Long Weekend Getaway: London Hotels

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Call it a long weekend, a city break or a girlfriends’ getaway (guys won’t mind either, of course!), but taking two, three or four days in England’s capital all starts with a great place to lay your head. But here, hotels are destinations in their own right, and we couldn’t resist sharing a few of our favourite things about the hautest hotels in jolly old London town. And to make it even easier for you, dear reader, we’ve honed in on just what makes them so special (but take note, these hotels have so much to offer, we’d need days to tell it all!).

For a girlfriend’s getaway, read Shopping! Food! Drink! And a secret pub, head to The Capital (above). For the best view of the city, the River Thames and the Tower Bridge, ride the elevator to the sky at the Shangri-La at the Shard. For the outdoor rooftop, which mixes slick Euro sexiness and modern romance, book a table at ME London. For afternoon tea, with a royal twist, there’s nothing like a cosy spot in Mayfair, so make a reservation at Brown’s Hotel. And, even city types need an exotic getaway, even if it is just for lunch! For a bit of Africa next door to the Queen’s residence in London, have a bite and sip at Bb bar at The Rubens at the Palace. And we mustn’t forget, for a pre-show cocktail, or a nightcap or two, take a seat at The American Bar at The Savoy, one of London’s most famed hotels. www.visitbritain.com/en/CA/ Finally, speaking American Bars, The Stafford London also has its own version, complete with a Second World War spy in residence.

*Click next page for list


1. For a girlfriend’s getaway, read: Shopping! Food! Drink! And a secret pub!

The Capital. For more than 40 years, this member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World has been family-owned and -run by the Levin family. Tucked away on Basil Street in tony Knightsbridge, the Capital is literally steps from world-renowned Harrod’s department store. You can tell it’s well-loved, both by the family and its staff, as everyone is always in a good mood. We don’t think we saw anything but smiles while we were here. And why wouldn’t we be smiling, too? Nathan Outlaw, the two Michelin-starred chef has Outlaw’s at the Capital, his award-winning outpost here – and the hotel’s Capital bar is manned by Cesar da Silva, a whisky sommelier, and the U.K.’s youngest keeper of the Quaich (that’s upholder of all things whisky divine, to you and me.) Take a cocktail master class with Cesar, or book a table with Nathan – but here’s hint: On weekends, Outlaw’s is booked months out, so have lunch instead. Good for the budget and your tastebuds. If you’ve spent more at Harrod’s than you can for lunch, head to The Metro Bistro for the prix fixe lunch or the pub’s happy hour, right next door at The Levin, which is also owned by, well, The Levins, of course. And, in keeping with the all in the family vibe, Cesar has shared his CC Martini recipe, and kindly substituted vodka for gin. Cheers! www.capitalhotel.co.uk

CC Martini (specially made for Zoomer with Gin)
Courtesy of Cesar Da Silva, Bar Manager, The Capital, London

In a cocktail shaker, mix all ingredients, aside from apple slices:

  • 37.5ml Gin
  • 25ml Apple Juice
  • 12.5ml Green Apple liquor
  • a splash Lime Juice
  • a splash Calvados liquor
  • 4 slices Apples: cut into very slim pieces, for garnish


Pour into martini glass. Garnish with apple slices.


2. For the best view:

Shangri-La at the Shard. London’s not known for its sky-scraping skyline, but it is known for the dome at St. Paul’s, Big Ben’s tower perch and Westminster Abbey. And, speaking of towers, the hotel, designed by Renzo Piano, is just a hop away from the gorgeous Tower Bridge that straddles the River Thames in its unique majestic way. It also leads up to the Tower of London itself, where you can find the green where Anne Boleyn lost her head. Don’t lose yours, though, as the heights at Shangri-La at the Shard are heady. Be smart, book a table for dinner at Ting on the 35th floor, and savour the scene below and the European cuisine – with just a dash of Asian influence. Or, if cocktails are more your thing, sip on bubbles at Gong, nearly another 20 storeys up, while watching the sun set over this very modern of very historic cities. And, speaking of cocktails, the mixologists here mix it up regularly, with a diverse menu – their latest is an Orient-inspired cocktail menu – that’s as hot as the view at this, London’s highest bar. www.shangri-la.com/london/shangrila

Bermondsey Bubbles
In keeping with Shangri-La Hotel, At The Shard’s ethos of sourcing high-quality, local ingredients, the Bermondsey Bubbles – one of Gong’s most popular cocktails  – is constructed around Jensen’s dry Bermondsey gin, distilled on The Shard’s doorstep, in a railway arch beneath the main line from London Bridge. Mixed with a subtle rose liquor, creole bitters and the hotel’s house champagne, Duval-Leroy Brut, the long, blush coloured drink is finished with a sugar shard and a rose petal.

15ml jensens gin
5ml rose liq
2 drop peychaud bitter
Top with champagne

Garnish with a red sugar shard.

3. For the outdoor rooftop:

ME London. This offshoot of the Spanish Melia group is like its hipper, cooler, Eurocentric cousin, with just the right amount of attitude thrown in. This hotel, just off The Strand and a few minutes walk to Trafalgar Square, features design that is clean and contemporary – witness the spire-like ceiling at reception – and these lines continue within the look of the Radio Rooftop Bar, on the 10th floor of the hotel. The outdoor terrace is slick and sexy with white banquettes, faux fur throw pillows and fire pits, with a panoramic view of the River Thames and beyond that just skims the typically low rooftops of London. http://www.melia.com/en/hotels/united-kingdom/london/me-london/index.html

4. For afternoon tea, with a royal twist:

Brown’s Hotel. As if we needed another reason to spend an afternoon in Mayfair, this Rocco Forte property takes the tea trolley up a notch, and then some. Champagne, along with all the classics, sandwiches with the crusts cut off, natch, is par for the course here. The English Tea Room is intimate with cosy tables and curved little corner banquettes, but, aside from just how delicious it all is, it’s the bit of an unofficial royal warrant that makes this hot spot, well, extra hot. You see, Queen Victoria, credited by many with making afternoon tea a ritual in the first place, would often take her tea right here in these very room. Winston Churchill and Rudyard Kipling no doubt appreciated the original wood panelling and fireplaces for their historic appeal, but for modern types, they also sit quite nicely, thank you very much, next to the Paul Smith designed lighting. We are definitely amused. https://www.roccofortehotels.com/hotels-and-resorts/browns-hotel/

5. For a bit of Africa next door to the Queen:

Bb bar at The Rubens at the Palace. This family-owned Red Carnation property – its sister hotels in London include Hotel 41, The Milestone and The Chesterfield – has a view of the Royal Mews of Buckingham Palace. But it’s anything but stiff upper lip stuffy here. With tongue twisting – and tantalizing – tidbits such as Springbok fillet, Boerewors sausages and Bobotie Spring Roll, you’ll feel immersed in safari chic. And, the wine list, served from not one, but two bars, features more than 100 wines (50 by the glass!), including those produced on the Red Carnation-owned South African vineyard, Bouchard Finlayson. Why just have one? Have the sommelier suggest a wine pairing for each course. And if you’ve found you might have indulged just a wee bit too much, stay awhile and sober up with a spot of afternoon tea. Or just book one of the 143 rooms on the property, which will give you access to the private, guests-only Leopard bar for a nightcap. Out of Africa, indeed. http://www.rubenshotel.com/

6. For a pre-theatre or nightcap in the bar at one of London’s most storied hotels:

The American Bar at The Savoy. Its location, along the banks of the River Thames and next to the Savoy Theatre, makes it well situated for West End theatre lovers and shoppers. The city’s Covent Garden neighbourhood is home, and an easy walk to The Strand and Trafalgar Square. But why leave when the history and glamour can be found right here? Aside from the fact that the hotel is a part of our homegrown Fairmont Hotels and Resort Group, Gordon Ramsay has a dining outpost here, but The American Bar at The Savoy is perhaps the most must-stop. The term “American Bar” is ubiquitous throughout London, and Europe in general. But this is the oldest surviving, catering to TransAtlantic clientele since the 19th century. Ask for Martin at the bar, and tell him Zoomer sent you. He might just share a secret recipe or two. www.fairmont.com/savoy-london/dining/americanbar/

7. For the nostalgia, the memorabilia and the little white mouse:

The Stafford London. Set back from St. James Street in the mews in the historic St. James neighbourhood, this hotel is within walking distance of St. James Palace (that’s where royals Charles and Harry have their offices), round the corner from famed food purveyor Fortnum and Masons, just down the road from Piccadilly, Mayfair and The Mall, which takes you to Buckhingham Palace, and the perfectly bucolic St. James Park. If you’re stumped as to where to start, the hotel’s head concierge, Frank Laino has been voted “World’s Best Concierge” luxury travel advisor group Virtuoso. (Click here to get a few of Frank’s tips). But, when the day is done, head to the hotel’s American Bar and, while your cocktail is shaken or stirred, take in the posters and war-era propaganda that wallpapers the room – and the collection of baseball caps that line the ceiling in the adjacent lounge. There’s even a stool reserved “The White Mouse,” a key figure in the French resistance, who took refuge in the hotel to escape the Nazis’ roving eye. If you’re lucky, Ben Provost will be behind the bar, and he can regale you with stories of Nancy. Ask him to mix you the White Mouse cocktail he created in her honour. www.thestaffordlondon.com

Recipe: White Mouse Cocktail

1oz (30 ml) Saffron Gin
1/2oz (15 ml) Lemon Juice
1/2oz (15 ml) Honey
Star Anise to taste

1) Pour gin, lemon juice and honey in to a cocktail shaker, and ice
2) Shake all ingredients together3) Double strain into a coupe or cocktail glass
4) Top up with champagne
5) Garnish with star anise to float