London England, arguably the most iconic city in the world, is home to many famous cultural institutions, traditions, landmarks and celebrities. Driving on the opposite side of the road, football (or soccer, as us North Americans call it), afternoon tea, Buckingham Palace and David Beckham surely ring a bell when most think about this magical city. Most renowned and cuddly of all British celebrities, however, is Paddington Bear.
10 years ago, upon my first adventure to London, it was to my delight to discover that the actual area of Paddington, home to the famous bear I grew up hearing so much about, was a strong recommendation by my travel agent as a wonderful area to stay in in London – and she was right. I was thrilled to be able to return to the area once again upon my return this past November where Royal Lancaster London would host my colleague and I.
Located within a 10-minute walk from Paddington station, a major terminal serving as a landing pad for the Heathrow Express, and a one-minute walk from the Central Line on the tube, Royal Lancaster London could not be placed at a more accessible location for visitors in the city. If there’s one thing that beats the accessibility of the surrounding area, it is how picturesque Paddington is. Nestled within a residential area between two Royal Parks, the Royal Lancaster is surrounded by quiet gardens, beautiful squares, cozy cafés and grand canals. Just a short stroll west you will find yourself in renowned Notting Hill and Holland Park, and east will take you to the shopping mecca: Oxford Street. If you fancy to head south and cut through the stunning Hyde Park, you will land in Kensington or Knightsbridge – some of the poshest areas in town.
After a lovely drive through the area, we had arrived at Royal Lancaster. Floor-to-ceiling windows paneled the entrance of the hotel, welcoming us into a space flooded with natural light. An open concept foyer with white marble floors and gold accents added an element of grandeur to the property (no doubt thanks to the recent £85-million refurbishment the hotel had undergone). This is unusual for the area that generally hosts much smaller and humble accommodation types. While waiting for our room, we lounged in the foyer seating area with oversized chairs and sofas enrobed in velvet, and later hopped to the Hyde Café located just behind reception to warm up with a delicious hot chocolate.
When our room was ready, we headed up to the 16th floor in the key-activated elevator. We entered our Executive room and were once again welcomed with a warm yet minimalistic space, flooded with bright, natural light. Large windows lined an entire wall, offering sweeping views of Hyde Park, with the London Eye further in the distance. The room was spacious compared to most hotel rooms in the area, complete with a seating area with sofa, ottoman, coffee table and desk. I immediately dove onto the bed to do my usual comfort inspection – check! I was thrilled to find multi-national plug sockets for my phone that was in desperate need of a charge, and a switch to operate the blackout curtains all by the bedside.
The bathroom was lovely too. With a walk-in rainforest shower, deep bathtub, white marble floors, ceilings and counters, I was in bathroom heaven. Not only was the light unreasonably beautiful and bright for a hotel bathroom, once again, it was relatively spacious for London accommodations. With oversized White Company toiletries stocked on the glass shelves in the shower, a heated towel rack above the tub, and on point lighting – the bathroom had me ready for a relaxing bath followed by many pre-night-out selfies.
After an afternoon catching up on some R&R, we decided to grab a quick drink at the Park Lounge Bar before heading out for the evening. Contemporary and sexy, yet cozy with its own fireplace, the Park Lounge offers an inclusive vibe worthy of a solo traveler just wanting to unwind, or a couple on a first date, and anyone in between. With a craft cocktail menu inspired by the surrounding area, I had to order the “Royal Park” – and it was simply delicious. My colleague, Mark, opted for the “The Serpentine” and the Organic British beef burger, topped with onion chutney and Montgomery Cheddar on a brioche bun. I have seen Mark eat many burgers over the course of our friendship and have never seen him look so happy.
On our way back after a night out, we noticed a room with floor-to-ceiling windows that was directly adjacent to the front entrance of the hotel. It was filled with a sea of elegantly dressed guests. “Nine Kings” was the sign above the door. Unsure whether this was part of the hotel, we later inquired hotel staff about the space. Nine Kings was, indeed, a part of Royal Lancaster London– in fact, it is an event space largely acclaimed as Europe’s finest venue and can host events entertaining up to 1,000 guests. The display directly beside the front entrance to the hotel certainly added an element of glamour to the property. The hotel boasts several other state-of-the-art suites equipped for various business or entertainment functions.
The following day, after an incredible sleep, we headed down to the Park Restaurant for our breakfast. The vivacious Maître D’ Luigi ushered us to our seat directly by the window, overlooking the Italian Gardens of Hyde Park – what a view! We opted for the à la carte menu, despite the incredible looking Continental breakfast buffet. And that was a great choice. The presentation of the food between visual arrangement and verbal descriptions from Luigi were fantastic. The soft poached eggs on the ‘Crushed Avocado” were cooked to absolute perfection, and the Brioche French Toast with caramelised bananas and vanilla ice cream will ruin any other type of French Toast for you forever. Between the service, the presentation, the park views and the delicious food, I still can’t believe that this was a hotel restaurant – it was simply incredible.
Sadly, the divine breakfast was the only formal dining experience we had a chance to try during our short stay at Royal Lancaster London. The hotel offers two other dinner spots: Nipa Thai, named after the hotel owner’s wife, is an award-winning restaurant offering authentic Thai cuisine, and the Island Grill, which serves locally sourced British dishes with a focus on sustainability. We were sad to not get to experience these restaurants given the outstanding breakfast experience – but look forward to having an excuse to visit again!
Royal Lancaster London is truly an all-around, lovely hotel that offers the comfort and space of larger, corporate hotel brands but has the charm and attention to detail of a boutique, independently owned property. Whether you’re an independent traveler for work, or on a holiday with your family, Royal Lancaster London is the perfect hotel to suit all your accommodation needs.
Photos by Mark Cannataro, Amy Pigeon and courtesy of Royal Lancaster London.