MICHELLE TOMPKINS finds out what £80m buys in the revamp of a five-star hotel in London

THE lush greenery of Hyde Park – so incongruous with the manic city streets we have just come from – stretches out below us, its ornate fountains twinkling in the spring sunshine, the trees beginning to bud and bloom.

On the skyline, we pick out the distinctive BT tower, the ever-moving London Eye, the unmistakable jagged point of The Shard. Our room on the 15th floor of the Royal Lancaster Hotel, with its wall of glass, is a sightseers dream. Never mind staying the night, people would pay good money just to bring their binoculars and admire the view.

The hotel has invited me to visit following an £80 million renovation – yes, a cool £80 million – completed at the end of 2017, which saw the place transformed inside and out. The only thing I know about Lancaster Gate is that it was once the home of the FA (useful football stat relayed by my other half every time we pass through on the Tube), but what I hadn’t realised was how close it is to Paddington, just a five-minute walk away, not to mention an easy stroll to the shopping heaven of Oxford Street. A win-win.

So, what does £80 million pay for? Well, the entire frontage of the hotel has been remodelled and now features a dramatic eight-metre high glazed façade, creating quite the wow factor when we pull up. And the showpiece of the lobby is a palatial sweeping staircase made of 300 square meters of white marble (which doesn’t come cheap), setting a tone of cool and classy elegance which is carried on throughout the place.

My friend and I are given an executive room near the top of the towering hotel, and it is breath-taking, but all 411 rooms have been remodelled in the giant makeover and I’m told each and every one has views across the city.

As someone who embraces minimalism, the decor is a dream. There are no stuffy frills or flounces here, and barely any colour to speak of. Instead, there are crisp, clean lines; gleaming bathroom fittings; everything in its place and a place for everything – a deliberate move to showcase what you can see outside the room rather than being distracted by what’s in it.

It will strike a chord with fellow neat freaks when I tell you that I spent a good five minutes (maybe even 10) playing with the remote control blinds as they moved up and down in unison, admiring how they all lined up just so, and wondering how much they’d cost to install in my own home.

In the bathroom, there are robes and slippers, waterfall showers and under floor heating. You’ll get the picture if I say the toiletries are all supplied by The White Company. Very classy.

We were in London to see a show – Dreamgirls, highly recommended – and, of course, to shop, but by the evening we were back at the hotel for dinner.

There are two restaurants at The Royal Lancaster – the Island Grill, serving modern European dishes, and Nipa Thai. We’d chosen the Thai restaurant without actually realising that it has two AA rosettes and is regarded as one of the best Thai restaurants in the capital, so it came as an unexpected pleasure to find ourselves with one of the best tables in what is obviously quite a sought-after destination.

I have been to hotel restaurants where the only other diners are a couple in their 80s who booked for the 5.30pm sitting and a few out-of-town businessmen flicking through their iPhones, but this is the complete opposite. At 7.30pm on a Saturday, ours is the only table unoccupied and the bustling stream of diners doesn’t let up, even when we are leaving at 10pm.

My friend is a vegetarian and I am not an especially fussy eater, so we opt for the vegetarian set menu to get the full spectrum of dishes, opting for wine pairing too for the maximum experience.

A fiery papaya salad, spring roll, sweet corn fritter and deep-fried tofu are our appetisers, setting the bar extremely high. A clear soup of bean curd with mushroom, carrot and spring onion is not such a big hit with me (the tofu has the texture of blancmange… shudder), but that’s the only blip in an otherwise sensational spread.

A green curry, stir-fried asparagus, vegetable rice noodles and steamed rice are all phenomenal, presented with stunning attention to detail, and there’s just enough room for a rich and decadent coconut ice cream for dessert.

The wines are a revelation too. We both agree we’d normally drink beer with a Thai meal, but to have your wines matched perfectly to complement your food is a real treat and sets the seal on a fantastic, vibrant evening.

I can see why people travel to eat here, and why Nipa Thai is one of an elite selection of restaurants in the UK to have received the Thai Select award from the Thai government, only given to restaurants which have achieved the highest standards of quality and cuisine.

The next morning, my virtuous insomniac pal is off to the gym for an early morning workout while I laze in bed, part snoozing, part admiring that view agaim, this time in the bright morning sunshine.

I read that the Royal Lancaster London has something of a rock and roll history; from Michael Caine being filmed there for the iconic 1969 film The Italian Job, to events attended by Mohammed Ali, Princess Diana and countless other royals. The hotel also hosted the after-party for The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine film premiere in 1968, which must have been one heck of a mind-bending do.

I wonder if that A-list crowd would have been as appreciative of a pleasant view and a set of blinds operated by remote control as I was.


Michelle Tompkins travelled to London with GWR. Adult advance single tickets between Swindon and London Paddington start from £11.50 when booked online at gwr.com. The new Intercity Express Trains are now running on the route, with 20% more seating, greater leg room and more tables with sockets.

Michelle stayed at the Royal Lancaster London, Lancaster Terrace, London, W2 2TY. For reservations, see www.royallancaster.com or call 020 7551 6000. Rooms start from £259 per night