As the tube catapulted into the heartbeat of London, my heartbeat quickened in pace, too. Everything about this city feels vivid. We (read: mostly Charles) hauled our many trade-show laden suitcases up the staircases from Southwark underground station, and we reached the street level above, breathless and alive. London was just as I remembered it - recent, almost freeze-framed in time… just so beautifully familiar. I was never quite able to call London my home, but regardless of visa laws, in some small way, it always, perhaps defiantly, will feel like returning home by heart.
The Bankside Precinct is busy, and purposeful. There is a juxtaposition of old and new: a backdrop of old, important buildings whispering untold stories; cobbled uneven streets, archways and alleyways that speak of quintessential London. The Tate Modern is off to the left, The London Shard is off to the right, and the Hilton Bankside is nestled right in the middle of the magic.
Wearing Keepsake the Label
After an overnight flight from New York, we arrived in the early hours of Saturday morning, which couldn’t have been more beautifully timed, if you have ever heard of Borough Market. We dropped our bags, put on our walking shoes and took to the streets - Borough Market beckoned. We made a beeline for the coffee cart, and then sampled all kinds of produce for a mish-mash, hearty breakfast. Chunks of halloumi were barbecued with lime in cinders before our eyes, then promptly inhaled by us. We found an Ethiopian food stall in a quieter corner, and picked something lentil-filled and delicious. We sampled different ages of French Comté, sliced from cheese wheels the sizes of tables. We sat on the street edge and people watched in the sunshine, amused and enlivened.
When the clock struck 3pm, we promptly arrived at the check in desk. “We have reserved the penthouse for your night with us,” said reception, “Welcome home.”
We stepped into our room - or should I say.... entire apartment for the night, and our jaws literally dropped to the floor. No words could do that moment justice. The hotel itself is brand new - having opened in October 2015 - and the Penthouse Suite is undoubtedly cutting edge. The floors beneath our feet were a cool, dark oak parquet and the apartment was flooded with floor to ceiling natural light. With a distinct urban edge, every single detail felt considered.
At the end of the hallway spilled out a large open-plan living and dining area, with an extensive rooftop balcony just waiting for sunset drinks. The couches, a deep blue velvet, were just waiting to be curled up on. The kitchen’s marble table is made for the perfect remote office, and the bedroom’s floor to ceiling windows somehow managed to still feel completely private. Charles and I watched on from above, as life happened below.
I’d never been so excited to see a bathroom. All marble everything is the theme here, and we definitely made good use of the standalone bath.
Hilton London Bankside is a flagship hotel for Hilton, and the benchmark for future hotels from the brand. Far from anything typical and same-same for a hotel, the penthouse literally felt like living inside an art gallery.
That night, we were booked into the hotel’s restaurant, OXBO Bankside. It was a rare night away from our laptops, so I dug out my heels and Charles his suit jacket, and we floated down for dinner.
The restaurant has the feel of a local neighbourhood eatery, beautifully fitted out with metal and timber surfaces. The food showcases traditional British cuisine, with many ingredients and supplies sourced from specialist producers and local traders at the neighbouring Borough Market. Our assigned sommelier seamlessly matched wine to our courses and insisted that we order dessert (regret this, we did not!)
OXBO is a vibrant addition to London’s thriving culinary scene, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days a week.
We woke lazily the next morning, and eventually I rolled over to the phone, to dial for in-room breakfast. I did not expect this to all arrive and be beautifully laid out for us. Even more amazingly, second courses (hot foods) were left in the transportable breakfast trolley, ready for when the 'photographing of breakfast' ritual had been completed. A hot breakfast for my Instagram husband?(!) Miracle workers, are the Hilton!
Also housed within the Hilton Bankside is The Distillery. Located on the site of the old Stevenson & Howell fragrance factory, which distilled essential oils and manufactured essences, flavours and garnishes during the 1800's, this special history of the space is directly referenced and beautifully infused into the food and drinks on offer. The bar mixes signature cocktails using homemade aromatics, infusions and bitters to accent drinks. The Distillery also specialises in craft beers and stocks over 50 hand-picked gins, from fine old classics to new age gins from artisan distilleries springing up all over Bankside, Southwark and Bermondsey.
We asked our eccentric waiter for a recommendation, and he suggested Monkey 47, served with a good story of the Gin’s background, involving a circus ringmaster, a monkey and 47 ingredients (I wish I could remember the rest). Truth or fable, I know for sure that we ordered too many tapas plates to handle. If we had to leave this place at all, we certainly did so in style.