Hotel Watch: Royal Lancaster, London

After a recent $100 million renovation, London’s venerable Royal Lancaster has regained pride of place among the British capital’s leading luxury hotels.

Royal Lancaster, London Exterior

LOCATION

Many of the 411 rooms and suites on 18 floors boast panoramic views of Hyde Park and its famed Italian Gardens, not far from Speaker’s Corner and central London. Conveniently close to Paddington Station (where a hotel car can drop you at no charge). The Lancaster Gate tube station (Central Line) is a two-minute stroll from the front door. Oxford Street shopping is 15-minute walk.

Living Lounge at Royal Lancaster, London

OVERVIEW

Originally an office building designed by famed architect Richard Seifert, the property was an essential part of the swinging London scene after being converted to a hotel in 1967. The new Royal Lancaster was the site of the Beatles’ over-the-top launch party for “Yellow Submarine” in 1968 and “The Italian Job” starring Michael Caine was filmed there the following year. A half century on, however, “The Old Lanc” had become a frowsy dowager better known for its gilded “fake-tiques” and “frightful carpets” than anything else. Enter a new owner: Khun Jatuporn Sihanatkathakul, a Thai businessman who completed an outstanding two-year, $100 million renovation last year after personally overseeing the re-design.

View of Hyde Park from Royal Lancaster, London

STYLE

The front of the hotel was transformed by an arresting glazed facade exposing a sleek new two-story lobby enclosed in white marble that replaced much of the dark wood paneling. The light, airy feeling is enhanced by dramatic floral displays and white leather booths that invite guests to settle in to watch the unfolding scene. Marble floors and brushed gold abound along with soothing beige colors sure to please many of the Arab guests whom I spotted throughout my stay in July, the height of the summer season.

Royal Suite Bedroom

ROOMS

Classic Rooms are spacious and quiet with walls of floor-to-ceiling windows that provide abundant light as well as panoramic views of Hyde Park (and are controlled by bedside switches). Beige, sea green and soft gold accents predominate with fresh flowers and a wall of mirrors adding to the sense of refined luxury. Classic rooms feature comfortable king-size beds with high-end linens, a desk and chair, plush seating, 40-inch smart TVs and free Wi-Fi, a safe, mini-bar, international electrical plugs and ample closet and drawer space for storage. The marble bathrooms have large tubs and separate waterfall showers, underfloor heating, full-length mirrors and soft, snowy linens. Premium White Company bath products are generously sized and replenished twice daily.

SERVICE

Polite and attentive but not obsequious, just as one would expect in a top London hotel. The somewhat overwhelmed concierge rose to the occasion with rapid response to various shopping queries and restaurant recommendations and the nearly invisible chambermaids couldn’t have been more aware or thorough. I returned after breakfast one day to find that the room had already been serviced.

Royal Suite Sunset

RESTAURANTS

Said by food critics to have the best Thai cuisine in London, the first floor Nipa Thai restaurant (named after the owner’s wife) lives up to its reputation with a snappy all-female kitchen staff preparing a lengthy list of menu selections to perfection. Michelin-starred and one of only 15 U.K. restaurants recognized by the Thai government for its quality and cuisine, Nipa offers three set menus as well as numerous à la carte offerings that feature intensely flavorful traditional and regional specialties. Portions are generous so you might not have much room left after beginning with som tam papaya salad with dried shrimp and following with the chef’s special ruam mitr starter platter overflowing with chicken satay skewers, fried shrimp dumplings, traditional fish cakes and crispy spring rolls. Follow if you can with lamb massaman curry and finish with the spectacular crunch fried bananas and a side of coconut ice cream. (About $100 per person)

Coconut soup at Nipa Thai

Located on the ground floor with views of Hyde Park, the Island Grill is a quiet and unassuming yet sophisticated choice for locally sourced modern dishes made from seasonal ingredients. Service from the staff is friendly and attentive. Meat dishes are recommended, especially the confit pork belly and the steak with garlic mash. Probably not the best place to take children under the age of twelve. (About $70 per person)

An extensive English breakfast, included in the room price, is served in the Park Lounge overlooking Hyde Park’s Italian Gardens. Fresh fruits and juices, cereals, yogurts, cheeses, smoked and cured fish, toasts, cakes and pastries are offered along with scrambled eggs accompanied by sausage, bacon, black pudding and hash browns. The à la carte menu features additional egg dishes (smoked salmon and scrambled eggs were my favorite), grilled kippers, pancakes, french toast, waffles and other hearty fare. Japanese, Chinese, Thai and Arab breakfasts are available upon request.

A full afternoon tea service is available in the Hyde Lobby Bar with sandwiches and savories accompanied by chocolate lollipops, macaroons, seasonal fruit tarts, tranches and, of course, scones with Cornish clotted cream and homemade jam ($50 per person). Morning coffee and pastries are also available.

AMENITIES

A 24-hour fitness center includes a gym with treadmills, weights and cross trainers. There is no onsite spa although discounted rates are offered at the hotel’s sister properties. Novelty beehives installed on the roof, with the honey harvested from a half million resident , is used at breakfast and often handed out as special favors to guests. The hotel also boasts a large event spaces including 13 meeting rooms and two ballrooms with separate entrances so overnight guests are not disturbed.

BOTTOM LINE

$250-$575; deluxe suites range from $1,400 to $4,000.

DETAILS

Royal Lancaster, London
Lancaster Terrace W2 2TY
United Kingdom
royallancaster.com
44-20-7551-6000

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