In Review: Amba Hotel Charing Cross, London

amba hotel charing cross
I can’t even deal with The Amba Hotel (in the expressively grateful Valley Girl sense, of course).

Last week, I booked in for an evening sandwiched between late events and early meetings and was truly overwhelmed by the whole experience.

First things first: the building. During my review searches, I had seen a number of previous guests coo over its proximity to the tube, but didn’t realise just how close it was. Amba Hotel Charing Cross is literally attached to the rail station and a 180-degree turn to face the front door as you emerge from the Underground. It is also rather majestic (yet unassuming) on the inside; I’m not sure anything could make a Londoner’s heart pitter patter much more.

And then, the service. From the second I went to check in, I was welcomed by a handful of staff that were not only pleasant and professional but genuinely friendly and considerate. I almost felt like a was about to stay in a friend’s (exceptionally enormous) home.

Climbing the grand wraparound starcases to the fifth floor, I entered the room and immediately wanted to cancel all the evening’s plans. The view (adjacent to Trafalgar Square)! The complimentary minibar (with a mini-sized Prosecco bottle)! The walk-in shower (and two-person tub)! The bed (adjacent to a large desk, but much more fun to do work in*)! The free iPad (hello, room service of the future)! The wi-fi (excellent, compared to generic ‘free wifi’)!

While I was Lady Boringpants and spent most of my afternoon having Nespressos over my laptop, its tourist’s dream of a location was not lost on my cold London heart; I opened all the windows to play peeping tom on the tourists and tourism on The Strand below.

After a tiresome evening of events and luxurious night of catching Zzzs, I played ‘Queen of The Amazon’ in the rain shower and sashayed down to The Terrace for a bit of Eggs Royale. Every single part of this scenario was perfection.

It was only checking out that burst the bubble. This hotel has the potential to become quite an expensive hobby.

* (I was recently interviewed for the Gumtree blog about the interior design in the Celebrity Big Brother house and I have to say I have never been anywhere so comfortable while ‘doing work’.)

amba hotel charing cross
amba hotel charing cross
amba hotel charing cross
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In Review: Afternoon Tea at The Lancaster, London

lancaster london afternoon tea
If you’ve been clicking around my blog for any longer than a week (thank you, superbabe!), you’ll know I love to pepper my work days with as much adventure as possible. Though I tend to work from dawn to dusk, I know I need to step away from the grind when schedules and clients allow.

When you’re in London, there’s no better escape than afternoon tea.

When a slot in Wednesday’s schedule opened up, I made a date with the Lancaster London‘s Ben Purton and his signature afternoon tea.

In August, Purton took over the hotel’s two restaurants (Island Grill and Nipa Thai), banqueting for up to 3,000 guests, room service, the Lounge Bar, and the Lounge Bar’s Afternoon Tea as Executive Chef.

All that and the man still manages to knock the scones – and then some – out of the park.

Kicking things off with a glass of Laurent Perrier, I decided to go for a pot of organic darjeeling (champagne of teas to follow the champagne of champagnes, naturally) while my tea buddy chose his favourite – a classic pot of English breakfast tea (a full-bodied version blended with three different Assam leaves).

While the tea timer did our dirty work, we began to plate up our savouries; a Lancaster London smoked salmon sandwich, an egg & wild cress sandwich, a cucumber sandwich, a wild mushroom, chicken and tarragon tartlet, and a roast beef-filled Yorkshire pudding with horseradish cream (the cake-taker, by far).

With excellent timing, our waitress then approached us to ask if we would like any more sandwiches (not with scones coming!) and if we were ready for our scones (YES, ALWAYS YES!). The warm plain and raisin carb clouds were then served to us with homemade strawberry jam and Cornish clotted cream, making all our dreams come true.

Making a push for the sweets tier, I took small bites of everything to ensure no sugared stone went unturned. From favourite to could-still-be-a-favourite, the final plate featured white chocolate and raspberry lollipops, apple and honey cupcakes, lemon fruit tarts, caramel and hazelnut tranches, and passion fruit and raspberry macarons.

When a macaron comes ‘last’, you know you’re dealing with a pro.

lancaster london afternoon tea
lancaster london afternoon tea
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In Review: Le Meridien Piccadilly, London

le meridien piccadilly
With such an intensely hectic and successful year under our proverbial belts, The Manfriend and I booked in for a too-busy-to-leave-the-country staycation at Le Meridien Piccadilly.

It was a no-brainer.

Though the location is as covetable as any tourist guide would suggest, the hotel – which overlooks Piccadilly – is spacious, luxurious, and filled with the friendliest staff you could imagine.

From check-in to check-out, our stay was seamless. Welcomed to our room by two fresh eclairs and a handwritten note – points for the little things – it took less than a minute to feel completely at home (the London map wallpaper and Piccadilly Circus-branded bathroom mirror didn’t hurt).

A video posted by Lela London (@lelalondon) on

After playing tourist, ridding Gaucho of all their protein (as it’s only around the corner), and returning to crash into a bed for five (for two), we woke up the next morning and headed straight for the swimming pool and sauna. Underneath the hustle and bustle of Piccadilly, Le Meridien guests are lucky enough to enjoy one of the largest hotel swimming pools around – mood lighting, deck chairs and all. It was the perfect start to a jam-packed day and a jam-packed breakfast.

Le Meridien Piccadilly’s Terrace Grill & Bar, you see, turns into a bit of a breakfast wonderland in the mornings. Though you’d call it ‘continental’, the variety of buffet options available for the hotel’s patrons range from carrot cake muffins to very naughty slabs of brie. I am not a big fan of buffet-style set-ups, but was not at all disappointed by the schizophrenic selection of sweets and savouries that found their way onto my plate. Not one bit.

le meridien piccadilly
le meridien piccadilly
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In Review: Afternoon Tea at Hotel Cafe Royal

hotel cafe royal afternoon tea 3
I have frequented Hotel Cafe Royal a number of times over the past two years and each visit – inclusive of afternoon teas, dinners, champagne and caviar excursions, et all – has been a pleasure.

Nothing, however, prepared me for this afternoon tea. Swapping the Ten Room for the gold-dipped Oscar Wilde Bar, Chef Andrew Turner’s newly-launched London High Society afternoon tea menu ticked every opulent box you could imagine.

I would endeavour to put the Oscar Wilde into words, but you simply have to experience it for yourself. ‘Royal’ is an understatement.

Settled in among a hidden congregation of fellow afternoon gluttons, The Manfriend and I cheersed our glasses of Veuve Clicquot and perused the tea menu before the amuse bouche was served. The ‘Low Sidecar Muffin’ was a fluffy and savoury delight accented by truffled cream cheese and a miniature pipette of jus.

Shortly thereafter, my pot of Queensbury (a refreshing, herbal infusion of lemongrass, fennel seed
and liquorice root) arrived alongside three tiers of savouries. For each person, there was a wild boar, crackling, pickled apple and mustard bun, a goat’s cheese puff with wine jelly, a Mary Rose prawn cocktail canape, a London Cure smoked salmon and quail’s egg pastry, and an artfully presented “Cucumber and cream cheese” sandwich…

…all preceeding a palate cleanser of chocolate marshmallows and a shot of fruit tea, of course.

Pausing to take a mid-tea teabreak (oh yes, there’s more) while the pianist tinkled the ivories to a few familiar melodies, we finished our pots and welcomed the sweets and scones with open plates.

Though neither of us has a particular sweet tooth, we are veritable SconeHeads so chatted, jammed, and clotted-creamed our way through the small basket of fresh scones between bites of the other fruit-filled treats.

High points: Absinthe green fairy macarons, edible flower pots, and individual tubes of lemon curd.

High society may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but Cafe Royal’s edible version is instinctively praise-worthy.

hotel cafe royal afternoon tea 1
hotel cafe royal afternoon tea 8
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In Review: St Moritz Hotel, Cornwall

st moritz hotel cornwall 6
I am an overthinker of the highest degree. While it is probably one of the so-called ‘qualities’ that makes me a successful entrepreneur, overthinking has a real knack for taking away from the magic of travel.

Case in point: one is invited to the St Moritz Hotel in Cornwall, one overthinks as follows…
Cornwall is at least four hours from London isn’t it?
It is a beach spot…won’t it be dead in Autumn/Winter?
Oh God, the website is incredibly cheery…there are going to be children here.

Thankfully, Crazy Woman Brain was interrupted by the discovery of the food menu (JUST YOU WAIT) and the unexpected flood of hazy, saccharine memories – mostly searching for Merlin around the Cornish coast – as a child.

Cornwall was officially on the cards…

st moritz hotel cornwall 19
st moritz hotel cornwall 13
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