For the UK, July 4 was known as “Super Saturday” - the day that the hospitality sector was given the green light to restart operations, following the easing of lockdown restrictions. Hotels were included, so I decided to spend a night at one of the capital’s luxury hotels, The Langham, London.
Booking The Langham, London
I made my reservation five days before my stay, directly with The Langham. I had found a rate of £265 for an entry level, superior room (28sqm) advertised on Trivago, so I contacted the hotel to see if they could offer something better, as their own rate was around £100 more.
The Langham agreed to match the rate I had seen online, plus upgrade my booking to a deluxe room (33sqm), so I went ahead and confirmed my reservation. In the end, Trivago’s rate dropped to around £240, but I didn’t want to be so cheap as to ask The Langham to give me another £25 off. :)
A few days out, The Langham said it was expecting around 50 guests for July 4 and, when I checked in, the agent told me the hotel also had a good number of last-minute reservations.
As I booked direct, I was able to collect some Virgin Atlantic air miles from my stay. Delta, Emirates and several other airline members can also earn points, but not British Airways customers (BA recently ended its relationship with Langham).
About The Langham, London
Opened in 1865, The Langham London claims to be “Europe’s first grand hotel”. With 380 rooms and suites, it is a large property, with a pub, restaurants, a bar and a luxury spa onsite.
It is a stone’s throw from world-class shopping at Regent Street and Oxford Street, though I had no time (nor much inclination!) to shop on my quick visit. Bars and restaurants in the lively Soho area of London are a 12-minute walk away.
The nearest underground station is Oxford Circus, which is five minutes away on foot.
Arrival and check-in
I decided to drive my own vehicle into central London, rather than take public transport. The hotel charges £65 for 24 hours’ parking, though the doorman Ian (with 18 years’ service at The Langham) was helpful in suggesting nearby pay and display parking.
There’s no charge for parking on the streets surrounding The Langham after 6.30pm on a Saturday, so in the end I only needed to pay for four hours (which still cost the best part of £30, plus a tip for Ian).
As you would expect, check in was far from a normal experience. There are perspex screens between you and the agent, and all customers are asked to take a temperature check (mine was a little low, apparently - and another guest checking in beside me was told the same, so I wonder how accurate they are!).
Pens wrapped in plastic are offered to each guest, and the check in agents assure you that the credit card machine is disinfected after each guests’ use.
Decorated with fresh flowers, the lobby is grand and features multiple seating areas.
Deluxe room at The Langham, London
I was assigned room 510, a deluxe room on the fifth floor. Unfortunately, the lift requires you to physically touch the buttons, unlike some lifts where you can just hold your card in front of a reader to get to the right floor.
The hand sanitiser dispenser on my floor was empty, and remained so two hours after I mentioned it to a member of staff in reception. This surprised me, as I expected the hotel to act quickly once I notified them it needed to be replenished.
First impressions of the room were good, and I was delighted to find a full bottle of Taittinger champagne waiting on ice.
I thought this was a smart move by Langham, considering check in is now a slightly disconcerting experience. I imagine guests will start to feel more at ease as the bubbles take effect (I know I did!).
The room wasn’t large by any means, but perfectly big enough for my needs on a one-night stay. There wasn't much of a view, but that wasn't a problem for me.
The bed was very large, and there was a plug socket within reach, which is always appreciated. After struggling to get comfortable with the pillows, I slept well.
The Samsung TV in the room was a decent size, but it kept turning itself off, so I gave up with it in the end. The remote control had (I presumed!) been sanitised and was wrapped in plastic.
There was plenty of room to store my belongings in the wardrobe, which contained 13 coat hangers, slippers, an ironing board and iron, a hair dryer, umbrella and a shoe horn.
A Magimix coffee machine and kettle were in the room, as well as a selection of coffee pods and tea bags, though no milk of any kind. The in-room minibar was empty - which was a bit of a disappointment when the midnight munchies came along!
The bathroom was very spacious for a smallish room and featured a bath tub as well as a separate shower room. Toiletries were by Chuan (the name of the hotel spa), and the vegetable soap was very pleasant.
Internet was free of charge, with a respectable 28.0 Mbps download speed in the room.
The Langham, London’s hygiene and safety measures
Like most hotels, The Langham has introduced comprehensive cleanliness protocols. They include:
- Taking guests’ temperatures on check in
- Regular sanitisation of high-touch areas throughout the hotel
- Hand sanitiser bottles located throughout the hotel (some even contain liquid 😉)
- Personal protection equipment kits provided in guest rooms (contains a mask, gloves and sanitiser)
- Decorative items such as cushions and magazines have been removed from guest rooms
- All glassware and chinaware sterilised daily
- Food and beverage staff to wash their hands every 30 minutes.
London’s most haunted hotel room?
Researching the hotel, I came across some articles that suggested The Langham is the most haunted hotel in London - specifically room 333, where a ghost is said to have tipped a guest out of her bed!
As I was in correspondence with the hotel before my stay, I thought I’d enquire whether it would be possible to see the room in question. In response, I received this rather short reply from the hotel reservations team:
“I would like to discourage in considering accurate information like this about our property. Furthermore I regret to inform you we are not able to show the room neither.”
Clearly, haunted hotel is not the look that The Langham is trying to pull off!
Nevertheless, I was able to access floor three via the stairs so I took a picture of the apparently haunted room. There was no sign of anything untoward when I called by!
Dining at The Langham, London
The Wigmore, The Langham’s “tavern”, was the only hotel food and beverage outlet open during my stay, so I reserved a table for dinner. I noticed The Wigmore did a good trade during the day, with lots of customers whiling away the afternoon drinking champagne and pints at tables set up outside.
Stepping inside, I was less than impressed with The Wigmore, which had attracted a very casual crowd by 7pm on “Super Saturday”. I wasn’t expecting fine dining, but there was nothing five-star about this outlet - most of the clientele consisted of younger gents downing pints of lager while they watched the football on TV screens.
The service was fine, and I was directed to scan a QR code on the table in order to call up a menu on my mobile phone. I ordered a glass of rose wine and some chicken croquetas to start, followed by the cheeseburger (which was pretty good).
The atmosphere didn’t do much for me so I got through the meal pretty quickly and left within the hour. I noticed that the pens given to guests to sign their bills to their room were not wrapped, as they were in the hotel. My bill came to just over £40.
Overall, there was nothing dreadful about the experience, but if you are expecting an upmarket dining experience, you won’t find it at The Wigmore - at least not on a Saturday evening.
Much more serene was Palm Court, located just off the hotel lobby, which was open all day with complimentary refreshments including tea, coffee and muffins. It also had an honesty bar, available from 6pm each day, which offered a selection of wine, beer, spirits, cocktails and soft drinks.
Breakfast, currently only available as room service, is served from 6.30am and was excellent. I had a full English breakfast, which came with perfectly cooked, runny fried eggs and high quality meat products (sausage, bacon and black pudding). I asked for grapefruit juice, but this was unavailable so I was given a complimentary freshly squeezed orange juice instead.
Don’t hesitate to order breakfast to your room (staff will knock when your food is ready, but aren’t allowed to enter your room). My bill came to just over £30 for the cooked breakfast (including English muffin and jams, honey etc) and juice.
Lunch and dinner are also available via room service.
The Langham London’s other facilities
Unfortunately, most of the hotel’s dining outlets are closed for the time being, including Roux at the Landau - a well-regarded restaurant serving modern European cuisine. Also shut was Artesian, described as a “chic and glamorous” cocktail bar.
Unsurprisingly, the hotel’s gym, pool and spa (“Chuan Body + Soul”) facilities were closed, as per government regulations.
For the price paid, I was happy with my room and the service I received at The Langham, bar a couple of minor slip ups (lack of hand sanitiser by the lift, dodgy TV).
Despite the hotel saying they had a large number of last minute bookings, I came across very few other guests during my stay, which was another reminder that we are living in strange times.
While business travellers probably won’t mind the formalities of the new hygiene regulations, masks and screens aren’t particularly conducive to creating a feeling of relaxation, so leisure travellers may take a little longer to be comfortable with the “new normal”.
Next time, I’ll be happy to give The Wigmore a miss, but I look forward to returning when Roux at the Landau reopens in November.
All things considered, I feel like this is as good as it gets when it comes to luxury travel during the period of covid. Have you stayed in a hotel since lockdown restrictions eased? What was your experience?