A glass building, almost like from a sci-fi movie, the Shangri-La Hotel at the Shard has some earthy delights inside which you won't be able to resist!
By: Suman Tarafdar
Posted on: October 2, 2014
One doesn’t often get to stay in a room where binoculars are part of the standard accessories. But then this is a view of London like none other. London is laid out like a carpet for you to gaze and delight in. You see the Thames lazily meandering in wide ox bow lakes. You can watch parties at HMS Belfast moored close by or see boatloads of tourists leaning and yelling in a very English way indeed. You empathise with the oarsmen playing catch up to faster rivals. Turn around and you see trains glide in and out of London Bridge station and even see commuters pour out to set off on their daily journeys in this entry to the megapolis.
Turn again and you see the delightful, bohemian Borough Market, now one of the city’s most hip hang out places. You see the skyline across the river and point out your favourite destinations. At night the view magically transforms into a dark carpet full of twinkling lights. Red, orange, yellow and white merge into each other, but there are the more striking blues, greens, pinks. With entire walls transformed in floor to ceiling windows, your night will remain as young as long as London stays up.
The Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard, which opened earlier this summer, is definitely about the view. In this pyramid-ish structure, space reduces with each ascending floor. Yet, the higher you are, the more premium your room rates could be. While some rooms provide a view in a single direction, opting for the corner rooms gives two directions – absolutely worth it. I liked the north west view – you can see almost all of central London just across the silvery Thames.
For a 360° bird's eye view of London, access the public areas. The building design is going to take up quite a while of your attention. Instead of being a four-sided pyramid, which it looks like, it actually has about 20 faces. When you look out your room, you notice the metal ribs going all the way up or down.
The 202 luxury suites take up 17 floors of the 310 metre Renzo Piano-designed building. Not all are open yet though. Yes, it is the tallest address, not just in London, or even the UK, but in western Europe. The hotel is apparently visible from about 30 kilometres away on a clear day! Yes, the top is sometimes cloud covered! Its location, at Southwark, just south the of the Thames, is a minute’s stroll from the London Bridge tube station, and is also just across the road from Borough Market.
The hotel has a desk on the ground floor, as well as a deli, Lang. The experience, however, truly begins with the elevators, which whoosh to the lobby on the 35th floor in seconds. You change elevators here for your room. But before that, you do an almost mandatory ambulation, as the restaurant, Ting, and lobby areas provide the first 360° views you’ve come for. Yes, the bar on the 52nd floor, Gong, is even better for an evening drink and look-see!
Addressing the luxuries
The number of dining options are limited, but then space is at a premium, Ting does an excellent job of serving up a range of cuisines, stressing on both its roots and its location. The breakfast buffets are only on weekends, while the weekday menu offers four main selections: A la carte, Healthy, Full English and Arabic. To access Gong, you need to make a reservation, as only 90 people are allowed at a time. Wait lines are already extensive one hears.
The hotel’s design sensibilities fuse modern Asian elements with local British ones with mixed success. Red flower motifs and Ming dynasty inspired vases are interspersed with pastels of carpets and walls. Small bunches of roses and hydrangeas are the only adornment for the tables. The hotel will have the city’s highest infinity pool and highest champagne bar.
Rooms at the five-star hotel cost from £450 per night, but of course this depends on season and level of room, with a suite expected to top £3,000! At first glance the rooms look luxurious though largely standard for a hotel of this level. From the initial pot of welcome tea to the body-contouring Shangri-La beds, the brand presence is palpable. The usual features - built-in cupboards, desk and dresser in matching sycamore veneer, are combined with soft blue carpets, a king size bed backed by panels in grey silk upholshery and with a sprig of painted oriental flowers. Well placed decor along the edges, automatic climate control – the building’s exterior has integrated sun-shielding, remote controlled blinds – and obviously there are a number of them – add to the room’s charms.
Add marble bathrooms with heated floors, even heated bidets, Acqua Di Parma toiletries, and deep soak bathrooms pressed right up against the windows, televisions integrated with mirrors and the washroom could see a lot more of you than your usual hotel stay! In case you are feeling peckish, there’s a boat of chocolates, a well stocked mini bar and a Nespresso machine right next to you with white porcelain cups and mugs to keep you company. And an extensive in-room menu.
One among the crowd
There is a design quirk that the hotel has promised to address. At night, while looking out of your stunning walls, you may find that you can look into the room just a level below yours, turning you into an unintentional voyeur. The visibility is most after dark, especially as most would want their blinds down for the views. The large screen TV too works better with the blinds down.
Londoners and design purists haven’t often approved as the building came up, but many locals, and tourists are coming in just to get the unique experience of floating high above one of the most influential urban centres globally. Tiring of these views is difficult, especially if you face the river. The location, especially in its vertical aspect, does tend to make you think, even reflect. The Shangri-La at The Shard is definitely an address you will want to celebrate your special occasion in, nestling comfortably among the clouds.
Coordinates: 31 St Thomas Street, London, SE1 9QU, United Kingdom
Ph: +44 20 7234 8000
Suman Tarafdar is a journalist and writer based in Delhi. He has worked with a number of leading Indian media organisations, and writes on various aspects of luxury, lifestyle and culture. When not writing to earn a living, he likes to travel, read, cook, chat, shop and watch all kinds of soppy stuff on tv. Yes, current politics bothers him.