One must never ask a lady her age, yet in the case of The Langham, London, age is something to celebrate. The Leading Hotels of the World property blew out 150 candles in 2015 and time has done little to dampen the grande dame’s appeal. In fact, since her numerous multi-million dollar facelifts, other hotels are probably begging for the number of her surgeon.
Opened in 1865 by HRH The Prince of Wales as Europe’s first “Grand Hotel”, the Regent Street building in the heart of London’s West End had – and still has – the most enviable postcode in the city, and over the years, has accrued a truly fabulous guest list to match.
Princess Diana, Napoleon, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde and Czech composer Antonín Dvořák – if they were royal or famous, they probably stayed at the hotel, which has also hosted its fair share of defining historical moments. During World War Two, for example, BBC staff used to broadcast from the roof, while Postillion – now a glamorous private dining room designed by the late David Collins – was the exact spot where in 1889, publisher Joseph Marshall Stoddart dined with Oscar Wilde and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and commissioned the pair to write some stories for Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine. As a result of that meeting, Wilde ended up writing The Picture of Dorian Gray – while staying at the hotel, no less – and Doyle churned out The Sign of Four – his second novel featuring Sherlock Holmes. More recently, Hollywood film Burnt was shot on location at The Langham.
With such a rich history, you have to tip your hat to hotel design firm Richmond International, who has done a remarkable job maintaining the heritage yet infusing modernity throughout the hotel’s newest areas, including London’s most expensive six-bedroom Sterling Suite. The latest facelift is a series of suites. With windows overlooking Portland Place and views of the BBC and All Souls Church, I instantly feel at home in my One-Bedroom Suite. The muted colour scheme of slate grey and coffee tones is pleasingly elegant, and though I find some of the art on the walls mildly disconcerting (namely the blank stares from the faces in Zhang Xiaogang’s “Identity Portrait” paintings), after a heavenly sleep in one of Langham’s “Blissful Beds”, all is forgiven.
The suite’s lounge room is just the place to read a newspaper or catch up on some work, fitted with a Nespresso machine and television, along with a sofa, table and ottoman – all luxuriously upholstered – while the marble bathroom has double vanities stocked with a full array of generously sized Chuan Spa amenities, including a body scrub and bath salts. All the tech is seamless, except for the initially iffy Wi-Fi, which is ironed out swiftly by a technician. The Langham might have 380 rooms and suites, but the hotel manages to maintain an intimate atmosphere with genuinely affable staff, from the always-cheerful doormen to the hostesses in the Langham Club Lounge. Inspired by the private clubs of the Victorian era, this is another space in the hotel where I feel incredibly at home. It’s where suite guests check in and are welcomed to relax throughout the day, cosying up in front of the fireplace with a book from the library – a delight in winter – or nibbling on complimentary cuisine from the Butler’s Pantry; the free flowing nibbles and drinks change throughout the day from poached eggs, pastries and freshly brewed coffee in the morning, to champagne and canapés in the evening.
Back to that enviable postcode. The Langham is scarcely an amble from the theatres if you want to catch a show, a mere moment further to shop on Regent and Oxford Streets, and just another moment more to the exclusive boutiques along Bond, New Bond and Albemarle Streets where you can snap up exquisite timepieces from Vacheron Constantin, quintessential British fashion from Paul Smith and cutting-edge pieces from Alexander Wang’s latest collection, or even try your hand at making your own Swiss Army knife at Victorinox – Europe’s first flagship store. But as with all clever hotels, The Langham has created plenty of tempting reasons to linger. One morning, I do laps in the hotel’s subterranean swimming pool and, in the afternoon, slumber beneath the skilful hands of a therapist at the hotel’s Chuan Spa, who executes a facial based on the elements of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Even at night, when Soho beckons, The Langham doesn’t have to try very hard to convince me to “stay in”. Not when aged Buccleuch beef and diver-caught Orkney scallops are on the menu at Roux at The Landau (Note: leave room for the cheese trolley). Packed every night with Londoners drinking fantastical creations, the hotel’s fashionable Artesian cocktail bar is another destination in itself, named the World’s Best Bar three years in a row with a menu that changes each season (and some rather eccentric receptacles from which to sip cocktails). But nothing harks back to the halcyon days more than afternoon tea at Palm Court. With an opulent art-deco aesthetic, velvet banquettes and the tinkling of a pianist, not to mention spectacular pastries and desserts created by chef Cherish Finden, it’s considered the birthplace of the afternoon tea tradition and the yesteryear ritual is as popular as ever. Nibbling on finger sandwiches, sipping tea, idle conversation – it feels old world yet contemporary, traditional yet relaxed – much like The Langham, London itself.
WHAT: One-Bedroom Suite
WHERE: The Langham, London
PRICE: £1,100 (US$1,336) per night
TEL: +44 20 7636 1000