Foodie heaven in the middle of London
When booking our annual Christmas trip to London, we wanted to stay in a luxurious hotel with a great view and where you could just step out of the building and totally experience the Christmas atmosphere we both love so much. What better way to spend it right in the heart of it all: Regent Street, right next to Picadilly Circus.
We arrived at the hotel by car on a Sunday with little to no traffic, and parked it right in front of the hotel’s reception. Our doors were opened by the valet and our luggage was handled by the bellman immediately. The valet did a little check-up of the car and noted down any scratches and dents and we were swiftly escorted to the reception area to complete check-in. Valet service costs £50 per 24 hours and if you arrive by plane there’s also a car service available upon request.
The gentleman handling our check-in told us our suite wasn’t ready yet. Official check-in time is 3pm and we arrived at 11am, so no surprise here. He offered to store our luggage, write down our telephone number and he’d give us a call when our suite was ready. We asked if we could freshen up somewhere before going out for lunch in the city and they let us use the changing rooms in the spa. It took a good 5 minutes for them to bring our suitcases to the changing rooms but in the meantime we were offered some delicious tea and some snacks so all was good!
Hotel Café Royal has an interesting mix of old and new design elements. The building itself is an old 1860s masterpiece and hasn’t changed much on the outside, while on the inside you’ll get a more modern look & feel in some places. Most of the common areas of the hotel will take you back in time, while the suites and rooms have a very modern vibe. While completely subjective, we really liked the design of the property. Since it’s a grade II listed building, the architecturally significant features and fixtures have remained beautifully protected as well!
We stayed in a Westminster Suite, which is one of the smaller full-size suites (63 sq.m. to be exact) the property offers but has amazing views on both Regent Street as well as Picadilly Circus. We also visited a Regent Suite which is slightly bigger and has even better views thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows. We absolutely loved our suite and in particular the great views and the marble bathroom we fell in love with at Hôtel Lutetia, their sister property in Paris.
We were a bit scared of possible noise issues due to the location of the hotel, but with all the windows closed you won’t hear a thing of the outside hustle and bustle. The hard product is on the same level as the best city hotels in the world and we couldn’t really find any issues with the room.
6. Common areas
There are two entrances to the hotel: one in a side street of Regent Street, which brings you straight to the main lobby. The lobby was probably the one area of the hotel we didn’t really like. It’s quite large and feels a bit cold and empty at times. There was a huge Christmas tree in the middle of it but let’s say we’ve seen more beautiful ones! The other entrance is on Regent Street and much cosier. You could immediately sense the Christmas vibe when entering the hotel through this entrance and we just loved it! Luckily most other common areas aren’t like the main lobby. The restaurants and the spa were much more to our liking (but more about that later) and especially the hallways feature some beautiful art pieces. Another element we really loved are the elevators, which are simply stunning.
7. Spa & Wellness
I absolutely loved the spa, but Laura wasn’t a huge fan of the pink lighting, while I thought the lighting gave the area a classy touch. In the end we just agreed to disagree on this. We always walk a lot when we’re in cities and really appreciate having a good spa to relax for an hour or two before dinner. The wellness at Café Royal has beautiful changing rooms, a large indoor swimming pool, a jacuzzi, a sauna, a steam room and a well-equipped gym. We didn’t try any of the treatments but the spa is rated number 1 in London for Spa & Wellness on TripAdvisor, which in itself should say it all.
8. Food & Beverage
Blown away! That’s what the food did to us. It all started with breakfast, where I tasted the best pancakes I’ve ever tasted. Pancakes are usually a dish that I’m very much looking forward to, only to be immensely disappointed after the first bite, but not here, not at Café Royal! They were perfect, as was the rest of the breakfast, except for the service, which was a little slow at times.
One evening we had dinner at their restaurant Laurent @ Café Royal which is a grill restaurant and sushi bar. We only ordered sushi because those who know us know we will eat sushi if there’s sushi available and it was incredibly good! The restaurant had a really nice atmosphere as well.
We never had lunch at the hotel because we were always wandering around London, but did come back one afternoon for Afternoon Tea, which is served in the most amazing room: the Oscar Wilde Lounge. It was the best afternoon tea we’ve ever had. We won’t comment on the tea, because we don’t know anything about tea, but there was a huge menu available which is probably a good thing. The food was delicious and we just couldn’t stop eating. In the end, when both of us were completely stuffed the waiter asked us if we wanted some additional items to take home with us. We did, and enjoyed it all over again the next day in our room.
Another must-try experience when you’re in London is their Cakes & Bubbles concept by Albert Adrià, the ‘World’s Best Pastry Chef’. We call it an experience because it really is one. We asked our waiter to surprise us with a selection of desserts and champagnes and boy were we surprised! The chef is a creative genius and trying to write down what we ate wouldn’t do any of it justice. The sommelier as well made us taste a couple champagnes and sparkling wines which we had never heard of before and were extraordinary! Cakes & Bubbles is that one restaurant which we will recommend to everyone who asks us about London. It really made a lasting impression on us.
Generally speaking, service was close to flawless. While at times it wasn’t the warmest service we received, they did most of it right. I might have given Café Royal an A+ for their service, but since I’m writing this review after having spent 3 weeks in the Maldives, also known as service-heaven, I think I’ll just stick to an A-.
10. Value for Money
Staying here isn’t cheap. Base rooms tend to go for a little less than $1000 per night and a Westminster Suite will be close to $2000 per night in peak season. But London is an expensive city and for that price I don’t think you can find a better property. Only the Signature Suites and the Oscar Suite come with butler service, but I think adding it to the Westminster and Regent Suites as well would make it even easier to justify the price.
Food and beverage prices were quite average for London. While definitely not cheap, some items were actually great value.
Location is key and we were scared the location would be too ‘New York Times Square‘, but we actually loved it! Everything we wanted to see and visit is walking distance from the hotel and as soon as you walked out of the hotel you were submerged in the Christmas atmosphere.
For us Hotel Café Royal has it all: large and luxurious rooms, great dining outlets and bars, really attentive service (although a bit cold at times, but lets blame that on the weather), views that glue you to your window (if you book the right room – let us know if you have any questions!) and a terrific spa & wellness. What more can you want?