There are moments when London can be too much for me. I fall out of love with the city all too often. So, I take time away so that I can come back refreshed and ready to feel the romance once again. This summer I took a five week break and escaped to the USA, one of my longest breaks from the city in 15 years. Upon my return, however, I found myself staying in a London hotel that not only brought the romance back to my relationship with this city, it also made me believe that our on/off again relationship was a rocky one, but one worth fighting for. I blame it on the view. I checked into the London Marriott County Hall and my terrace opened up onto a landscape of London that can only be described as the best in the city. It’s a view that showcases a river scene depicting a highlights reel like you’ve never seen before. Imagine sipping coffee as the London Eye spins to your right and Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament sparkle in the sunlight to your left. It’s a viewpoint I never even knew existed for the public to enjoy.
But, here I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s start from the beginning. The London Marriott County Hall is, as you’ve probably already gathered, situated on the south bank of the river Thames. The entrance itself is just across Westminster Bridge and if you blink you’ll miss it. But, not to worry, the cabs and Ubers know where they’re going and when you do turn into the hotel you find yourself making the most grand of entrances down a column lined lane and into a courtyard so palatial it could easily look as if it were designed to welcome The Royal family.
There are 200 rooms in the hotel in total, including just over a dozen suites, and a great many of them spoil visitors with a view of the river, complete with the ringing bells of Big Ben – your unofficial alarm clock while in residence (Note Oct. 2017: Big Ben is currently under renovation, so sadly no bells at present). The newly renovated hotel features rooms that are incredibly spacious (by London standards), full of modern conveniences you’d expect from a Marriott, but refined with local touches such as wallpaper featuring maps of London or playful modern art decorating the walls. These are the things that remind you that you are not simply in another Marriott. You are staying with a Marriott that exists in a listed London building, has an incredible history and could not be more ideally located for sightseeing.
While we were in residence, we encountered, in equal measure, both tourists and business travellers. After Bloody Marys in the Leader’s Bar, a fabulous space with- you guessed it- an incredible view of the river and all its charms, we wondered around the hotel to get a better feel for the place. We strolled by the pool, a true rarity for a London hotel, and momentarily pondered swimming laps. But, we decidedon a steak and wine instead. Sounds about right. Lucky for us, one of London’s best steak restaurants is located on the ground floor of the hotel – Gillray’s.
Gillray’s is, I believe, a hidden gem. If you ask supposed “people in the know” about steakhouses in London, you will get them sharing the same three restaurants. Boring. This, dear reader, is only because they are not actually “people in the know.” They are people who know the three steakhouses that are most often used by city boys for meetings or big dinners out. A person well informed on the London scene of steak (yes, it’s actually a thing to know about the steak scene), will tell you that Gillray’s Steakhouse is the place, end of, for a great piece of meat and all that comes with it.
We sunk into our seats at Gillray’s for an earlier than usual sitting, due to pure excitement at the prospect of dining there. We started with oysters, deciding early on that we would not go heavy on the appetisers, to allow for full enjoyment of our steaks to come. A prime rib and a t-bone were delivered, both perfectly booked and beautifully presented. The size, however, defeated me and Mr. FFG had to come in, rather happily, and finish what I had started. Sadly, there was no room for dessert. We were on the verge of meat sweats (you know that happy place where you’ve eaten too much steak but you like to believe you can continue… only you realise that the drops of sweat rolling down your cheeks are a sign that you go can no further). We left with full bellies and slightly stained teeth after having enjoyed the most delightful bottle of red wine throughout the meal.
It must be said that the staff at Gillray’s were out of this world. In fact, thinking back, every staff member in the hotel was friendly, attentive and encountered just at the right times during our stay. They even arranged for us to have the most lovely experience called the Silver Lining Service, based on the weather forecast for the day ahead. Resident meteorologist, Kirsty McCabe, has worked with the hotel in creating a menu of weather reactive pampering sessions. The menu is perfect for the weary traveller or the tourist recovering from London’s rather unpredictable weather scenarios. You can do everything from getting a last minute pedicure, if the sun decides to grace us with its presence, to getting your hair blown out, should the rain have left you feeling a little lack lustre. Even those experiencing jet lag can have an in room massage to help revive them from the dreaded trans-Atlantic brain fog. See, they really have thought of everything and give the impression that their service is one that is ever evolving.
While the steaks were amazing, the staff positively charming and the rooms large enough to roller skate in, my favourite part of my stay at The London Marriott County Hall came in a moment of solitary reflection, on my balcony, with a cup of coffee and the slight sound of tourists marching below. To wake up to this view on a daily basis is surely the most spoiling thing on earth. I was pleased to have it for one night. It was enough. I left refreshed from reactive weather spa treatments, fed from the finest steakhouse on the river Thames and well rested from a night recovering from jet lag in a famed Marriott bed. Clearly you can see the romance was revived and now I know where I need to go anytime it needs a top up.
More Info: The London Marriott County Hall
Fashion Foie Gras was a guest of The London Marriott County Hall.