Tim Firmager checks into the Shangri-La at The Shard, London to try out their luxury offering with a unique view, and Autumn Affair package.
The Shangri-La hotel in The Shard skyscraper in London opened in 2014, and occupies floors 34 to 52 with 202 guest rooms and suites. It is one of the most iconic hotels in London, and by far boasts the best views from a hotel room across the city. Having a base in London, we at Vada thought it was only right to check in and find out exactly what this luxury brand can offer to LGBT travellers to this capital city.
Arriving at the ground floor entrance at the Shangri-La at The Shard, guests are directed to elevators that go directly to floor 35 for main reception. We arrived about 3:30pm and there was no queue, so had a very quick check-in experience. Service was professional, and exceptionally polite with gestures like bowing and presenting room key cards with both hands, rather than just handing it over. At this point we were given the option of view we would like (looking either east or west over the London skyline). We did check, and staff will always offer this option wherever there is availability, within the category of room booked.
We were then shown to our room on the 40th floor and given a tour of its amenities. For those with luggage, porters will take this to your room for you; however as we were there for only one night we managed ourselves. The member of staff checked that the room temperature was OK before leaving us. There are separate elevators within the hotel, to transport guests anywhere between floor 35 and 52 (where the gym, pool, and Gong bar are located), and at no point during our stay did we have to wait too long to get in or out these.
Vada rating: 10 / 10
We stayed in a Deluxe City View Room (number 4003), which is a west-facing view over The City, Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf in the distance. Room categories are designated by their view as much as by their floor size, and given The Shard’s unique design every room is a different shape. This room category will be between 32 to 47 square metres.
Every room has floor to ceiling windows (with electric blinds for those who need the black-out experience). The view is of course the main focus, and is incredible, even for a native Londoner. Each room also includes a pair of binoculars with a viewing guide, for those wanting a closer look at London. Tearing our eyes away from the windows and inside the room, the Shangri-La king bed is incredible inviting. With it’s Frette linen, it passed all the bounce and comfort tests and we had no problems falling into a deep sleep. Wood and mirrored surfaced within the room enhance the space and unique touches such as the hand-stitched silk cherry blossom design behind the bed.
Power sockets are dotted throughout the room, with international sockets at the desk, and further plugs by the bed. A Nespresso machine (which is a standard in all luxury accommodation today) was prepared, and filled with water for use (and fresh milk was in the fridge). Wifi is complimentary throughout the hotel, and we found it sufficient to stream video from our room. Technology extends to the bathroom with a built-in TV in the mirror above the double sink, and chiefly, a Japanese style Washlet with heated seat and oscillating function.
The bathroom itself is clad with marble, and has heated floors, a free-standing bath tub with bath salts and a mother of pearl spoon to submit them to bath water. A separate shower with both rainfall and handheld heads. Toiletries are all L’Occitane, and there is a drawer with an abundance of spare combs, razor blades, tooth brushes etc. For travellers wanting to pamper themselves in their room, there is certainly abundant opportunity, not least being able to saunter and sashay around in the in-room kimonos (which available to purchase for £50).
Vada rating: 10 / 10
There are three dining areas in The Shangri-La in The Shard. Firstly, Gong bar on the 52nd floor, which currently has a cocktail menu based on movies and directors, including a Star Wars drinks that is actually presented in a levitating glass. Second is Lang, a deli on the ground floor of the Shangri-La, with fresh bites and easy items to pick up for a day exploring the city.
The main restaurant Ting, is on floor 35 – next to reception. This is where breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner are all served. Breakfast offerings include an extensive buffet or some specific items from the menu – we opted for the ‘healthy breakfast’ of toasted rye bread with spinach, crushed avocado and poached eggs. Service was efficient and we didn’t wait long for our perfectly cooked eggs.
We were booked in with the Autumn Affair package which includes breakfast, a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne served in your room on arrival and Afternoon Tea served in your room. The Afternoon Tea selection is decadent to say the least. In addition to the usual sandwiches, scones (with clotted cream and strawberry jam), and flamboyant array of desserts, there is also a plate of macaroons and shards of chocolate to nibble (presumably as one is in The Shard). The service came with a selection of breakfast tea and Earl Grey.
There is Afternoon Tea and then there is Afternoon Tea with a view. Granted, the setting of the deluxe rooms are luxurious, and execution of Afternoon Tea itself is high, but this Afternoon Tea is about more than eating, it is an entire experience. Clinking champagne glasses high above London is a moment of rarity with the busyness of the city silenced for a hedonistic hit of self-indulgence.
The Autumn Affair package is available to book until 30th November, although we were informed it will likely appear under a new guise for winter – details will be on the Shangri-La website.
Vada rating: 10 / 10
Besides the rooms and restaurants, the Shangri-La at The Shard has a small gym and pool for guests only. We made use of the gym for an early morning workout, which was quite popular at this time. Whilst space is a premium, there aren’t many places in London where you can workout and watch sunrise over the city. The infinity pool, also accessible to hotel guests only, is a luxurious space but relatively small. Unsurprisingly this pool is popular with guests, so don’t expect to take a dip alone.
For a five star hotel, unusually (given the space restrains) there are no other spa facilities – no sauna, jacuzzi or treatment rooms. This we couldn’t help but notice a deprivation from norm of this level of luxury.
Where the Shangri-La at The Shard really stands out for the LGBT community is it’s meeting and event spaces on the 34th floor. This has proved particularly popular amongst the community for same-sex weddings and receptions.
Vada rating: 7 / 10
Impeccable and luxurious are obvious adjectives that spring to mind when describing the experience of staying at the Shangri-La at The Shard. The service we received was certainly impeccable, at no point did we feel anxious, out-of-place or in fact unwelcome as LGBT guests. Both Afternoon Tea and breakfast that we ate was delicious and well executed. Our only let down was the lack of spa facilities; however the main reason (and the justification for the five star price tag) are the views. These are unique and breathtaking, so any LGBT readers wanting a luxury break in London should consider the Shangri-La at The Shard
Vada rating: 9.2 / 10
The Shangri-La at The Shard is located at 31 St. Thomas Street, London, SE1 9QU.
The Autumn Affair package is available from £615 per night (inclusive of room, breakfast for two, a bottle of Champagne and Afternoon Tea served in room). For full details of this package, or to book a room at Shangri-La at The Shard, visit shangri-la.com.