Review: The Lanesborough, London

The Lanesborough

The Lanesborough, London
Room type: 
Grovesnor Suite.  Kinda.  
Duration:
15th > 17th March, 2017
Booked with:
Ourisman Travel

2017 is the year of the rooster.  I have absolutely no idea what that means, but I’m using it as my excuse for staying in all 21 AMEX Fine Hotels and Resorts that London has to offer.  Next up is The Lanesborough, which pushed itself to the top due to opening their spectacular new spa.  My last stay was back in the ancient times now referred to as July 2012, a time when Starwood ruled the earth, or at least ran The Lanesborough.  Since then they changed the management company to Oetker (ye of Fregate fame) and shutdown the hotel for nearly a year, to do a £100m refurbishment, AKA a shit tonne of money.

Pre-sales

There was a hint of confusion in the air during this booking process.  By hint, I mean like that moment when there’s two of you in an elevator and suddenly a rapid descent of stench reaches your nose and you know it’s not you.

Our booking said (bolding mine):  85 GBP spa credit once per stay. Additional 85 GBP spa or food & beverage credit for stays over 2 nights.

However, the website says:  “Spa or F&B credit of 85 € for each stay of 1 night and 170 € for 2 nights or more

So was it 2 nights or 2 nights or more?  I felt as confused as a radiator playing a game of Cluedo.  Our travel agent didn’t know, so they contacted Oekter who apparently confirmed it was more than 2 nights.  I went back to the luscious lands of FlyerTalk to mention this, where a member told me they were very sceptical of this as they were there in February and it was 2 nights or more.  So I reach out to The Lanesborough directly and receive written confirmation that it is indeed 2 nights or more.  She also gave me a guaranteed, in writing, upgrade, which is also part of their loyalty scheme.

Guess what I didn’t get? 10 points for those of you who said no upgrade.  A shameful and sarcastic pat on the back of the head for those who thought otherwise.  What were you thinking?  No words, no words.

After telling the hotel this, they decided that blaming everyone was the perfect solution to this problem, rather than just dealing with it.  No, it wasn’t Colonel Mustard in the Library.  This is definitely your own fault.  With it being Easter weekend, they were running at full occupancy so couldn’t give us anything, but said they would do what they could the next day to move us to a bigger suite.  We looked on the website and saw that every room category was available, yet they would still not guarantee the upgrade and said they would confirm it the next day.

The next morning came, and it was us who contacted them after our breakfast to see where things were. We must have spoke to them 4 times on the phone trying to sort it out, as we said if they wouldn’t do it, we’d just walk out as they had not offered us what was clearly stipulated. It’s their own loyalty programme, so if they choose to guarantee an upgrade as part of it, then I expect to receive it. Simple solution would have been apologising profusely then guaranteeing us the best suite available for the next day, rather than trying to lie about it when we could see the availability online and then drag it out for 24 hours.

Getting there

The Lanesborough is very conveniently placed right next to Hyde Park tube station.  Not that you’ll ever use the tube if you’re staying here.  No, sir, you will instead arrive via a horse that can speak 3 different languages and is an expert in 1940s British politics, for that was the last era of greatness.  If you were to arrive via the Tube, rumour has it the staff form a conga line and chant obscenities at you.  This is the only attention you will receive during your entire stay.

Setting

The Lanesborough came into existence as a hospital, back when men were men, the NHS had a budget beyond prescribing everyone, including gunshot wound victims, paracetamol, and hospitals were places you went to politely die after receiving any impairment, such as a mild paper cut.  I can only assume that the government ran out of money, so decided to evict everyone mid-operation and turn it into a hotel.  Slightly inconveniently, the hotel is haunted, although I take it as a positive, as I know I’m constantly being checked up on.

Stay List

Wrong temperature; no water in the room; no hair straightener and bin bags for blackout blinds, that made me think I’d walked in on a student’s art project.  They had sweets, berries and chocolate, but that felt more like a fluke than any pre-planning, as their website states “assorted sweets” and “fresh fruit” as amenities with the room.

Even though I’ve not changed my stay list in a few years, for some reason the April weather must have damaged hotelliers brains, as they decided to start putting blackout blinds up during the day. Browns, Park Hyatt Vienna, The Lanesborough and Balmoral each had their own ways of implementing it and none of them decided to take them down during the day. They must have mistook me for a vampire. I have since edited my stay list to make it clear that I only want it at night. The Balmoral used the innovative approach of tape + curtains and sealed me into darkness; Browns used some blackout sheets which stuck to the window and could easily be taken down, but then didn’t take them down; Park Hyatt Vienna assumed I was allergic to all light and covered every millimetre of window with blackout sheets and The Lanesborough used some bin bags.  What a time to be alive.

Bin bags in a hotel that ranks amongst the most expensive in London: the last time I experience anything that combined great expense and pure trash was that one time I hired The Bulgari cinema to privately watch repeats of Jeremy Kyle.

Rooms

Even though I had booked an Executive Room and stayed one night in there, I was too embarrassed to take any photos of it, for my imaginary friends may one day read this and think low of me.  Not only did they choose to ignore their own booking system, but my very clearly stated request to have a walk-in shower was ignored too.  Listening to guests/each other/anyone isn’t top of The Lanesborough’s to-do list.  The bathroom felt more like they installed some wardrobes and then the plumber got confused and installed all the washing facilities in there.  There was no underfloor heating, but that’s because the square footage was so small you couldn’t fit both a human being and the floor there at the same time.  I should have felt honoured that they had a combined shower/bath, as the lowest room categories must just have a garden hose that you use on yourself.  You’d still smell fabulous, as all rooms have Roja toiletries, which smell better than sizzling bacon in a brand new car. They are my new favourite toiletries.

Grosvenor Suite bedroom

On the second night, and now far away from claustrophobic nightmares, we found ourselves in the Grosvenor Suite.  The room styles are not to my taste, but I knew that due to having previously stayed pre-refurb, having had a recent tour and having at least 1 working eye.  I always prefer modern, but sometimes you just gotta stand back and appreciate the classics; it can’t always be a shoot-out, sometimes a quintessential knife fight is just as good.  There is no doubt that huge amounts of money went into the rooms, as the finishings are truly class, but it’s just not for me.  Not loving the design will never ruin my stay, but it would impact whether I would wish to return.  You can of course decide for yourselves, as it’s not my job to tell you how to think.  Besides, I’m not allowed since they took my license away for trying mind control on those badgers that then went rogue.

I liked their use of tech in the rooms, with the TV’s hidden behind paintings which open as soon as you turn the TV on.  Their free Internet option of 25Mbps is generous compared to many other London hotels, especially as it always hit it in my speed tests.  Unfortunately the tablets by the side of the bed suffered all the same problems that The Penisula Paris does – i.e. they frequently just do not work at all, especially when it came to controlling the lights.  Free movies are there to greet you with warmth and love, but the paid minibar then tells you where to shove it.

Grovesnor Suite bedroom
Grosvenor Suite bedroom
Living room – TV hidden
Living room – TV ahoy
Bathroom

Amenities

  • The Withdrawing Room, i.e. sophisticated lounge
  • The Library Bar, i.e. less sophisticated lounge
  • The Garden Room, i.e. disgusting cigar lounge
  • Gym, i.e. not for lounging

Spa

This is why we were here.  Anyone who has ever read any review I’ve ever written (congrats to all 4 of you), will know I love my spas.  Think Amy Winehouse and booze, multiply by Russell Brand’s joy of being  condescending, then you’re close to my love of spas.  Having received their newsletter a few weeks prior to arrival to say they were now open, we decided to make our way over there and take a look.  Being positively wowed, we decided to stay to try it all out.

Hydrotherapy Pool
Hydrotherapy Pool

You have quite a few areas, but first you must actually get there, which involves one helluva walk.  In fact, you may well end up in The Berkeley hotel by mistake, and I’m undecided whether that’s a good thing.  It can also be a rather awkward walk, as depending on the elevator you take, you will need to walk through the lobby in your robe.

Once you arrive, you’ll find an impressive reception area, that leads through to either the bar/lounge or the gym, or you can walk in the other direction to get through the male/female changing rooms, which are close to the Painting Room.  My girlfriend decided to drop by here for a manicure and pedicure, but didn’t feel it was of a high standard or even an average one – within just two days the product was wearing away.  There are treatments specifically designed just for The Lanesborough, but we never had an opportunity to try them, so let’s just assume based on everything else they were mediocre and overpriced.

Within the separate changing rooms, you have two saunas, a steam room and experience shower.  I would have preferred that at least some of these facilities were mixed sex, as there’s only so long you can spend sweating in a warm room before you start reflecting on how pointless life is.  The hydrotherapy pool is noted as only 28C, yet unlike Four Seasons, Prague, it didn’t feel like you were recreating the life of a homeless Serbian peasant.  I would have still preferred it warmer, but it was pleasant enough to spend plenty of time in, mostly due to how warm the entire area is.  Just to make it that bit more enjoyable, there are Service buttons scattered around the spa, which you can hit and wait for the calvary to arrive with chilled cocktails and whatever is the new, vogue version of kale.

As with everywhere, looking at it is one thing, but using it is another.  There are few criticisms I have for the spa,  but one will definitely be the members only lounge which is prohibited to hotel guests.  You could be spending north of £2k/n in your suite and still not have access to it, when a membership is only £6k for the entire year.  The lounge area also lacked any couples seating areas or areas to lay down, or anything to even read.

Bar and lounge area
Waiting room
Lanesborough changing rooms

So how does it rank?  It is without a doubt impressive.  Hugely so.  Unless Four Seasons Ten Trinity’s new spa manages to come with some new treatment that reverses age by 20 years, I think it will be considered by most as the best spa in London.  Yet I still prefer The Bulgari’s, for the simple reason of having a swimming pool, a better hydrotherapy pool and better loungers.  We still admire the Egyptian tombs, but I’m certain in 2,000 years they’ll think The Lanesborough spa is far more impressive.

Activities

Ghost hunting

Food

I’ve always loved the breakfast here and occasionally drop by, even when staying at other hotels.  The same goes for Celeste, their Michelin star restaurant that I’ve been to multiple times.  The breakfast is amongst my favourite in London, and Celeste can be exceptional, although it was not in its finest form in this case.  Even the new spa menu and their mango rice pudding was a delight.  The setting is spectacular, although a real shame that since the refurb the glass ceilings are covered.  I would recommend going just to experience the setting.

Yet The Lanesborough giveth and The Lanesborough taketh away.

We ordered breakfast to our room and had to get them to correct the order three times, even though we read the order back to them at the end of the first phone call. Somehow we said “crepes” and they heard “salmon”. Then before checkout we ordered some food in their bar and were told we could not order from the spa menu, even though all I wanted a cold dessert. I could have gone and got it myself in the time it took them to realise how poor their service offering was. They took over an hour to get some small snacks, then delivered the bill wrong twice.

Celeste

Service

If you don’t ask, you don’t get.  At The Lanesborough, if you ask, you still don’t get.

There were no stand out moments from the staff, only disappointments, starting with how they handled our issue of essentially downgrading us.  There was never an apology.  Never a follow-up.  Never a moment where they did anything above and beyond.  They never even tried once to bribe me not to write this.  This was an issue throughout every area of the hotel.  During turndown they just left a tray on our sofa; in our first room they just left a load of sheets “hidden” behind the curtains; during moving rooms it took 3 attempts to get the right pillows; twice we phoned the butlers and no one answered; during our room swap I asked the spa receptionist if our room was ready and it took 4 people to try and work it out; and I’ve already mentioned the wrong food orders.  I wanted to mention the doormen, as one in particular could not have been more helpful, yet then his colleagues were often AWOL and let the side down.

All by themselves are fine, minor points, but combined we have issues with reservations, reception, F&B, butlers, spa and waiting staff.  All of this whilst their service charge is 15% – the highest I’ve ever seen in London.  Then there’s the fact that they never gave us an Easter Egg without me begging, which is worst than all of them combined.  I’m not proud, but I may have even cried a little.  Don’t ever deny me chocolate, goddamnit.

It was a shame that the Head Butler, Paul Davies, was not there during our stay, as I’m sure some of these points would have been spotted before they happened.  He spent 15 years at The Connaught, and only moved over in the last 2 months, so they have a real asset on their hand.  If things are like this without him around, he has a bigger job on his hand than he may have imagined.  In fact, we discovered more insects than good staff during our stay, as it seemed a spider and fly decided to make a terrible version of Romeo and Juliet in our bedroom and the hallway.

Departure

Deciding to recognise their own loyalty scheme on this occasion, we asked if we could use the complimentary courtesy car to escape.   It was subject to availability and they could not guarantee us that we would get the car, but they came through and had our driver waiting for us. We were driven over to Waterloo station and were on our way to Chewton Glen.

Their partner programme is pretty amazing, just providing they understand what they are offering.

3 days after leaving the Managing Director of The Lanesborough emailed to apologise about the problems, whereby he mentioned they also gave us a F&B credit, but no one ever mentioned it and due to not adding a line on the bill for the £170 credit, it was impossible to work it out. It feels strange to complain about receiving compensation, but I will anyway, as it’s no good doing something if the recipient isn’t aware of it.  After providing further information on what went wrong and why it was so frustrating, a further offer of a free dinner at our time of choosing came back.

Worth Knowing

Pre-refurb, you were paying a high price due to the location being opposite Hyde Park.  Post refurb, you’re paying a high price due to being opposite Hyde Park, and because they invented a patent pending method of designing hotel rooms: throwing yellow paint at walls and waiting to see what happens.

The Good

  • Location
  • Food

The Bad

  • Check in
  • Check out
  • Most of the bits in between

The Luxurious

  • The spa

Conclusion

If the Managing Director did not reach out, I would likely have decided never to go back.  As it stands, I am prepared to give them another chance.  It really is a beautiful hotel with a truly great hard product. The lobby, public areas and spa are so impressive, but the service was a big letdown and is unforgivable at this price range.

The Lanesborough

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