Top tips on planning a trip to London
PUBLISHED: 10:40 09 June 2014 | UPDATED: 10:43 18 June 2014
Planning a trip up to London this summer? Alice Cooke has found a thoroughly civilised way to go about it
When I think of hot-footing it to London in pursuit of a show, a museum or a gallery, I can’t pretend that the idea of the train, the tube, the bus, or just the sheer volume of people, doesn’t fill me with dread. Because it really does. But agonise no more. Be still thine rising panic. The answer is both surprisingly simple and unbelievably civilised, and it comes in the form of The Halkin.
Nestled in the heart of Belgravia, the streets surrounding the hotel are quiet, the traffic minimal, and even in the morning rush hour – or at the time you’d expect that to be – you can’t really see or hear very many people at all. Of course you’re still in the city – let’s not be unrealistic – you can’t hear the Avon burbling past your window, or the chaffinches arguing on the bird table, but it is almost bafflingly quiet.
It is not just the minimal noise pervading from the street outside, but also the way that the hotel is run that makes this such an oasis of calm. I didn’t hear a peep from any of the other guests while I was staying, and the hotel was nearly full to capacity at the time (there are 41 suites and rooms in total), the building is just extremely well-designed and thought through. Asian-inflected style throughout makes you feel like you’re in a spa of sorts - everything is so discreet, serene and calm that you almost expect a masseuse to appear at any moment - and I’m sure one would if you asked. Nothing is too much trouble for the doormen, the concierge or the waiting staff.
Which brings me to the restaurant. For there’s an award-winning Michelin-starred restaurant, Amesta, downstairs - not that you’d even know it. You wouldn’t really know it was there if it were not pointed out - which is such a breath of fresh air when you consider the queues and the noise that await you at most London eateries.
Not for them the chef’s table that opens on to a busy kitchen, accompanied by an upbeat soundtrack that gets you in the mood for a night on the tiles or a raucous meal surrounded by diners and staff. Amesta is small - gorgeously so. You honestly feel like you’re in someone’s dining room, albeit an extremely well decorated one. The food is exquisite - authentic Spanish fare with some truly fantastic wine on offer from an extensive list of the highest quality.
You can easily see why The Halkin is regarded by loyal regulars as a home away from home. The service is faultless, the rooms are unbelievably comfortable with charming touches like a sound system that lets you listen to the music that’s playing in the bedroom while you’re in the bath, the food is mindblowingly good - and did I mention the peace and quiet?!
020 7333 1000; www.comohotels.com/thehalkin
The attractions on your doorstep
Buckingham Palace; 020 7930 4832; www.royal.gov.uk
Hyde Park; 0300 061 2000; royalparks.org.uk/parks/hyde-park
The Serpentine Gallery; 020 7402 6075; serpentinegalleries.org
St James’s Park; 0300 061 2000; royalparks.org.uk/parks/st-jamess-park
The famous bars and shops of the King’s Road; kingsroad.co.uk
The V&A Museum; 020 7942 2000; vam.ac.uk
The Science museum; 020 7942 4000; sciencemuseum.org.uk
The Natural History museum; 020 7942 5000; nhm.ac.uk