Is that Sir David Frost?” I ask my other half, as we step outside The Langham Hotel in London.
This place is directly opposite the BBC’s Broadcasting House. Not a bad area, then, for star-spotting. But my celebrity identification skills aren’t so hot. It turned out that the dapper silver-haired gentleman was Melvin Bragg.
The Marylebone location is just part of the appeal of this fabulous 380-room hotel. That, and the history. The green plaque outside marks the month – August 1889 – when Oscar Wilde, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Joseph Marshall Stoddart met at this hotel, the latter of whom was commissioning the others to write for his publication, Lippincott’s Monthly. The result: Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mystery, The Sign of Four.
However, it is most definitely not an olde worlde space. Instead, the 140-year-old building – whose sandstone exterior appeared in the James Bond film, Goldeneye – has recently undergone an £80 million refurbishment, and they’ve chosen a rather contemporary look.
Although a member of staff confided that he was a bit sad that they’d removed a lot of the original 19th century woodwork, I hadn’t seen this place before the make-over, so I could only be impressed with its current appearance.
It’s the flowers that you notice as soon as you step into the aircraft hangar-sized foyer, with its marble columns. Huge displays of pale pink roses fill the space with their fragrance. And the chandeliers. Oh my. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such sparkly creations.
The staff are friendlier than those in any hotel I’ve ever visited. Expect to hear, “Hello” (plus, as is appropriate, “sir” or “madam”) every time you turn a corner, and be beamed at.
From the reception area, spy into the newly updated Palm Court, which won an Award of Excellence from The Tea Guild London’s Top Afternoon Tea Awards 2012. It’s like the inside of a Venetian jewellery box. There is a mosaic floor, bevel-edged mirrored panels, a glossy blue piano, low-slung red velvet chairs and, on our visit, an Alice in Wonderland-esque teapot on each table, which held a velvety red rose.
They also serve breakfast in this glamorous room – or you can eat your morning meal more formally, in the Roux at the Landau restaurant.
However, we saved the latter – a collaboration between father and son chefs Albert Roux and Michel Roux Junior, plus their protégée, Chris King – for dinner.
Dover sole, venison and roast partridge was presented under a silver cloche. The food here is classically French, with a modern twist, and the surroundings are opulent, with sage green banquettes and wood panelled walls. Although the other guests looked moneyed, the ambience wasn’t buttoned up.
If, however, you don’t want to eat in the hotel, the W1 area is your oyster.
In the mood for Christmas shopping? Then you’re a snowball’s throw away from Oxford Street.
We were brave enough to tackle Selfridges and Topshop, which left us in the mood for unadulterated red meat, so we visited the Piccadilly branch of Argentinian steak chain Gaucho. Prepare to squint, as this third-floor eatery is dimly lit – all part of the sexy vibe, which also includes gorgeous staff and cow-hide soft furnishings.
As a guitar player strummed in the corner, we ate huge fillet steaks – a churrasco de lomo spiral cut of beef and a relatively neat medallion – with their natural partners of fat chips.
Then, it was early home, so we could pretend to be lord and lady of the manor in our huge room at The Langham, with its red velvet chairs and marshmallow-soft bedding.
Before catching the train, the next morning was monopolised by a relaxing trip to this hotel’s Chuan Spa, with its 16-metre swimming pool, sauna, technogym and all the trimmings.
When it comes to the treatments, location, food and atmosphere, this place is hard to beat.
It’s definitely worth a visit, even if you’re not lucky enough to spot David Frost.
The Facts Returns between Edinburgh and London start from £29, www.eastcoast.co.uk; classic rooms at The Langham, 1C Portland Place, Westminster, London, start from £283.50 per night. www.london.langhamhotels.co.uk