June 9, 2014
Everyone should try and spend a night at the Shangri-La at the Shard, not because of the service, atmosphere or food, which are all excellent, but because it is unlike any hotel you will ever stay in. The Shangri-La is positioned between the 35th and 52nd floors of the Shard, and as such, commands the most spectacular views over London. Once up in your gilded tower the city unfurls around you, surprisingly flat, surprisingly green, but so fascinating you can barely rip your eyes away from it. Millions of lives are happening around you, but they seem so remote, so far away from your deistic existence – the trains that glide out of London Bridge and Waterloo appear as part of one giant train set that you, and only you, hold the controls to, as they stream away like snakes heading to undefined suburban hinterlands in the distance.
This is the Shangri-La’s third European property and one that has been in the planning for almost a decade. The opening has been delayed and staggered as the owners try to obtain absolute perfection. The small, security-conscious lobby at ground level filters the “have’s” from the “have not’s” as they try and gain access to the eerie. For the have not’s there is a small, but perfectly formed café/champagne bar, LÃ¡ng (meaning passageway) that serves tea from Wedgewood cups and tempting pastries and cakes. The ear-popping lift shoots up from the lobby to the 35th floor, where the hotel’s reception and signature restaurant, Ting are located. Trying to concentrate on checking-in is almost impossible as the floor-to-ceiling windows capture the senses at every turn.
The 202 rooms, over 16 floors, are elegantly decorated with the huge windows and expansive views the obvious focus. As you would expect from a Shangri-La hotel, the beds are comfortable, the bathrooms luxurious, iPod docks, in-room iPads and Nespresso machines come as standard, not to mention a well-stocked mini bar. There are cute little touches like the binoculars provided in every room for hotel guests to spy on the daily drudge of mere mortals below.
On the 52nd floor is Gong, the sky-high cocktail and champagne bar where drinkers are able to look down on the Bermondsey distillery where the gin in the signature Bermondsey Bubbles cocktail is crafted. Also at this level, although yet to open, is an infinity pool where scantily clad guests can glide effortlessly as they pick out iconic central London landmarks.
The hotels’ signature restaurant, Ting is split into two parts – a lobby lounge section for drinks, afternoon teas and a lighter, more informal Asian and Middle Eastern menu, and the formal dining area in the main restaurant. The menu at the latter draws on seasonal British produce from Borough Market (at the base of the tower), and then gives the dishes a little Oriental twist. The charming MaÃ®tre d’, Gavin McGowan Madoo has already established his head for heights credentials at Duck & Waffle in the Heron Tower, while the carefully curated wine list is the loving product of young sommelier Anne Lomas.
But at the end of the day, if you stripped out the comfort, the wonderful food, the oh-so-attentive service and contemporary Asian art and just threw a couple of futons on the floor, it would still be London’s most extraordinary hotel and one that everyone should try, despite the £400+ price tag, at least for one night.
Header photo: The Shard from the Thames © Shangri-La at the Shard
Are you planning a night or two at London’s new Shangri-La at the Shard? How would you feel about staying in the highest hotel in Western Europe? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.
Written by Tremayne Carew Pole