Two great ways to enjoy a stylish London staycation

PUBLISHED: 12:39 18 November 2020 | UPDATED: 12:46 18 November 2020

Strand Palace has been part of the London landscape for over 111 years. Photo: Simon John Owen

Strand Palace has been part of the London landscape for over 111 years. Photo: Simon John Owen

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Try a break in the capital after Lockdown 2 with our hotel recommendations

The Living Wall is a vertical garden�that covers an entire exterior wall of the hotel. Photo: The AthenaeumThe Living Wall is a vertical garden�that covers an entire exterior wall of the hotel. Photo: The Athenaeum

It was standing on the platform of Charing Cross Tube station at 9.15am on a Saturday when the full impact of Covid-19 on our infrastructure and economy was fully brought home to me. There we were - at the one of the busiest transport hubs in the capital - with just the two of us as far as the eye could see.

What a shame. But, then again, what an opportunity. There is no denying that London is a different place right now as a result of the pandemic – quieter, no theatres, lack of obvious foreign tourists, some eating and drinking spots closed temporarily, or possibly for good. But while that can obviously be seen in a negative light, maybe us Brits need to do our bit for the nation’s capital by visiting more often.

If you do then you might just find, for now, there is fun to be had in having the place to yourself much more. And, in the process you’ll be doing your bit for our somewhat beleaguered hospitality industry. Because during our three days in London we encountered nothing but eager, pleased-to-see-us staff who welcomed our presence and who were adapting gracefully and with aplomb to whatever the latest Covid-compliant rules were. Their flexibility and innovative spirit was inspirational and needs our support – not just in London, but in whatever outpost of the UK you can reward them with your presence and money.

So, whenever and however Boris tells us we can venture out there again please do. And, in my opinion, London should be one of your first stops...it might be different, it might be a little more complicated to negotiate, but it’s most definitely not closed and, it is still offering a first-class experience, as our stay at two lovely hotels demonstrated.

Haxells Restaurant & Bar was a stylish spot for dinner. Photo: Simon John OwenHaxells Restaurant & Bar was a stylish spot for dinner. Photo: Simon John Owen

The Strand Palace

Our first stop for our long weekend was to spend two nights at The Strand Palace, one of the capital’s most iconic hotels which reopened its doors to the public in May 2020, following a multimillion-pound refurbishment. The overhaul saw all 785 bedrooms, public areas, restaurant and bar refurbished with a modern art-deco inspired interior design.

Upon entering there is a glamorous and graceful feel about the place. Photo: The AthenaeumUpon entering there is a glamorous and graceful feel about the place. Photo: The Athenaeum

Strand Palace is a landmark within itself, being part of the London landscape for over 111 years, and its central location is perfect for accessing all the best parts of the capital – the shops, the River Thames, theatreland (when it re-opens) and the cream of the capital’s historic buildings.

As part of its reopening post Lockdown 1, the hotel announced its new cleanliness programme, a clear system put in place with best practices and protocols. This was self-evident and reassuring to us – there was excellent signage in and around the hotel to guide your way, staff were attentive, yet discreet and there was plenty of sanitising gel throughout for regular use.

These rigorous new processes have been designed to give guests complete peace of mind, so they can enjoy their stay and focus on rediscovering the excitement and vigour of the heart of London as safely as possible.

The hotel will also offer its new ‘Strandaroo’ service, enhanced in-room dining choices that will be prepared in special food packages for those guests who prefer to enjoy their food from the comfort of their own rooms. We, however, took the trouble to dine in the stylish Haxells Restaurant & Bar for dinner and breakfast and, again, the first-class attention from the staff matched up with the excellent menu choices.

The Strand Palace really was a fabulous base from which to pop in and out as the mood took us. Never too far from anywhere in central London, with a welcoming and stylish vibe - we loved it.

The Athenaeum

The royally-inspired afternoon tea has become something of a London tradition. Photo: The AthenaeumThe royally-inspired afternoon tea has become something of a London tradition. Photo: The Athenaeum

For our final night in London, we moved on to The Athenaeum. Embodying five-star luxury and an independent spirit, this family-run hotel, located in the heart of Mayfair, gives you the wow factor from the immediate moment of first arriving...just a glance up at its Living Wall – a vertical garden that covers an entire exterior wall of the hotel, from ground level right through to the top floor – is enough to have you making admiring noises before you enter.

And upon entering there is a glamorous and graceful feel about the place. Staff are super-efficient and easy with a warm welcome, giving the impression that nothing would be too much trouble. And again, in the midst of all the necessary Covid safety rules, they still manage to carry it off with elan and good grace.

The hotel’s contemporary rooms, suites and residences epitomise The Athenaeum’s proud heritage, with bespoke British craftsmanship and a nod to Art Deco roots. And

with dining courtesy of the new restaurant, 116 at The Athenaeum, the hotel offers fabulous food options too.

Menus champion the very best British produce and the royally-inspired afternoon tea has become something of a London tradition, served with artisan tea, picture-perfect pastries and an array of sweet and savoury treats. Across the lobby, The Bar at The Athenaeum is a tranquil hideaway, promising cocktails created by an award-winning barman and more than 100 rare and intriguing whiskies.

Certainly, our dinner was a complete delight and a step up from what one might term standard hotel fare. And with stylish service and a great wine list too it made for a very relaxing final night of our stay in the capital.

When we do emerge from the current restrictions, worth noting too that elsewhere in the hotel, the high-spec gym is accessible 24/7, while the spa has an inviting hot tub and an enticing menu of REN treatments. Guests at The Athenaeum can also gain exclusive access to The View when booking direct – an enviable London spot from which to enjoy a complimentary drink and nibbles in the evening.

All in all, the perfect end to a memorable weekend for many reasons, principal among them, as I said the difference in the way London feels right now. Vive la différence though, as they might say in another great European capital. Please though, just don’t dash abroad until you’ve done your bit for Blighty.

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