I Went to London and Lived Like an Absolute Queen
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I’m proud of many of the things I’ve accomplished in my career: not letting my Bangladeshi immigrant parents strong-arm me into law school (sorry, guys! I love you), that one time I covered a presidential campaign, and of course, working at a glossy magazine that I grew up reading. But I don’t think anything has given me greater satisfaction than getting some Brits (i.e. those who subjugated my people, 1757-1847) to fly me to London for a weekend of loosely coronation-themed activities, and to review an opulent luxury hotel. Ancestors, are you seeing this? That’s your girl lying all the way down and drinking pink champagne on a Virgin Airlines business class flight. (Full disclosure: this author had her meals, travel, and stay comped in order to write this, and was tacky as hell about it the whole time.)
My host was The Londoner, which, in a slick bit of marketing jargon, touts itself as a “super-boutique” hotel, meaning that, with 350 rooms, it’s massive but still strives for an intimate feel, with eclectic design and style touches. Hotel director Charles Oak told reporters on this press trip that there were plenty of naysayers when The Londoner first opened in 2021: it’s located in the heart of London’s West End, which, though convenient for hopping around to the city’s marquee tourist attractions, doesn’t exactly scream chic (think Times Square, although I did not personally see any demon Elmos). It seems to have overcome that handicap given its current clientele. On a four-day trip, our group had no less than three celebrity sightings. I locked eyes with Patrick Dempsey in the lobby, and I’m sorry to say that he is every bit as devastatingly handsome, if not more so, as the McDreamy of 18 seasons ago. Other members of our party spotted Barbiecore icon Ryan Gosling. A third reporter rode the elevator with Jacob Elordi, who was reported to be Tall and also Nice.
The occasion for our gathering was to take part in festivities leading up to the coronation of King Charles III. It was hard for me to tell if real Londoners were actually amped about another big royal event full of pomp-and-circumstance, or if they were kind of over it, given a strapped economy and all the perma-drama embroiling the royals. But it does make for a nice bit of timely marketing. The Stage, the Londoner’s lobby bar, debuted a menu of decadent oysters (served with lemon crème fraîche and dill oil, a near-perfect bite of rich, citrusy goodness) and martinis, said to be the King’s favorite pre-dinner cocktail. And Oak arranged for reporters to have dinner one night with food writer Tom Parker Bowles i.e. son of one Camilla Bowles i.e. THE QUEEN. Parker-Bowles mostly talked about London’s dining scene and wisely did not dish about any royal gossip, although he *did* toss off some mentions about the hubbub surrounding his “mum” i.e. once again, I repeat, THE QUEEN.
But you don’t need a coronation on deck to have a rejuvenating stay at The Londoner, one of those hotels that boasts so many amenities that you don’t technically have to leave (although you definitely should!). The deets:
My deluxe king room was gorgeous, with floor-to-ceiling windows looking onto a city street, and a separate living area with a pink chaise lounge. I loved luxuriating there in the mornings with a bowl of room service porridge and coffee before the day started. There’s also so many thoughtful little touches: heated Japanese toilets in all the bathrooms (upon returning stateside, my butt recoiled at the touch of a cold seat), turndown service, and a 10/10 hotel robe and slippers.
Guests also have access to The Residence, a cozy upstairs bar and living area that serves free coffee, tea, soft drinks and pastries all day, and is a great place to hang out and get some work done.
You’re in London to see all the things and there’s no better place to take in all those centuries of history and culture than from The Londoner’s central perch. Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, 10 Downing Street, and the lush grounds of St. James Park are all within walking distance. I personally took a three-hour walking tour of the area in the pouring rain and loved it. Bits of trivia retained: the U.S. gifted the U.K. a statue of George Washington in the 1920s that now stands outside the National Gallery, but because Washington vowed to never set foot on British soil again, the statue was erected on soil flown in from Virginia. The pelicans in St. James Park were originally gifted from Russia. And there you have it, folks.
There is no shortage of dining and drinking options at The Londoner, with its six different restaurants and bars. You can head down to Joshua’s Tavern for some salty bar snacks and a gin and tonic (the bar's specialty is gin), go up to the rooftop izakaya bar for Japanese-inflected small plates (the miso butter chicken was a stand-out), or have a luxurious dinner at Whitcomb’s, the hotel’s French-Mediterranean fine dining restaurant. My favorite meal though, befitting a guileless American, was afternoon tea at The Stage. At a beautifully laid table, I stuffed myself with scrumptious little tea sandwiches brought out on a tiered tray, with fillings like smoked salmon and duck eggs, and heavenly warm scones I smothered with jam and clotted cream. Sipping my tea and champagne, I felt like the fanciest little queen.
If you’re looking to unwind after a day of sightseeing, snag a plush cabana at The Retreat, the hotel’s subterranean spa and wellness center located four floors beneath the lobby level, and zen out. It was built this way out of necessity: because of strict height limits in London, the hotel’s designers maximized amenities and event space by building six of The Londoner’s floors underground. But The Retreat doesn’t feel like a basement at all: the LED ceiling panels are outfitted to simulate soft, natural light, and the turquoise swimming pools radiate tranquility. You can also book a variety of treatments there: I got a heavenly 30-minute massage shortly after getting off my red-eye flight and promptly fell dead asleep on the table (sorry to my therapist who was nice about it and also had to rub down my grimey body).
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