I recently stayed at the Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park Hotel in London with my daughter and enjoyed every moment of being treated like a Princess in one of the best hotels in London. On that occasion, I was lucky enough to be staying as a guest of the hotel (you can read my article here), but like many of you out there, when I’m spending my own hard-earned cash, I’m more likely to be booked into a modest hotel or guest house, albeit the most stylish I can afford. So that got me thinking about how you can enjoy something of the Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park’s special atmosphere of luxury and service without spending a king’s ransom.
I remembered when I visited a friend who was living in Istanbul some years ago and we’d wander through the the Kempinski Ciragan Palace, one of the most classy hotels in town, as if we owned the place. We’d re-apply our lipstick in the marble bathrooms, lounge around in the open public areas, window-shop in the hotel souvenir shops and galleries, then perhaps while away a long afternoon over Sunday brunch buffet as a special treat. We had the experience of being there in Luxury without the expense of actually staying there. So in the same spirit, here a few things you might also enjoy at the Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park if you’re visiting London.
Sip a cocktail in the Mandarin Bar
When we arrived at the Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park we relaxed with a coffee in the Mandarin Bar, with it’s leather and gold velvet sofas, colourful bottles behind frosted glass, and open glass wine cage. It felt like an elegant take on the exclusive gentleman’s club that the hotel was originally built for. However, at night the bar really comes into it’s own as a classy and lively cocktail bar for the grown-up set, with live music playing most nights. On the Saturday night that we were there, we could hear the chatter of conversation and jazz trio playing in one corner and I certainly wouldn’t have minded sipping one of the exotic cocktails with friends, perhaps a ‘Conde Nast Traveler’ of Cuban rum, rhubarb puree, pomegranate juice and cinnamon sugar. I was told that they’d just recruited a new bar manager, Paul Stevens, a former mixologist at Smirnoff, who was busy revamping the cocktail menu, so I’d definitely go back to the Mandarin Bar another time to listen enjoy a cocktail or two and the live music. (Cocktails around £15)
Eat top class Asian food in the Park Restaurant
During our stay, we bypassed the gourmet Foliage restaurant in favour of the more relaxed atmosphere of the Park restaurant, which is designed to bring the greenery of Hyde Park into the hotel, with wooden tables, fine green linen and bonsai trees, as well as oriental themed paintings and decoration. I tried the crab cakes as a starter which were just perfectly meaty served with a walnut and spinach salad, followed by the most delicous Thai Green curry I’ve ever tasted, with complex flavours of basil, lemon grass and enormous prawns. If you like top class Asian food, combined with charmingly attentive service, then this will be the place for you. (Main courses £15-28)
Celebrity chefs, Daniel Boulud and Heston Blumenthal
I can’t mention the food at the Mandarin Oriental without letting you know that there are more treats to come on the culinary front at the hotel. If you’re up on your celebrity chefs, you’ll be first in line when the new Bar Boulud opens in May 2010 on the ground floor, from French born, New York based, chef, Daniel Boulud. The new wine bar and contemporary French bistro will be a sister restaurant to the established Bar Boulud in New York and will draw on the seasonal French dishes, wines and charcuterie of Boulud’s childhood near Lyon. A feature of Bar Boulud is that you can enjoy exceptional wines by the glass that are carefully selected to compliment the food and charcuterie.That’s one thing I’d appreciate as I rarely drink more than a glass or two in an evening, so I’d prefer them to be really good quality, rather than cheap and cheerful.
Once the Bar Boulud has opened, the Park Restaurant will be closed until October, when it will be reborn with British celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal at the helm. Blumenthal is well known for his culinary magic in combining unlikely combinations of tastes and textures for a truly sensory dining experience. Blumenthal has a well established reputation from his three Michelin star restaurant, The Fat Duck in Bray as well as The Hinds Head pub of the same village, but this will be his first venture in Central London, bringing his unique style to international visitors to London.
Afternoon Tea on the Park Terrace overlooking Hyde Park
One of the great features of the Mandarin Oriental is that it has Hyde Park as it’s back garden (literally). If you’re lucky enough to get a room at the back of the hotel, then you’ll have a view of the Serpentine lake, glistening through the trees. And adjoining the Park Restaurant overlooking the park is the Park Terrace where you can take al fresco lunches and afternoon tea between May and September (the Great British Summer permitting) If you’d like to experience the quintessential English teatime experience, then this is where I’d love to be on a sunny afternoon, tucking into fresh baked scones and some strawberry tart, washed down by an elegant cup of Earl Grey with a slice of lemon.
Update: The Park Teerace will be closed for summer 2010 while the restaurant is being renovated, so you’ll have to wait until 2011 to try those stawberry tarts and Earl Grey.
A spa experience at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
To finish off my luxury visit to the Mandarin Oriental without ever having checked in, I’d love to spend a few hours at the hotel spa, tucked away in a quiet corner of the ground floor. This is not the place to go in a girly gaggle for chatter and gossip, but a place to unwind and get some seriously pampering ‘me time’. When I looked in on their reception area during my stay, I learned all about their signature spa therapies which have been developed by experts from the world of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture and aromatherapy. The products used are determined by the mood and personality of the client and are based on the five elements of Chinese Medicine; Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and each is matched to a blend of essential oils; Awaken, Bloom, Flourish, Release and Reflect. Condé Nast Traveller voted this their Best Hotel Spa in the UK for 2009 and I can see why, with each treatment tailored to your personality and mood to leave you feeling truly relaxed. Not cheap at £240 for the Mandarin Oriental signature spa therapy treatments session lasting around 3 hrs, including time to relax in the steam room and Vitality pool, but what a lovely gift to give yourself, or even be treated to by your doting husband or partner (hint, hint)
Stay at the Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park
Although I’ve mentioned some ways you can tap into the luxurious world of the Mandarin Oriental without actually staying there, I have to say that it is a wonderful place to base yourself in London, with the upscale shopping of Knightsbridge at the front door and the greenery of Hyde Park at the back door. If staying in top class hotels is your normal way of travelling, or you’re looking for somewhere for that special break where you’ll be spoiled and treated to world class service, and if you love that classic English look combined with Oriental elegance, then this is the place for you. And if like me you always hope to get a little more for a little less, then you should check out the Tempting Offer Page on the Mandarin Oriental Website or do some shopping around on booking sites such as Kiwicollection.com (read the article I wrote on their website here)
I hope I’ve convinced you that if your budget doesn’t stretch to staying at a top class hotel like the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in London, then there are still affordable ways of experiencing the fantastic service and luxury you’ll get there. If you have been reading this and thinking that you could get that cup of tea at Starbucks for a fraction of the price then you obviously don’t get it and should try pitching your tent in Hyde park instead (only joking). You should think of it as buying into the luxury of a few hours in wonderful surroundings with charming and attentive staff, at a fraction of the price of actually staying there (not that I don’t recommend that too!)
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