London and all that that entails…

6th Nov 2013
The independent Hotel Show at Olympia was the main attraction. I hate exhibitions though. Lots of bored salesmen standing around unenthusiastically trying to work out why there aren't any new emails in their phones.
Stayed at the new Edition, by Marriott. New cool brand. This is a continuation of the W trend. That is, no longer do you get a quietly bustling lobby but one that from 6pm at least throbs with the latest music and has a bar. Good use of space. In the old days we all used to have residents lounges. No more. We also wanted to try the new Jason Atherton restaurant, Berner's Tavern embedded in the Edition. The room wasn't ready when we arrived off the train, unsurprisingly, as it was only 12 noon.
Yes it's only 2hrs 45m on the train from the Lake District to London. Amazingly the same applies the other way round.
Chores to do. For me looking for examples of unstuffy service. Quick lunch first in Soho, one of the ubiquitous finer burger joints. They must be unstuffy. How can service in a burger joint be stuffy? But it was a bit superior. Decor very basic, like an update of the greasy spoon cafe. Burger comes accurately cooked, but fatty. Bun not bad. You have to assemble your own burger here. Suppose we should be grateful a waitress brought it to us.
Later tea at the Wolseley; denied. 30 minute wait? No thanks. It's good though. So instead, off to the Haymarket Hotel one of the lauded Firmdale group. They own some our favourite hotels in London. Normally very good but this time a good welcome then nothing. Seven staff standing around. It's quiet, only 4.30pm. Too early even in London for the drinking crowd. One of our industry's biggest problems even in the best places is getting staff to stay on the ball when it's quiet. When it does come, it's very nice. Lovely tea cups and saucers. Asked for hot water with the tea. Didn't come. Ask again. It always used to come without asking. Why has everyone stopped?
Then it's a quick visit to the second of the new hotel openings I want to see. This is the ME on Aldwych, right opposite the famous 1 Aldwych Hotel. Ground floor is Euro bling. Oh dear. Hard, metal, shrill, no subtlety. It is a Spanish group after all. I'd go back to 1 Aldwych if it was me.
Our hotel room was very good. No, we weren't getting a hotelier's deal. Loft room. Great views over to the Eye. The Edition is Schrager designed. Same as the Royalton in NYC and many others. Design fairly stark but somehow calming. Lighting was a bit of a struggle until we discovered that you had to hold the switches down so that the dimmer then worked. Maybe it's us. People have said our lighting in the bedrooms at Linthwaite is complicated. Some others love it. But you do have to help the customer and explain it a bit.
Dinner in the Berner's Tavern was booked for 7pm. Early, yes, but beggars can't be choosers. It's difficult getting in any time. No room at either bar.
So we sat down for dinner at the earliest time we've done for years. A complimentary glass of champagne arrived. Thanks! The service was pretty unstuffy. Contact with a number of different staff, all very good. Food superb. Go and try it. You need to book at least two months ahead.
Next morning J is off on a course. I'm off to the hotel exhibition. Both via Bill's. Bill Granger that is, famous Ozzy chef now landed in Notting Hill, home of the Beckhams, Ruby Wax et all. Good breakfast, but not quite the same as when we had it in Sydney. Take out a mortgage before you go.
To the exhibition. Some interesting features about music systems, technology, beds and bedding. Advice on how to buy a hotel. Wasn't there when I needed it.
Late lunch at another burger emporium. Well that was the plan but I gave up after 10 minutes of waiting and no eye contact with staff. Rubbish. What would it have cost to have rushed by and briefly address the hordes? That brand is now regarded by me as tarnished.
To another less well known establishment where they were grateful for my business. They aimed to please and delivered an above expectation experience.
Meetings, then back to the hotel. An early drink at the Charlotte Street Hotel, another Firmdale one, where we have always enjoyed good unstuffy service. Sure, it is very busy, but the service is fast because they want to turn the tables, yet there is no pressure for your table. Even the security guy on the door found us a table we hadn't seen. That's truly unstuffy. Hats off to the Firmdale training. I'd love to see how they do it. I'd apply for a job but somehow I don't think they'll take me.
Dinner at Moro, Exmouth market. This has a fantastic reputation. If you are into the Sadlers Wells Ballet, it's very near. Very unstuffy. Bare wooden well scrubbed tables. No ceremony. Just on with the business. Sit, drinks, food, bill. Buzzy atmosphere. Have I said how fantastic the food was? Fresh as a daisy. Beautifully cooked. Well paced. Will go back to this one. Try the veggie mezze. Wines were great as was the sherry and the bill wasn't daft, even for London.
Second morning. Continuing the tour of hotels. First a brief breakfast at the Edition. Lovely OJ, coffee and Beucher muesli but the service was a bit array. The waiter informed the next table this was his first breakfast. Shouldn't be doing that. Eyes not open. Difficult getting coffee top up and the bill. Early days though. It will settle down and feel like it's always been there in next to no time.
To South Place. This is a hotel in the City that claims to be the only independently owned hotel there. I'm all for that. It's got style, polish, good staff, great service and I want to go and stay there. I didn't see the roof terrace as it wasn't open at the time I was there but the pictures look great.
Then to the ACE in Hoxton. Of course there is already the uber cool Hoxton and this is one to rival it. Ace started in Seattle. It's the first in the UK. The guy behind it is the same brain box who started the W's. This is much more relaxed and has less of a city feel. It's very new so settling down. The food I had was great though. Beware, most here are in their 30's. I felt old. But they couldn't sort the WiFi out.
Finally, off to the Tate modern for a dose of art and a cup of tea. Then it's back on the train and home to the beautiful Lake District.
I've had my city fix for now.