Langham is, of course, well-known in Australia and New Zealand for its hotels in Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland, and for exciting future developments in the region. I wanted to return, after a year’s absence, to the London hotel that ignited a brand that is being so skilfully, and thoughtfully, directed by its CEO, taste-maker Stefan Leser.
First, a bit of history. What is now The Langham, London, is in Portland Place, six minutes’ walk north from London’s Oxford Circus. It was constructed in 1797 for Sir James Langham, who came from Northamptonshire, in those days two days’ journey north by stage coach. Jump forward and in 1865 it was opened as a hotel by HRH The Prince of Wales and for decades in the latter part of the 20th century it was offices for the UK’s national broadcaster, the BBC. In 1991 it transitioned back to lodging as The Langham Hilton (many still fondly remember its considerably decadent Champagne Bar). Five years after that, along came Hong Kong-based one-time nuclear cardiologist Dr K.S. Lo, and his Great Eagle Hotels bought it, and have since run it themselves as The Langham, London.
Since my last visit, so much has happened. The entire place was buzzing: it seems a lot of desirable high-spending international travellers have realised this location is ideal for Bond Street, Oxford Street and Regent Street, and Regent’s Park. They like this up-to-date historic hotel partly because, although it has 380 rooms, it feels boutique. Service is genuine – who would not be bowled over by Guest Relations’ Fadi?
On the food and drink side, restaurants – all on the ground floor – are intrinsically linked with two top designers, David Collins Studio and Martin Brudnizki. Collins has done the all-day Landau by Roux restaurant, entered through oenologically impressive glass-walled wine cellars (reserve one of its semi-private alcove tables). Collins also did the world-renowned Artesian bar, named for a well 100 metres underneath the building. Brudnizki is the genius who has transformed what was once an operating bank, in one corner of the building, into The Wigmore, a deep-green pub, always full and seemingly unconnected with a ‘hotel’. This is the place to join London in English-version fish’n chips and a pint.
You also have superb day- and evening-long food and drink offerings in the third-floor Langham Club, filled with plants and staffed by chic young team members in plaid flared skirts or trousers. This is a club that is more than well worth paying a supplement to access. You have a spacious sit-up pantry, with tall communal tables if you, like so many, prefer, or you can retreat to the adjacent sitting area that really is akin to an Architectural Digest shoot, complete with designer flowers. fresh naturally. Sit with a flute of chilled Perrier-Jouët having a quick intake of culture from an impressive array of hardbacks, offering intelligent art, little-known London and even Who’s Who, the 2015 edition which is becoming more valuable with every year since it is now only available online.
This time I was overnighting in suite 550, up 141 carpeted stairs from the lobby to burn those calories. Directly above the hotel’s main entrance, the room’s windows looked straight north up Portland Place. Designed by Richmond, the soft colours made a gal feel good and there were such stylish touches as the glass-fronted minibar held in an antique cabinet. The simple Nespresso machine, already filled with water, came with a small bottle of long-life milk. The bathroom had an electric towel rail, ideal for drying underclothes overnight, and excellent lighting helped put on the Garbo & Kelly.
I ventured out, early morning, to get more exercise down in the below-ground Technogym – there were already some doing laps in the 18-metre pool. And then it was breakfast. It seemed both main breaking-fast venues, the afternoon-tea-like Palm Court (popular with ladies, especially Asians) and the business-like Landau by Roux, which has a Roux Farmhouse breakfast, were full, so reservations are a good idea. Frankly, I would breakfast in the Club, which has an extensive and healthy buffet as well as à la carte.
Michel Roux Jr, lead culinary advisor to the whole hotel, is also teaching once a month at its new cook school, Sauce by The Langham. Yes, you heard that right, COOK SCHOOL. This is London’s only cooking school in a hotel (where have all the city’s other hoteliers been all these years?). Here, hotel guests, conference-incentive delegates and locals have the luxury of booking for, say, six-hour demonstrations, with lunch, with Roux, or fixed or bespoke classes with the hotel’s chef, Chris King. The main marvellously equipped professional cooking room is spectacularly welcoming, with walls stripped to the original centuries-old brick and work stations with the latest gear from De Buyers, Kenwood and Samsung, plus Roux knife sets.
There are also two separate rooms, both with long tables surrounded by real and used traditional church chairs with rear pockets that once held hymn books – and, all around, cookbooks, utensils, living plants, and, somewhat incongruously, used fishing nets that the van den Oord family picked up on a recent seaside weekend. Yes, you have guessed it. Not only did Bob van den Oord, himself a former chef, have the idea for the cooking school but he designed it, too. There are so many touch-points here.
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