The Lancaster London – A super sustainable luxury hotel, with views over Hyde Park
I’ve stayed in some extraordinary hotels from the discreet, old money splendour of the Mount Kenya Safari Club in Kenya, to the ritzy glamour of The Carlisle in New York, where a girl’s vintage Ferragamo’s sink into the clotted cream coloured shag pile, so deep, I was tempted to ask if it has its own gardener. Thus, on a Siberian night in London, I was very excited to be checking into the Lancaster Hotel, as it is officially, the AA’s most sustainable hotel in London. The roof of this lofty London landmark is home to more than half a million bees, which produce a wonderful light, golden, aromatic honey. The Lancaster recently underwent an eleven million pound sustainable refurbishment, to create state of the art, energy efficient kitchens and banqueting facilities. The award-winning Island restaurant goes out its way to feature tasty, sustainable, British produce, and the hotel sends absolutely no waste to landfill, a remarkable achievement.
I can always tell if I am going to be happy in a hotel within the first minute of walking into my fleeting home from home. First impressions are absolutely everything. The Lancaster gets this just right. The lobby is vast, but still manages to feel welcoming and cosy on such a cold winter’s night. The charming girl from a small village in Spain who checks me doesn’t treat me like a number, and she seems genuinely interested in my wellbeing. She finds me a quiet room with a view, asks me if I want a dinner reservation and kindly offers to help with my luggage. By the time we reach the lift, I even know a bit about her, and she tells me she can’t wait to go on a diving holiday with her boyfriend in the summer.
My room is on the 17th floor and is comfortably big enough for me to get excited about doing some yoga practice while I admire the hypnotic views over the rooftops towards Hyde Park and Knightsbridge. I have half an hour to get ready for dinner with a girlfriend, so there is just time to quickly unpack, and savour my new surroundings. I’m going to drink tea and watch transfixed, as the thick snowdrops, flutter down on Hyde Park, transforming it into the Snowqueen’s winter playground, while I feel cocooned and toasty in my tranquil eyrie. Alongside the usual tea making facilities, I am very impressed to see a note that says just call room service for fresh milk – hooray! One of my pet hates when staying in four and five star hotels is to be given tasteless packets of UHT milk in sachets. This will not do. The milk arrives in less than five minutes, so the service is good too.
A big, comfortable bed, hot water bottle and real milk for tea
I have a little game I play when I am staying in a good hotel, or even a budget one. I call up room service and say that I don’t feel well or that I have stomach ache, and ask if they have a hot water bottle. In all the hotel’s, in all the world; I have never encountered one that could provide a comforting hot water bottle! On this occasion I don’t need to. Holy mackerel! There is a hot water bottle in the wardrobe. Wow! The Lancaster has seriously impressed me. I’m smitten. I will be back. All these little touches make a hotel really feel like home. Then you can concentrate on the fun part of staying in a gorgeous room, where you get to play house without the chores and washing up. Unlike many generic, so-called luxury hotel rooms, with characterless faux antique furniture, my room has a gorgeous big double bed, crisp, proper cotton bed linen, just waiting to be lived in, and the fastest way to my heart – a bijou selection of mini truffles crying out to be appreciated, whilst luxuriating on the bed, and all the while, leafing through a pile of London-centric magazines with alluring headlines like – ‘Indulge in a winter of wonders with lavish gifts, sumptuous cuisine and fashion fit for any occasion’. Then I might daydream about ‘The Geek Prince’ coming to take me out to dinner and play house together. Alas, he is at a geeks’ science conference deep in the English Countryside. Later we compare hotel rooms. Somehow, the Hilton Swindon just doesn’t sound so sexy! But he seems really pleased with his large executive room, so I don’t make him jealous!
The bathroom is perhaps the only part of my room that is ever so slightly disappointing. It is perfectly adequate, rather than luxurious. It has quite a small bath, with funny state of the art taps, that I have to summon help to operate, and green toiletries by LLK Toiletries that are a cut above the usual cheap, skin-irritating, hotel smelly stuff, but still not quite good enough to entice me to use them instead of my own, organic skin and body elixirs.
Dinner – The atmosphere in the restaurant is fun, relaxed and unpretentious. Dishes are very well priced for London, and I was impressed with the choice and emphasis on quality and provenance of the food. My starter of home-cured salmon and house sourdough bread was absolutely delicious. The salmon cure was just on the right side of smokiness, with melt-in-mouth, buttery textures.
I was less impressed with my fillet steak, which was tough, and lacked tenderness, but the dish was redeemed by the salad, which was nicely tangy, and crisp, and the perfect foil to the richness of red meat.
I adore puddings. Especially when they are executed with imagination, flair and prettiness. My pudding of jewel-coloured raspberry sorbet with granola and parfait was a delight to look at and tasted equally as good. I finished my meal with the most delicious organic chocolate – which sent me off to bed reading to hit the pillow in a state of sleepy, sweet contentment.
Dinner for Two People with a glass of Prosecco with Kir – £70.00 – £80.00 for three courses.
Breakfast – So few four and five star hotel’s get breakfast right, and The Lancaster is no exception. For an award-winning green hotel, I feel more thought and care could be taken into producing a really delicious and healthy start to the day. I found a quiet table with a view, looking out over the park, and after careful consideration, assembled a reasonably pleasant, if not very exciting breakfast of – Bircher muesli, fruit salad, plain, rather bland yogurt and Earl Grey tea. It would be great to have some healthy homemade sourdough bread, such as the bread on offer in the hotel’s Island Restaurant. All I could see was the usual tasteless, bought in sugarcoated pastries and generic, industrial looking bread, which is guaranteed to induce an eleven o’clock slump. I am sure discerning, health-conscious guests would be prepared to pay a little more for carefully chosen breakfast ingredients with the focus on delivering a great energy boost to the day, with a more artisan, homemade approach to the most important meal of the day. Given the high standards in the hotel’s Island Restaurant, I am surprised that breakfast doesn’t quite live up to the same, thoughtful standards.
I really enjoyed my stay at The Lancaster. The genuine friendliness of the staff, exciting green innovations, amazing views and the comfort levels of my stay would make me feel very happy to return. Oh and five gold stars for the hot water bottle, yummy chcolates and fresh milk in the room!
0207 262 6737 www.lancasterlondon.com
I’ve just spent a fascinating afternoon at the Science Museum, where I sat spellbound as we are treated to an edge of the seat magic carpet ride screening of the film To The Arctic, in 3D. It’s quite something to have snowflakes falling into your lap as Meryl Streep’s beguiling narration offers a spellbinding, Grimm’s fairytale portrait for the future of the polar bear and its disappearing, summer ice habitat. ‘We don’t belong there, she warns, as we watch a mother polar bear and her cub pirouette tenderly around each other, like a slow, perfect ballet. We then hear scientists from the WWF talk about the latest strategy to conserve what is left of the summer ice. As I walk through decades of history, and go back out into the streets of London, it is really snowing – perhaps I will encounter a polar bear on the way to the Tube! Then I dash across town to check into the Lancaster Hotel – just a skip across the road from Hyde Park – and officially the AA’s greenest hotel in the UK.