When it came to having the best things in life, Napoleon certainly didn’t shirk his responsibilities, so it was no surprise he found The Langham Hotel so appealing. Mind you, if you’re forced into exile, staying at The Langham Hotel would make life a little more tolerable wouldn’t it?
He was in good company though, Edward VII, Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain were all regulars and even Ethiopia’s Haile Selassie maintained the exiled Emperor theme. And why not, it was after all, pretty cutting edge when it opened in 1865; hot and cold running water and toilets in all the guestrooms, air conditioning, and the first hydraulically powered lifts in the world no less. It also had so many telephones installed, the local area code was named after it. It was, hands down, Europe’s first Grand Hotel and more than lived up to the billing.
Such an illustrious past however comes with a sense of great expectation and responsibility as past owners have found to their cost. A legendary name comes with a price tag. There were the empty years, and a few years when the neighbouring BBC in London’s Portland Place took ownership and broadcast radio shows from The Langham’s once-grand ballroom and used it to host the legendary BBC club and bar for visiting actors and dignitaries.
Today though, under the ownership of Honk Kong based Langham Hospitality Group and enjoying a recent £80m refurbishment, The Langham Hotel is once again looking her very best; the epitome of classic 5 star sophistication. The 380 guestrooms feel solid, courtesy of a building almost 150 years old of course, yet refurbished in modern and elegant pastel tones, deep carpets, and giant beds that simply swallow you up. Deep marble bathrooms with his and her sinks and Quercus by Penhaligon toiletries complete the luxury package. It’s not all old school though; there is more than enough technology here to keep you in touch with the world; a 42 inch flat screen TV, USA and UK plug sockets, free wifi and a Bose iphone player.
Back downstairs, the twin pillars of The Langham legend await. Buoyed by the chinking of delicate china I wander into the mirrors and velvety couches of the Palm Court where it is said the art of English afternoon tea was born and by the looks of it is still drawing in the crowds. A few strides from here The Landau Restaurant, once the haunt of Oscar Wilde and Arthur Conan Doyle now has the added glamour of the Roux dynasty, father and son reunited to work their culinary magic in Roux at the Landau. In between, The David Collins inspired Artesian cocktail bar is busy creating legends of its own having won “best bar in the world” twice.
So the Langham Hotel London is once again showing the others how style and sophistication should be done. We just need another exiled emperor to give it the seal of approval.
The Langham,Hotel, London 1c Portland Place, Regent Street London W1B 1JA
Tel: 020 7636 1000
Rooms from £260 pn.