, and also visit to Peter Layton glass-blowing, just a few minutes away. Gosh there is so much to see, but then I really needed to get back to my hotel room, to unpack. An elevator took me up to the 35th floor reception, and another to suite 3901. OH the view.
But 39th floor views straight down to the Thames, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London are, believe it or not, not the only wow. See another video below, which shows a felt-pen message on one of the suite’s ceiling-high windows, welcoming me personally. In the closet, I had royal blue silk day robes, and deep burgundy velvet slippers by couturier Beatrix Ong. I had pristine copies of every conceivable one of this month’s glossy fashion and style magazines, and enticing hardbacks – if only I had time to read them. No, I met Shangri-La’s man-for-much-of-the-world. William Mackay, and as we took the upper elevator, from floors 35 to 52, we shared it with a flamboyant mixologist, with bar cart and all the gear. He was mixing and handing out Negronis in small ceramic tasting cups, free, as happens every Sunday.
GONG, the bar up on the 52nd floor, is full, as it is 365 nights a year – it has attracted a new Bar Manager, Marco Corallo, from Caesars Palace, Dubai. Anyone staying anywhere in London wants to come up here. As for filling the 202 bedrooms, this is the London hotel which unusually has about 40% of all guests coming from UK, many of them celebrating anniversaries, birthdays and so on. Many come back every year, for anniversaries and birthdays and in between. They, like me, are in awe of sunset views across the river, and the thoughtful English menu, say Dorset crab, at Ting, down on the 35th floor. Another special at this memorable luxury hotel is playing sudoku on the Technogym pieces in the 24/7 gym, also on the 52nd floor, next to the indoor pool. Watch the sun come up, through all-wall windows. After this, and a good Acqua di Parma shower, I headed to Ting’s breakfast buffet, which includes a large Chinese display. I was with another creative genius, Kurt Macher, who in his three months as GM here is already turning traditional London hotel-keeping upside down. Even the fact that he had just nannied a cat and dog in from his previous home, Chengdu, could not, quite, dampen his exuberance.