Experience London luxury at The Langham

The executive room in The Langham London. (Supplied)
Updated 31 December 2018

Experience London luxury at The Langham

  • The holiday season in London is magical
  • If you want to experience truly authentic British hospitality in London, then it doesn’t get more fancy than The Langham hotel

DUBAI: The holiday season in London is magical. The festive lights, the cool crisp winter air, and the food — oh, the glorious food.
Staying in the UK capital during this time is, simply, a holiday must-do. A trip you should book at least once in your life. And if you want to experience truly authentic British hospitality in London, then it doesn’t get more fancy than The Langham hotel.

Located in the West End — amidst Mayfair, Marylebone, Soho and Fitzrovia — the five-star property is overflowing with history. Built between 1863 and 1865, the then-most-modern hotel in England was opened by then-Prince of Wales, Edward VII. The Langham has hosted many prominent figures, including the Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde, British prime minister Winston Churchill, French statesman Charles de Gaulle, and Princess Diana of Wales.

It has also made many appearances on TV and in film, most notably the James Bond movie “GoldenEye,” whilst one of its restaurants was the main setting for Bradley Cooper’s culinary drama, “Burnt.”
Today, it remains an institution — one that is favored by GCC customers. Not only is the service on par with luxury properties in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, for example, but the property does its very best to accommodate individual guest requests.
A holiday in London — or anywhere in the UK for that matter — wouldn’t be complete without a spot of afternoon tea, and with The Langham London serving the traditional fare since 1865, you know you’ll experience one of the best examples the city has to offer.
And best of all; the ground floor’s Palm Court, where the tea is hosted, caters to all. If you book in advance, you can request a halal version of the Langham Afternoon Tea with Wedgwood, which includes halal-certified beef pastrami. Priced at $70, the experience is split into three ‘courses’ — sandwiches, followed by scones with Cornish clotted cream and strawberry jam, and ending with a selection of pastries and desserts. And all served with tea, of course.

It can be difficult to find spacious hotel rooms in London, but you won’t be disappointed here. We stayed in the ‘smallest’ Superior Room category (from $515 per night). It’s 28 square meters, so there’s really nothing small about it. It comes with a magnificently comfortable bed, as well as 32-inch LCD TV (with Arabic channels, of course), a Nespresso machine, and marble bathroom. There are 10 other room categories, including the glamorous penthouse Sterling Suite (a generous 450 square meters).
While room service is available, we did find it a tad expensive (about $45 for Middle Eastern mezze?) But if you’re thinking of bringing food from another establishment to your room, you won’t be able to do so without paying for the privilege. Which seems a bit much to be honest.

If you want to stay in one day, for $115 you can purchase a Langham Club Lounge pass (free to those in an executive room, junior suite or one-bedroom suite), which grants you access to the hotel’s exclusive lounge, featuring bites created in collaboration with celeb chefs Albert Roux OBE and Michel Roux Jr. There’s also a mini afternoon tea on offer.
The Langham is running festive promotions until the second week of January, and details of those deals and the best rates can be found on the website. There are further fab deals for February onwards too.
Meanwhile, if you’re heading to London for NYE and would like to see out 2018 in style, then a three- or five-course dinner will be available at Palm Court, with jazz entertainment on the side (from $146). Or opt for the French seven-course dinner option at the excellent Roux at the Landau ($375 per person).

Sensational Sikkim: Exploring the unspoiled wilderness from Chumbi Mountain Resort

The Chumbi Mountain Resort. (Supplied)
Updated 15 January 2019

Sensational Sikkim: Exploring the unspoiled wilderness from Chumbi Mountain Resort

  • Chumbi Mountain Retreat is located in India, in the northeastern state of Sikkim
  • The retreat is both a luxury resort and a repository of traditional culture and craft

DUBAI: At the ungodly hour of 6 a.m., I was awoken by a phone call from reception. “Madam, we have a really clear view of Kanchenjunga mountain this morning, so Mr. Chopel has asked us to wake you, so you can see it,” said a disembodied voice, apologetically but with a sense of urgency.

I smiled and flung open the curtains, and there it was. The majestic Himalayan mountain — the world’s third-highest — looked like it was right outside my bedroom window, within touching distance. Clustered with its neighboring snow-clad peaks, it sparkled a bright white, against the impossibly blue skies.

General view of Kanchenjunga mountain.(Shutterstock)

That’s the kind of thing that you don’t mind dragging yourself out of bed — and barefoot onto the cold stone terrace — for; to capture that perfect photo before the fleeting view disappears behind a veil of clouds.

And it’s the kind of personal touch that makes the Chumbi Mountain Retreat special. Owner Ugyen Chopel (a filmmaker and prominent local personality) has made it is his mission to showcase this little-known corner of paradise to the world.

The retreat is situated in India, near the Himalayas in the northeastern state of Sikkim — the country’s second smallest and one of its youngest, having remained a Buddhist monarchy until as recently as 1975. Sikkim has a rich and unique heritage, as well as the more recent distinction of being India’s first fully organic (in terms of agriculture) state.

Nestled in the hills of Pelling in western Sikkim, Chumbi Mountain Retreat is both a luxury resort and a repository of traditional culture and crafts. The traditional monastic design and motifs recreated using natural materials such as local stone and wood, in an artisanal approach, and the many hand-picked historic artifacts used in the décor make staying in this serene hideaway an immersive experience.

Nowhere is this truer than at Dyenkhang, an intimate specialty restaurant offering authentic local cuisine in the traditions of the royal palace. It’s the only place in Sikkim offering this kind of meal, I was told.

The food is served in a traditionally reverential manner — the servers are meant to never show their back to the diner — on gleaming copper tableware, the fit-for-a-king feast includes phing zekar (glass noodles with marinated local greens); chu zhema (cottage cheese dumplings); gundtruk sadako (fermented greens tossed with onion and chilli); and phyasha saltum (chicken cooked in traditional herbs).

The fresh, organic produce ensures each dish bursts with flavor. But dinner here is as educational as it is delicious, providing an insight into the many influences that went into shaping Sikkimese culture and cuisine.

Another great way to experience that local culture is with a traditional ‘Dottho’ hot-stone bath in the resort’s zen-like Mhenlha Spa. An Al-fresco soak in a wooden tub with heated mineral stones added to the water together with local herbs makes for a healing, hugely relaxing experience — aided by a fermented rice drink which you are meant to sip throughout.

With its vantage point boasting panoramic views across the valley, and with numerous nooks and communal spaces to relax in, guests may be tempted to simply stay in the resort for the duration of their trip. But that would be a shame, as there is a great deal more to see in this unspoiled region.

From the scenic Khecheopalri Lake (which, local folklore has it, has the power to grant wishes) and the impressive perennial Kanchenjunga waterfall, to the sacred Pemayangtse monastery — a mountaintop Buddhist temple where fluttering prayer flags and meditative chanting create a rarified atmosphere of tranquility — excursion options abound. For the more adventurous, trekking and hiking trails are also available nearby, as are farm tours.

Kanchenjunga waterfall. (Shutterstock)

Truth be told, this isn’t the easiest place to get to or around — the roads aren’t great and Sikkim’s overall infrastructure is still developing. But those making the effort to visit this remote land will be rewarded with stunning alpine landscapes, great hospitality from unaffected, friendly people, and an inescapable sense of spiritual wellbeing. And, who knows, maybe even an elusive sighting of some of the world’s greatest mountain peaks.