The Latest From London

Upon our arrival into Heathrow, we were picked up and brought right to The Langham where we had decided to spend our week in London. if you have followed my blog for some time, you may know that I like to try out different hotels in London, on an endless quest to find the “perfect” stay. We had never stayed at the Langham, but I liked the location on Regent Street, and had heard good things. Dating back to 1865, the Hotel has been catering to discerning travelers for a very long time. As a bonus, they were offering a stay 3 nights and get the 4th free which seemed too good to pass up.

Our Virtuoso package also included breakfasts as well as a $100 credit (per room) to use during our stay. The Langham has a Club located on the 3rd floor which our rate entitled us to use. This was convenient when traveling with our endlessly hungry sons.

As soon as we checked in we went up to examine our Jr Suite on the 8th floor. The room was spacious and well organized, and came complete with a generous serving of dark chocolate covered preserved orange slices (one of my all time favorite treats), fruit, flowers and champagne. A nice welcome.

The one area where the room fell short was a real lack of storage space for clothes. We really couldn’t unpack any of our clothing aside from the basic necessities.

The Club floor proved to be a very convenient amenity. We tried just about every coffee drink they had, and enjoyed cheese and nibbles along with cocktails in the afternoon. While some guests enjoyed breakfast there rather than the downstairs spaces, we did not. Aside from the snacks, the staff were exceedingly helpful in assisting us with printing and emailing our pre- return flight documentation.

Once we were settled in, we got ready to start exploring. Our first stop was Ted’s Grooming Room just a block from our hotel where my guys had the chance for some traditional British Barbering. They were able to walk in and be accommodated quickly, even enjoying a brew at the same time!

When we left it was dark, which gave us a fabulous opportunity to get our first taste of Regent Street‘s stunning decorations. London goes the extra mile with holiday spirit, it is just magical!

We continued on to Carnaby Street whose decorations were also top notch. I couldn’t resist the Rolling Stone pop up store as well, great photo-ops! We soaked in all the holiday cheer, and made our way towards Stamford Bridge, as we had gotten tickets to a Chelsea Juventis game that evening.

My son had decided that we would have some authentic Singaporean Cuisine before the game, and found that Bugis Street Brasserie was within walking distance. When we are in London, there is always a challenge to “eat around the world”, as London’s diverse selection of ethnic restaurants is unmatched. We had heard that Bugis Street is where the Singaporean Airlines crew eats on their layovers, so that was as good a recommendation as any.

The restaurant itself was pretty basic, located in what seems to be a residential hotel. The dining room was full and the servers were all business, so we got down to ordering and hoped for the best. The winner of the evening was the Laksa which was very spicy and flavorful. Everything else was good, but not outstanding. If you are going to a Chelsea home game and are craving Singaporean cuisine, give it a go!

Curry Laksa

After dinner, buoyed by our big meal, we made our way over to the Stadium. When the tickets were e-mailed to us they were quite specific in outlining that all spectators needed to have a vaccination card, and that we were sitting in the home section and were forbidden from wearing the colors of the opposing team, or cheering for them. As far as the vaccination cards, there was a very half hearted attempt to check them, we could have waved a white receipt and would have been ushered through. The edict to be cheering for the home team was serious though. We were seated with die-hard fans who sang and screamed their way through the game. There was not a single mask anywhere in the stadium, and I am hopeful that all the alcohol killed off any virus on the cheering crowds’ breath!

Thankfully Chelsea won handily, because I would not want to witness an unhappy mob.

We walked back to the Langham, very satisfied with all we had packed in to our first afternoon/evening in London.

We did have an eventful first night in our room though, which deserves a short mention. After a very comfortable sleep we were jolted awake at 5 am with heart thumping music and marijuana smoke that was literally coming under our door. It seemed as though our neighbor was having a bit of a party in the hall. We looked out our peep hole and saw a fellow “chilling” on the floor getting high and blasting music. We called the front desk, and was told someone would be up to take a look. 5:20 the party was still going on, we called the front desk again and was told someone was heading upstairs. 5:45 I called a third time and said I was calling the police, then hotel security finally made an appearance and put an end to the party.

This was disturbing on many levels. It took three calls (from me, I am sure others on the hall called) and 45 minutes for someone to shut this guy down? On the way to breakfast I stopped at the front desk, and was greeted with apologies, and an assurance that the guests were checking out. This brought the Langham down a few notches in my book.

In any case, we had breakfast in the Palm Court which was good, not terrific. The service was a little scattered, and the coffee (which we needed badly) was fair.

Lunch on our second day was to be at Hunan on Pimlico which has been around since 1982, and has been consistently lauded as one of the best Chinese restaurants in the world. It is a very small (pleasant) space, and is unique in that there is no menu. It is a prix-fixe service, and you simply inform your server of any dietary restrictions (vegetarian and gluten-free for me, no offal for my husband, no restrictions for our sons). Sorry for the abundance of photos, but the food was SUPERB, and it just kept coming! There were no missteps in the entire meal. While I am not normally as much of a fan of Chinese food as my boys, I have to say this meal was outstanding. If you have the inclination, make a reservation well in advance and get to the restaurant hungry. The wine list is also stellar.

The remainder of the day was spent exploring Kensington GardensNew Bond Street, The Burlington Arcade and many other enticing shopping snd sightseeing locales. Our hope was to burn off some of our tremendous lunch!

Thanksgiving was spent not with Turkey and Stuffing, but rather at Gymkhana on Albemarle Street, one of our all time favorite Indian spots. We are not alone in this assessment, Gymkhana received a Michelin star in 2014, and has been producing outstanding Indian cuisine ever since. Booking our table at Gymkhana took many persistent phone calls from myself, our Concierge, and American Express to finally score a late afternoon time slot. We sat down at 2:15 and didn’t leave until 5:00 pm, enjoying and savoring every bite.

Not only is the food delicious, but the service is excellent as well. We ordered from their “Festive Menu” and there was not a single disappointment amongst our choices. They were happy to accommodate my gluten free/ vegetarian requests, even providing a special menu to make it easy to pick.

During our meal we were alerted to the fact that one of my sons had been exposed on their flight to the UK to someone who subsequently tested positive for Covid during their second day test. That quickly put a little damper on our celebration as we had to quickly find a place that could do a PCR test allowing him to fly home Saturday morning. We had done our antigen testing that morning, and we were all negative, so although we weren’t nervous about our results, we had to track down a place that could return PCR results in less than 24 hours. We found one in Leiscester Square (link here if you should need it) that was able to accommodate him.

Walking back to our hotel gave us a good opportunity to continue marveling at London in all it’s glory. We had time to quickly regroup (and grab another coffee at the club) before we had to make our way to Magic Goes Wrong in the West End. A collaboration between Mischief Theater and Penn & Teller we knew we were in store for an evening of hilarity. This was our first foray back to live theatre, but armed with our recent boosters and masks, we felt pretty comfortable being there. The staff for this show did not check vaccination status, but I did see that Les Miserables which was showing next door was carefully checking peoples records.

We went online to purchase the tickets just the day before, and we were able to grab seats in the 4th row, center Orchestra. The Theater was full, so I think we just got lucky. The show was indeed outrageously funny, and it felt amazing to be in a large performance again.

Following the show we popped in to Artesian, a very hip and happening bar located at our hotel. We enjoyed some late night cocktails as well as some burgers and fries (and a chocolate soufflé for me) before we turned in for the night. It was a wonderful Thanksgiving spent all together.

Friday brought more walking and lots more eating. Borough Market was calling our name, not only to eat, but also to soak in all the offerings and energy. My son grabbed some Oysters first thing, and then we nibbled our way around, dazzled by all the displays. We had put our name on the waitlist at Padella so we had some time to kill.

When they texted us to let us know our table was ready we made our way downstairs where the pasta laden small tables were so enticing that we had to order a good percentage of the dishes offered. I was happy with two orders of Radicchio salad, and my guys had plates stacked on top of each other- the pasta is that good. Along with some red wine and an incredibly charming waitress from Ischia- it made us all yearn to hop on a plane to Italy.

We tried to hold ourselves back at Padella because we were due at Coal Office for an early dinner, but to no avail. Luckily we were able to find some room in our bellies in advance of this much anticipated supper. Coal Office is in an area we had not yet explored, and unfortunately it was so cold and windy the night we went that we just jumped out of our taxi and went straight inside. Coal Office is located in King’s Cross and is a collaboration between Chef Assaf Granit (from Israel’s Machneyuda) and Designer Tom Dixon. It is minimalist and striking inside, while the open kitchen pumps out sounds and smells of Mediterranean foods (Israeli primarily) that are enticing. This was another reservation that took some time and ingenuity to get. Plan early.

Luckily there were five of us so we were able to order a large percentage of the Breads and small plates on the menu. From the larger portions, the Cabbage and Octopus dishes were stand outs. My guys ate every drop of the different bread offerings in mere minutes. Machneyuda’s Polenta was just as delicious in London as it was when I first tried it in Israel. The roasted Aubergine was also especially tasty.

Kubala, Manakish, Pretzel & Challah

Our last day in London was broken up by our three sons heading out on three different flights. We were a bit apprehensive about the travel back to the states, and their experiences at Heathrow, flying out on BA seemed a bit grim. They each had lengthy delays passing through security, and having their paperwork reviewed. Thankfully my son who received notification that he was exposed on the trip over received the news that his PCR was negative and he was ok to travel. Once they were all on their respective ways, we took advantage of our late check-out, and late flight time to have lunch at Hoppers in Soho. When we entered we were fortunate to get the only available table in the restaurant, though were told we only had an hour until the people who had reserved it were expected. Fine by us- we ordered quickly and were able to savor the flavors of Sri Lanka at our cozy table in the window. We dined at Hoppers last time we were in London, and I have been thinking about it ever since. The second time did not disappoint and we contemplated an upcoming trip to Sri Lanka to get a better sense of the food and culture. We had no trouble filling up within the one hour time slot and headed back to the Langham to do our last minute packing up.

Our journey back home proved to be relatively stressless, which I believe I can attribute to the fact that we were booked on Virgin’s Upper Class, and the check-in and review of documents was a one on one experience. Once we boarded we did end up sitting on the runway for more than an hour because they found they had loaded a bag on without the corresponding passenger being onboard, so they had to search through the hold to remove it. Once we were in the air it was an uneventful flight (I declined any food or beverage, as we had eaten in the Virgin Lounge before take off) , which landed safely at JFK, so no complaints here.

Global Entry was a breeze and we were on our way before long. We had an incredible trip to the UK made even sweeter by the fact that we had waited so long for the opportunity. Omicron became a variable just as we were flying home, so I am not sure how that will affect travel moving forward, but in any case the ability to pivot and be ready to deal with whatever the testing protocol of the moment is, is key to traveling successfully. I am currently planning our next adventure, and am hopeful we will be able to experience it next month.

We are still on the quest to find the “best” hotel experience in London, and can safely say The Langham, while it was a lovely stay, is not in the running.

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