Craig’s review… If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like staying in a 5-star hotel then let me just say one thing: heated toilet seats. It’s like sitting on a warmed up oven. I’ve never sat on a toilet that has to be plugged into the mains before. That’s why the room costs £450 quid a night – you’re paying £200 quid just for the toilet!
They’ve also got a space-age telly that’s floating inside the middle of the mirror. It’s a bit like one of those hologram screens you sometimes see on Star Trek. It’s almost like magic! I think I’m just going to stay in this toilet for two days because it’s fantastic.
The Shangri-La is halfway up The Shard, by the way. (Did I not mention that? I was too busy talking about the toilet.) The hotel spans floors 34 to 52 (of 72) and my room is on the 45th. When you first enter the hotel you have to say hello to the welcome desk downstairs, where you’ll get met by a nice lady who whisks you up 35 floors in the lift. Then you have to do all of your form-filling and signing to do at the reception, where you’ll get met by another nice lady who’ll whisk you up another load of floors to your room.
The room is a bit of a knockout. It’s not exactly huge for a luxury hotel, but the view is something else entirely. If you thought that the London Eye was high then you’re wrong. Compared to The Shard the London Eye is a midget. I paid for a ‘City View’ room that looks out over Bankside and the Square Mile. I can see everything from Big Ben and Parliament in the west, right round the bend of the Thames to The City, with St. Paul’s in the center. It doesn’t quite go far enough around to see Tower Bridge, but some of their other rooms must do (but then you won’t be able to see Big Ben). The farthest thing that I can recognise is the tall arch of Wembley Stadium.
The windows are all floor-to-ceiling so it’s actually quite scary when you walk up close – but they provide you with a pair of binoculars and a seat by the window so you can just sit and relax if you want, and watch the trains snaking their way into London Bridge station. I can follow their entire railway journey from Waterloo East to Cannon Street station from my seat in the sky – if you’re a train spotter then this is your dream come true. I’m probably looking at a million people up here. A million people and fifty-thousand rooftops. A quick count reveals eight river bridges and three different cathedrals – St. Paul’s, Southwark and Westminster Cathedral. Plus Westminster Abbey as well. The binoculars bring out Whitehall and maybe Buckingham Palace as well, but the sunlight is starting to make it a shade hazy. Imagine being able to see all of that, plus the Bank of England, Tate Modern and Nelson’s Column all in the same view. (You will need the binoculars and some good geography knowledge to see Nelson – so good luck!)
The view at night is absolutely amazing. It makes you realise how big the city actually is when you see all the lights come to life – they cover every speck of land to the wide horizon, like a load of dodgy pixels flashing on and off. And then you look down and see a snake of cars and buses, and tiny little ants clearing out of the office blocks and walking home across the bridge. I feel like a spy satellite sitting here, nosing down on people’s lives whilst they wander along oblivious.
So what else is in the room? Well… the first time you enter they will have warmed up a pot of tea for you which I thought that was a nice touch, until I discovered that it was Chinese tea, with no milk and a load of herbal weeds in it (I poured it down the sink). Luckily you get a little Nespresso machine with a load of complimentary capsules as well, which is probably the only thing I’ll drink all week. They’ve put a little Pot Noodle in the cupboard as well (but with a much posher sounding name than Pot Noodle – but we all know it’s a Pot Noodle) plus a few tubs of nuts and shortbread. I daren’t eat any of this stuff because I don’t know how much it costs – I haven’t found the minibar menu yet.
Okay, I’ve found it now… here we go. Have a listen to this. Nuts = £7. Plain packet of crisps = £7. A normal sized can of Coke = £4. A tiny little bar of chocolate about the same size as a credit card = £5. A little minibar-sized bottle of Jack Daniels = £9.
There’s also a little school set in the desk drawer in case you have any homework to do, with a pair of scissors in it, a stapler, pencil, pencil sharpener, plus some Tipex tape in case you make any mistakes. And here’s something strange: I’ve just discovered a big chunky torch in the drawer. I’m assuming that’s in case we need to evacuate the skyscraper in total darkness. That’s a bit worrying! I immediately start thinking of the Towering Inferno with Steve McQueen.
But here comes the bad news… I’ve been here for two nights now and I don’t like the restaurant and bar very much. Silly old me just assumed that because it was a 5-star hotel it would always have a place to eat and drink. Well it doesn’t. It turns out that you need to book a reservation because they’re so busy (because of the view). And they’ve stupidly decided to let in people off the street as well, with no preference given to the guests. So if you decide to go down there on a whim then you may as well forget it – you’ve got no chance of getting in. I got turned away myself, and heard another guy complaining at the desk when he suffered the same fate. Another couple had to keep one eye on the clock because they’d been given a deadline to leave. Who’s ever heard of booking time slots in a hotel bar? It doesn’t seem like a very friendly way to treat your high-paying guests.
They also do that cheeky thing of pre-authorising a load of extra money on your credit card just in case you decide to make some phone calls to Peru or order some champagne from room service. And it’s a very hefty charge: 200 quid a night (on top of the £450 a night that you’ve already paid for the room). That 200 quid a night then becomes frozen money that you can’t spend until your holiday is over.
Here is my final advice: this hotel is all about the view, which is absolutely fantastic, but I don’t think it’s worth staying overnight for – not when you can just see the view on a twenty-five quid tourist ticket. If you want a luxurious 5-star then it’s got to be The Ritz every time.