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Staying Safe In London’s Finest Hotels

Nick Nomi

Senior Contributor

The thirst for travel is rarely quenched. Even now, as the world is besieged by crises, many of us still have an overwhelmingly human need to embark on adventures and explore. And while London, one of Europe’s largest cities, may not be high on everyone’s list as our Covid anxieties continue to run high, great efforts are being made to keep travellers safe. Today, personalised and digitised guest experiences, local partnerships and advanced approaches to cleanliness have replaced buffet breakfasts and grand celebrations as 2021’s must-have amenities. Cleanliness, a grade-A shine and germ-free sparkle, all provided by spritely staff in masks are suddenly and quite necessarily de rigueur.

In-Suite Private Shopping At the Mandarin Oriental

With the Mandarin’s new ‘We Care’ initiative, a stay at the Mandarin Oriental begins before arrival with an opportunity to discuss personal preferences in terms of service levels and interaction with staff. But on arrival, thermographic CCTV cameras discreetly monitor temperatures, PPE (masks, etc.,) is available throughout, and a vast checklist of preventive and anti-viral cleaning measures keeps everything reassuringly sparkly. But everything is orchestrated from within the machinery of the hotel, ensuring safety measures are adhered to with gentle reminders, marked paths visible but not obscenely so, and discretion at the core of every policy. But even more special perhaps is the recent collaboration with Harrods, which gives guests of the Penthouse or Premier Suites a direct link to one of London’s most loved shopping destinations, with Harrods stylists on hand to provide styling inside one’s suite, or for guests to indulge in a private tour of Harrods (before or after opening) followed by a completely private personal shopping experience.

London Living at The Athenaeum

The Athenaeum’s art-deco façade is one of London’s prettiest. Its beguiling living wall, climbing in lush gradients of fresh, healthy green is enhanced by the odd flourish of seasonal colour, acting as a rapturous vertical garden for London wildlife, and a verdant frame from which guests can admire neighbouring Green Park. Inside, the Athenaeum’s impeccable interiors have long benefitted from comprehensive health and safety regimens, but since the arrival of Covid 19, the hotel promises yet further protection with unobtrusive thermal imaging, monitored as one arrives, directional signage ensuring a maximum distance between guests, and hand sanitising stations to keep hands clean as one visits the boltholes of the hotel. For added peace of mind, guest rooms are cleansed with ozone generators before every stay and staff are well versed in the flux of dubious Covid safety regulations, so one need only ask for guidance. But for an altogether more private experience, the Athenaeum residences, set in stunning red-brick townhouses offer an immersive, home away from home, Londoner experience — complete with one’s own front door leading to a leafy west London street, moments from Green Park. 

A City In The Clouds At The Shangri-La Hotel

The Shard, the stretched-out glassy pyramid that shimmers higher than anything else on the London skyline is perhaps one of the city’s best options for a reclusive inner-city getaway, as with so much inside, there’s little reason to leave the building. Once checked in, guests can flutter between floors, visiting six restaurants and bars inside the Shard (as well as cafes and shops on the ground floors): the exquisite Hutong for its beautiful, dimly lit, boudoir red-highlighted dining room enhanced by a healthy list of iconic northern Chinese dishes, and GŌNG for one of south London’s chicest late-night cocktail bars, all serviced by well-trained staff, paying shrewd attention to detail, to create as ‘Covid-safe’ an atmosphere as can be. The Shangri-La itself occupies 125 metres of vertical space across the apex of the Shard, spreading up 18 floors of western Europe’s tallest building with a panorama coloured by the winding waters of the Thames, the creamy dome of St Paul’s, the inky hues of the Gherkin, and the autumnal tones of the warehouses and tree-lined streets of Bermondsey. But within the hotel, an already rigorous health and safety record is enhanced by the ‘Shangri-La Cares’ promise that introduces shoe disinfecting mats to entrances, mandatory temperature screenings conducted by infra-red cameras, immediate medical support for anyone unwell, EPA listed disinfectants for a conscientious answer to an intense cleaning regimen, and a mobile app for express check-in/out.

Green Policies At One Aldwych

London first-timers can hardly do better than One Aldwych as far as location is concerned — perched on one of the Strand’s busiest corners and within walking distancing of Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden — but those anxious about travel and apprehensive about social distancing will fair just as well thanks to the hotel’s huge indoor spaces that have adapted superbly to new physical distancing requirements. Enhanced cleaning schedules are, as with most hotels, maintained by the hour, and rooms can be cleaned as little or as much as one requires. But what makes One Aldwych special is that the hotel undertook something of a minor, guest-led reimagining of its services and spaces during the first lockdown. The already generously sized Lobby Bar has been extended to give extra space for relaxation, while the guest journey is now dictated entirely by the wishes of the guest. If one wants to use QR codes when ordering dinner, that’s okay, as is using a paper menu. Want to journey to the room alone or with a member of staff? Either is fine, with the hotel filling in the blanks when it comes to maintaining social distancing and “new normal” etiquette. Additionally, sustainability has long been a priority of One Aldwych but since reopening in September 2020, a new rooftop garden (an idea born from many Londoners’ newfound appreciation of nature during lockdown) has sprouted up with wildflowers and a beehive to help, feed and shelter pollinators. And while guests can’t visit the bees, one can get a taste of what they’ve created by sampling a cocktail or two in the Lobby Bar, flavoured with honey (The Bee's Knees and the One D.O.M) and £1 from every cocktail will be donated to the fabulous work undertaken by River of Flowers, the designers of the roof garden.

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