When I lived in London, a few years ago, I first called home the unassuming borough of Hayes in Zone 5 (technically Kent, not actually London). Every single weekday, I would make the hectic commute from my sleepy street into the heartbeat of the city, by an overground train bound for London Bridge. I would step off the train, pause momentarily and gaze up at The Shard - Western Europe’s tallest building - towering three hundred metres above me, in awe. Then, I would throw myself back into the thick of rush hour madness.
In 2014, I specifically remember hearing that Asia Pacific’s leading luxury hotel group Shangri-La had opened inside the building. It was something about the idea of floor to ceiling glass, so very high up that caught my attention. I vividly imagined the views from up there in the clouds, back to earth... the meandering bends of the River Thames; of seeing Tower Bridge from birds eye; of the tiny humans who might stand still and look up in wonder, like I did everyday.
Ever since, staying with Shangri-La Hotel, At The Shard London, has been high up and steadfast on my ‘one day’ hotel bucket list.
Sometimes the world works in beautifully mysterious ways, and fast forward on a few years, this past September I found myself back in London and for us to be welcomed by Shangri-La as guests on our final night in London. Needless to say, our night beautifully surpassed every hope and expectation.
On arriving at the hotel, check in isn’t a matter of a ground floor scenario. No, you soar up to level 35 for that! As London’s first elevated luxury hotel, The Shangri-La At The Shard occupies levels 34 to 52 of the Shard building. The Shard is considered to be Europe’s first mixed-use ‘vertical city’ - there are 202 rooms of the hotel - there are viewing galleries (The View from The Shard), 10 Luxury Residences (what a place to call home!), and plethora of restaurants and office spaces inside.
Before we had even hopped out of our Uber, our suitcases had been seamlessly ushered from the car boot and taken directly up to our room. At our own pace, we made our way up to level 35 to reception and were welcomed with cold towels to wipe away the day - another standard ritual offered across Shangri-La hotels - before being personally escorted up to our room.
Stepping into our room was a pinch-me moment. Floor to ceiling windows? Check. Panoramic view of London, right before our eyes? Check. A free-standing bathtub by the window, with the same unrivalled view? Check. Nespresso machine; TV built into the bathroom mirror; and complimentary wifi? Check - check - and check! And beyond those highlights - the tiniest details of the room really impressed me; like the set of binoculars on the desk, ready for us to make the most of our incredible view - the macarons and fruit bowl offered, and a delivery of Chinese tea minutes after our arrival. Every detail of our room experience was utterly on point.
As the London skyline shape shifted from a bright blue into dusty pink, orange and rose gold, before fading to dusk, we watched on with our duvet pulled to the windows edge. City lights flickered to life and the London cityscape transformed into a sky show of glittering darkness. I breathed in all of iconic London - the River Thames, Tower Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral, The Tower of London and Canary Wharf.
Derived from the Chinese word for ‘living room’, TĪNG is the collective name of Shangri-La’s signature restaurant and lounge. Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late supper, the restaurant boasts a modern European menu with an Asian twist.
After watching the sunset in awe, we made our way down to dinner. We were welcomed to a table by the window and a menu that felt impossible to choose from! For entree, I selected the signature Dorset Crab Ravioli and Charles went for the Caledonia Blue Ocean Prawn Carpaccio. For mains, I picked the Cornish Blue Lobster, while Charles opted for a Rib Eye Steak (O’Shea’s of Bermondsey 35 day dry aged beef) with peppercorn sauce. Our sommelier meticulously matched wines to each course and we sat back, taking some rare down time after two huge weeks in London. By the time dessert came around, we were so full, but committed to the cause! We picked the Dulce Panna Cotta with Apricot tea ice cream, and Lemon tart, requesting it be delivered to our room to be enjoyed before sleep.
The buffet breakfast spread the next morning was also something out of a dream. My favourite part to stare down to, of course, was London Bridge station below - an interchange for comers and goers for 247 destinations. I was amazed to hear from the breakfast staff that as is the way of the Shangri-La service, hotel porters will even welcome guests directly from the train!
Ting Restaurant (Level 35, Shangri-La Hotel, At The Shard, London)
31 St Thomas Street, London, SE1 9QU | +(44) 0207 234 8108
We enjoyed late checkout before catching the underground straight to Heathrow, bound for Melbourne. It was time to return home sweet home.
As this is my final post about summer travels, I want to take this opportunity to write a little love note to two magnificent humans… firstly, this guy -
Charles, Thank you for being the best travel companion! I felt a duty and beautiful sense of purpose introducing you to my London; and London to you, my love. Thank you for being completely on board with my food-centred itineraries and covering ground on so many of my old favourites! Southbank at sundown, ping pong at The Book Club, wood-fired pizzas on pallets at Hackney Wick, salad spreads at Ottolenghi in Islington, coffee at the window of Ozone Coffee Roasters, fluffy ricotta hotcakes at Granger & Co. with our dear friends... and for all of the unplanned adventures. I'll never forget those nights we arrived back to our beautiful friend’s West London home, and set up office after 10pm, working into the early hours, as long as our eyes would stay awake. We've worked so very hard, this year. With you, every day is a great adventure - I can't wait to see where 2017 takes us.
And beautiful Mich, Rich and The Fonz (the most beautiful cat I have ever known), thank you so much for welcoming us into your London family. I often reflect on my time in London and what the great lessons, and reasons, and purpose the whole adventure accumulated to. Meeting you was one of the very best parts! Thank you for everything we have lived - and endured together, as we both chase our business dreams! You and Rich are honestly the most genuine, kind and generous people I know, and I'm so lucky to be your friend. (Please visit us soon - our home is your home, always). xx