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Nostalgia with a touch of luxury

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Alison Campsie samples London living in some rather nice surrounds

It was the morning after the long night before that I made my way to the Lancaster London hotel.

I was fresh from a reunion of old newspaper pals and it had been a magnificent blast of liquor, laughter and memories.

Ten years apart and there was a lot to tell. We were so young when we tramped the streets of the north side of the capital on our hard news beats. We were happy, poor but full of hope and our successes in print were frequently toasted at our favourite hostelries, to which we returned a decade later in our longing for the uncomplicated days of our youth.

On reunion we may have been older, greyer, maybe a little bit wiser but – fantastically – we were pretty much the same, apart from a few more deep lines where we had harboured the skirmishes of adult life.

All was on the table – lives and deaths, loves and broken loves, jobs and no jobs, babies and no babies – but all served with a major side order of hilarity as we wandered down the streets of our past.

The old gang rolled into the night on a wave of friendship that could not abate.

Next morning I was in familiar territory – a friend’s sofa in N8. Despite the great excitement of the night before I felt oddly at sea. I was in need of some serious TLC. It was just as well I was booked into the Lancaster London.

For all my days in London, it was the only time I had booked into a hotel in the city. I was like Peggy Mitchell “going up west” and pulled on my best clothes for the outing.

And emerging from Lancaster Gate tube surrounded by elegant cream stucco buildings and the huge, soothing, space of Hyde Park ahead, it seemed like my version of London living had just got an upgrade.

The Lancaster London is a four-star hotel overlooking the park and it’s the type of place where doormen in hats open the taxi doors of arriving visitors. The hotel is ultimately a modern block tagged onto the original facade with the rooms soaring up 18 floors with incredible views across the city.

The story goes that The Beatles stayed here following the launch of Yellow Submarine at the height of the swinging sixties with the in-house disco renamed after the film for the occasion.

The Lancaster may not have been in the throws of a pop culture frenzy when we crossed its threshold, but what we did receive was some very welcome care in rather nice surrounds.

The hotel is owned by a reclusive Thai businessman, said to be in his 80s, and is kitted out in impressive wares from the east, with deep colourful rugs lining floors and some choice Asian artworks decorating walls and corridors.

We took our lift skywards and stepping into our room was like launching into a bird’s eye view of the capital.

Straight to the window and London stretched out ahead of us. Park goers turned into fast moving colourful dots as people scurried under umbrellas to get out of the rain. Beyond that, and all the best landmarks were lined up, from Battersea Power station in the west to the House of Commons, Big Ben, the London Eye, St Pauls.

Dark rainclouds shifted over them all and we opened the bottle of wine that had been left in the room, sat on the windowsill, and watched the storm pass over the city.

There are two main restaurants at Lancaster London, the Island Bar and Grill where you can get your posh burgers, pork belly, fish and chips, cocktails and beers or the Nipa Thai, which the owner is said to have created so his wife could dine in fine home style while in London.

This is where we had our meal and it was borderline brilliant. The restaurant was packed this Sunday night but the hosting team were cool, efficient and overwhelmingly polite as they operated under subtle lights and rather grand, golden decor. We felt looked after and as the food started to arrive, well we felt pretty blessed.

The food was reviving and our taste buds jumpstarted. The presentation was highly evolved. Highlights included som tam salad – green papaya with long beans, dried shrimp, cherry tomatoes and peanuts in a sweet and sour chilli dressing. Fresh and powerful, this could almost be offered on prescription as a pick-me-up.

Then there was pla rad prig – super hot crispy fried seabass with fried holy basil – that was airy light but with a mean kick – and kaeng phed ped yang, a duck and pineapple curry that was deep and sweet and hot but creamy.

It is hoped that the restaurant will prove to be a draw in itself and not just enjoyed by hotel guests. I’d say that was almost a certain given the high-quality contentment on offer.

Satisfied, spoilt and extremely food-delighted we took the lift skywards again to find the city lit up in all its night finery. Taking our seats at the windowsill, we gazed over this great part of the world and agreed that being a grown up wasn’t that bad after all.


  • Lancaster London has magnificent views over Hyde Park. It is also directly above Lancaster Gate Underground station on the Central Line. Weekday rates start from £159 per room per night, whilst weekend rates start from £129. There are a host of packages on including a Paddington Bear package for families, an Afternoon Tea package, as well as the Romance in The City, and The Weekender. Lancaster London, Lancaster Terrace, London W2 2TY. Reservations on 020 7551 6000