The great anticipation was over a month ago when Shangri-La opened in London its third property in Europe after Paris and Istanbul. Despite criticism over its delayed opening, upon my arrival at the hotel, I could not help but grasp on the audacity to develop such a complex project in Europe.
The Shangri-La at The Shard is marking several firsts for Europe occupying the top floors of the 72-storey tower, including several dining venues, a swimming pool and a Spa. Shangri-La and developer Qatari Diar have taken on, not only the technical challenges but have also bet on setting new standards for re-developing an entire area of London, by London Bridge, which would hardly command a premium positioning.
Renzo Piano‘s iconic tower is indeed spectacular, as much as from the outside (having changed indefinitely London’s skyline), as from the inside. Besides the views, expect a WOW factor to take you back at every corner of the hotel – the lobby on the 35th floor, the exquisite art-works throughout the hotel and a unique blend of European contemporary style with subtle Asian touches.
No wonder the hotel is attracting both the attention of Londoners and foreign travellers. During my stay, I was pleasantly surprised how the hotel has achieved, in such a short amount of time from opening, to attract a majority leisure clientele, in an area of London which is within proximity of the City, the corporate district of the city, a 15 minute cab ride from Mayfair.
Less than two months since opening, the hotel had its restaurants and bar fully booked, with an ideal mix of hotel guests and locals. Evenings were a truly a glamorous affair, with very elegantly dressed customers, who could hardly hide their surprise when reaching the 35th floor and gazing at what seem endless views of London. Surely, they were first attracted by the views, but the quality of the service and food is also exceptional. That is why, I am sure the hotel will continue strive to meet and, ideally, surpass, the expectations of the most discerning travellers.
I had to admit, when planning my trip, I had set out with realistic expectations, considering the construction and location challenges. As for rooms, I certainly was not expecting a Peninsula but rather a top business hotel, with all the amenities and services of a regular five star property. And indeed, accommodations feature many ‘standard’ furnishings which can be found in a new Marriott or Hilton property. The major differences: service, location and personalized service!
While I did not find dramatic the fact that one could overlook to its neighbouring room, due to the positioning of rooms, I believe there are still teething issues, which the team is well aware of, such as air-conditioning, the fresh air supply as well as the heating/cooling of bathrooms. I am sure they will addressed as a top priority. Other ‘basics’ I found to be flawless: high-speed wi-fi internet throughout the entire hotel (complimentary), SmartTv’s, comfortable working desks, free-standing bathtubs with floor to ceiling views (in some rooms), separate glass enclosed showers with good water pressure and Acqua di Parma amenities – to mention but a few.
For a property in less than two months in operation, Shangri-La has brought its unique expertise in customer service, the operator having put together an exceptional team, at many of my encounters with the staff, feeling how proud they are to be working for this landmark property. I am certain that service levels will not only be maintained but furtther enhanced. It will also be interesting to see how the hotel will balance its corporate and leisure positioning.
I look forward to returning to the property once it will be fully operational, especially its infinity pool and Spa, which I am sure will provide for a further exceptional experience.
Oliver Petcu in London
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