In a recent blog post on our night at the Cosmopolitan Influencer Awards (also known as the night that I devoured my own fortune), I mentioned my love for London. Not the London with the angry sirens, irked commuters or dark corners that smell like urinals, but the London you see in Mary Poppins or Love Actually. You know – the largely fictional London. This city glitters and sparkles, it features cobbled pavements and Georgian terraces, and is inhabited by city-dwellers with unlimited disposable income. It’s not a London I regularly see.
There are rare glimpses of it, however. Walk up to the misty Highgate Cemetery on a freezing Sunday morning and you might catch it. Wander down Little Venice during the summer and you might find it there, or look out for it down the pastel-coloured mews streets, near Gloucester Road. These are pockets of London that I cling to when I’m queuing in Victoria station for 60 minutes, or have stepped in that eternal pile of vomit that occupies a grim corner outside of Euston station (seriously, there’s always a puddle of it there – 365 days a year).
So, as we made our way into central London last Thursday for the Cosmopolitan Influencer Awards, I was – as ever – on the lookout for more of these elusive glimpses. Making our way down the hidden lanes behind Baker Street, passing the premature Christmas lights, I thought one might be close. And I was right. Pulling up outside our home for the night – the infamous The Landmark London – I realised that I’d hit the Mary Poppins jackpot.
The Landmark London belongs to that iconic family of railway hotels: those grand establishments that sprang up during the 19th century. Founded by enterprising rail entrepreneurs, these hotels were the finest places in town to hit the sack; allowing well-heeled Victorians to glide seamlessly from train carriage to hotel suite. It all sounds very civilised. I tend to glide off the train and immediately into a harshly lit Gregg’s bakery. Cholera and rat-infested streets aside, it seems that the Victorians had it good.
And so it was that in 1899 The Landmark London opened – an enormous, red-brick building with a clock tower perched on the top. Its opening was attended by royalty and it was declared one of the most luxurious hotels in the city. As Claire and I walked in, thanking the porter and his tipped bowler hat, it seemed that nothing much had changed.
As you walk through the entrance, the air smelling like a mysterious expensive perfume, you’re immediately met with the hotel’s pièce de résistance: its ‘Winter Garden’.
Featuring a towering atrium, crowned by a glass ceiling that glitters in the evening light, this certainly isn’t your regular hotel lobby. Mature, tall palm trees reach up to the arching ceiling, creating the feeling of being in a tropical paradise; the sound of piano music tinkling from the balconies above. It’s all incredibly refined. For anyone who reads our blog regularly, you’ll know that we reside in the town (alas, not yet a city) of Milton Keynes, which also has its very own ‘Winter Garden’. Regrettably, the two couldn’t be more different. Whilst Milton Keynes’ Garden features an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet and a resident crew of scrappy birds, the Winter Garden at The Landmark London makes for a breath-taking sight; something that it has become renowned for. Rather than featuring the Dragon Boat Chinese Buffet, this hotel’s Winter Garden offers guests and visitors alike the chance to dine under the shimmering ceiling, enjoying its incredible food and afternoon tea.
After gawping at this beautiful space, we made our way down the plush corridors to our room. The sense of history in this place is immediate. Indeed, the hotel has witnessed a dizzying amount of events and spectacles. From hosting a ‘welcome home from prison’ brunch for Emmeline Pankhurst in 1908, organised by the Suffragettes; to accommodating officers during WW1 and later, the M19 during WW2, The Landmark London boasts an incredible heritage. The hotel has also been privy to a secret illegitimate birth, which took place in one of its rooms, and the suspected suicide of one of its former managers, in 1935. The story goes that should you stay on the 4th floor, you might even see his ghost: wandering the halls in a smart pinstriped suit and top hat.
The Landmark London has over 300 rooms and 51 suites. Whilst the regular rooms alone are luxurious, the suites are something else. Claire and I were staying in a ‘twin studio’. Normally, this equates to a small room, with two narrow single beds hastily pushed together. Not at this hotel. Walking into our room, we were greeted by our very own marbled entrance hall. Breaking into an excited jog, we ran through to the living room area, complete with a widescreen TV, sumptuous sofas, and a chilled bottle of champagne. Veering excitedly into our bedroom, we discovered it featured two separate double beds and another TV area. Our days of sharing a bed were over! Finally – and the crowning jewels of the room – came the enormous marble bathroom, featuring three separate areas. That this studio is not even classified as a suite by the hotel, tells you something about the incredible standards that The Landmark London keeps. We were blown away.
After plundering the delicious room service (as I mentioned in my previous blog post, this comprised solely of carbs: an ideal meal before trying to squeeze into a unforgiving evening dress), we began getting ready for the Awards. The studio was the perfect place for this; providing us with plenty of room for the panicked frenzy that characterised the next hour. Dressed in our thick, white gowns and slippers, we enjoyed the many Molton Brown products that the hotel provided (now hoarded away in my ‘hotel minis’ box in my bathroom) and generally sashayed around our beautiful room. Sassy.
Fast forward a few hours and we were home from the Awards, crippled by our heels and suffering from the viral cold that has engulfed the UK lately. All that was left to do was to enjoy a soak in our enormous sunken bath (separately), before crawling into bed. Considering the hotel’s central location and its noisy neighbour – Marylebone station – the hotel was completely silent. As our room overlooked the atrium, all that could be heard was the occasional sound of clinking cutlery. I thought of all the many guests that have stayed in this illustrious hotel, wandering its corridors (the idea of the resident ghost pushed forcefully to the back of my mind), and decided I would add my stay at The Landmark London to my ‘magical London’ list. Forget Condé Nast; this is a very prestigious list be a member of.
Morning came too quickly and after desperately trying to enjoy every part of our room before we had to leave (sitting down at the desk, on the sofa and in the armchair, all in the space of a minute), it was time to enjoy breakfast in the Winter Garden, before making our way home. As the smiling porter led us out into a bitterly cold and noisy London, it felt like rejoining the real world; The Landmark London bubble now popped.
Our stay here was a truly lovely one, offering a glimpse into a Victorian world of true hospitality, elegance and refinement. Visit here for the opportunity to experience one its many beautifully-appointed suites, or even for its renowned afternoon tea, under the glass roof of the Winter Garden. I know that I’ll certainly be back. In meantime, next time I step in that puddle of sick outside of Euston Station, I’ll be gritting my teeth and thinking of you, The Landmark London. How’s that for praise?
Thank you to The Landmark London for hosting us and for a wonderful stay.