The London hotel scene is one of the most exciting on the planet. But the Shangri-La at the Shard, which opened on May 6 in the tallest skyscraper in Western Europe, is taking it to another level. Literally. Luxury Travel Advisor recently checked into a 50th floor guest room and reveled in the view from the top.
“If a client needs help with directions, I can just point out the window to all the landmarks,” says Paolo Froiio, one of the cléf d’or concierges, gesturing to the London skyline directly behind the concierge desk. “I don’t need a map!” One day a client called from his car, lost, circling the neighborhood. Froiio could actually identify the car on the streets below and give play-by-play directions. “Turn left there, wait, look out for the cyclist!” he said, drawing giggles from the passengers.
That’s the beauty of the views from the Shangri-La, which occupies floors 34-52 of the Renzo Piano-designed skyscraper that rises 1,004 feet above London Bridge station. You can actually see the bustle of the city streets: the commuters crowding the quays; the boats passing under Tower Bridge; the trains flying down the tracks. Just wait for sunset. Never has London looked so good.
The city’s denizens have been quick to recognize this fact. Since its debut, the hotel has welcomed a mostly leisure clientele, wishing to fete celebratory occasions (or just see their metropolis from a new perspective). For example: Gŏng, the beautiful bar on the 52nd floor, reaches capacity almost every night. While gaping out the windows from this sky-high perch, Londoners and visitors alike imbibe craft cocktails and an excellent selection of Champagnes by the glass. Recruited from China's World Summit Wing in Beijing, Head Mixologist Henning Neufeld is a pro at concocting original drink recipes. Of the eight signatures, we recommend the Big Smoke (Dodd's Gin, Grand Marnier, Tio Pepe, Mancino Rosso Amaranto and orange bitters). The botanical-infused smoke billowing from the glass was enough theater to distract the neighboring table from the mesmerizing cityscape. “Wow, cool, we’ll take one of those!” Come August 11, the infinity pool will open next to the bar, ensuring its rank as one of the most glamorous watering holes in town. Note: Reservations are essential because fire safety regulations limits the number of people on the 52nd floor to 90. Contact Bar Manager Keira Pearse ([email protected]) for special VIP requests.
On the lobby level (35), accessed by high-speed elevator from the bottom of the Shard, Ting restaurant and lounge is also quite popular. Decorated with echoes of Chinoiserie in an open-plan style, the restaurant—like an elegant living room—wraps around the building, affording different vistas from each table. The first-rate kitchen is overseen by Executive Chef Emil Minev, who’s created a menu showcasing local British ingredients, many of them sourced from the nearby Borough Market. Stand-out dishes include spice roasted pork belly and hand-dived scallops from the northwest Highland coast (grilled with carrot, ginger and mandarin). In the morning, a breakfast of champions starts off with a small glass of bircher muesli topped with fruit compote. Who says you can’t have an amuse bouche before breakfast? There isn’t a buffet, so you can choose a la carte options, or menus like the robust “English breakfast.” There is also a private dining room on level 34, which houses the hotel’s dreamy event space. (We hear wedding bells.)
What are the rooms like? There’s nothing theatrically opulent about the decoration, as the outside views are the focal point. Instead, the 185 rooms and 17 suites channel comfort, elegance and functionality. Starting with the green tea ritual served in-room at check-in, the Shangri-La experience is about intuitive hospitality and thoughtful touches: fresh fruit and bottled water, umbrellas for London’s notorious weather, a desk with built-in electrical adapters, a nespresso machine for your morning coffee fix while watching the sunrise. Did we mention the binoculars on your desk? You could live in the spacious bathrooms, decked out with heated marble floors, Toto washlet toilets, and Acqua di Parma amenities. Some rooms even have stand-alone tubs positioned in front of the bathroom window for soaks with a view.
We recommend the Iconic City View Rooms, which have a unique “corner” perch thus affording three-way views over the city. There is only one on each level (i.e. No. 5001). This room category also comes with an in-room iPad. Because the views are the show-stopping attraction, the rooms are priced accordingly; northern views are more expensive. Note: Because of the unique design of the Shard, a few rooms can see into their neighbor’s room through reflections in the glass. That’s where the black-out shades come in handy. With the flip of a switch, you can adjust the shades to block sunlight, for example, or cover the windows on one side of your room.
Three signature suites will be opening in December: the London Suite (level 37), the Westminster Suite (level 38), and the Shangri-La Suite (level 39, accessed by private elevator). Cool perks include personal butler service, 1000 thread count sheets, in-room cocktail making services, and spotting scopes which connect to Smart Phones so guests can take up-close photos and videos of London landmarks. For VIP bookings, reach out to Fiona Stilborn, Director of Sales & Marketing ([email protected])
A dream address, the Shangri-La at the Shard is a place to linger. But if you can tear yourself away from your guest room, some of London’s best attractions are a quick stroll away. Just below is Borough Market, a foodie mecca brimming with delicacies from local purveyors and producers. If it’s a sunny day, pick up a gourmet lunch to enjoy in the garden at the 1,000-year-old Southwark Cathedral. For a perfect promenade, follow the Thames to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the Tate Modern, then cross the pedestrian-only Millennium Bridge to reach St. Paul’s Cathedral.
For insider London experiences, the veteran concierge team—helmed by Head Concierge Toru Machida ([email protected]), previously at The Connaught in Mayfair—can pull strings for guests. They can arrange private helicopter rides (for a Shard photo shoot) and private viewings of the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London. Need a pick-up from the airport or train station? The chauffeured luxury cars come with wifi and an iPad loaded with hotel information so you can drool over Ting’s restaurant menu before you arrive.