When we got off the bus it was approaching midnight and it was not a perfect world. We were tired and thanks to the light rain we felt like we were turning from damp to soggy as we trudged across the road to our digs for the night, The Renaissance LHR. Just over a year ago we had a wonderful stay here on the first night of our honeymoon trip to Japan and despite the late hour we were very much looking forward to our stay.
Renaissance London Heathrow
Room: Standard Room
Status: Bonvoy Gold
As I said it was approaching midnight and for some reason both the regular line and the elite line had long queues with just two staff on hand to check people in. It felt like we were in the slowest queue in the world and all we could think about was sleep. There was a man at the front of the elite queue and we could hear every excruciating word coming out of his mouth. He wasn’t quite doing the Diamond Guest routine but to us it felt like he was doing Diamond Guest the musical! I believe he was looking for a suite with a connecting room and had questions about every single thing in the hotel. I sincerely hope he was staying for the week as honestly playing 20 questions at midnight at a hotel check in desk is not going to win you any friends and whilst it may influence people, you probably don’t want to be influencing them into a furious rage.
Whilst I was boiling up something more than a cup of tea inside, some additional check in staff appeared and worked at a furious rate to clear down the queues. The tour group to our right soon shuffled off key cards in hand and everyone else other than our friend at the front was happily headed up to bed. He was truly determined to enjoy every last moment of checking in. Finally it was our turn and we were warmly welcomed and checked in as quickly as humanly possibly without being rude. Thank you kind check in lady for understanding that the only thing on our minds were dropping our bags and hitting the hay.
We took the lift up and followed the signs to our room. It was right at the end of the corridor and according to the floor plan the largest on that level. First impressions were that this room was just like the one we had last time but without the runway view. The next impression was that the room reeked of damp/mould. We hoped that by turning up the air conditioning it would clear the smell. The air conditioning didn’t really make any impact on the odour but by now we’d unpacked, changed for bed and had foolishly decide to brave it out. I struggled to sleep and I struggled even more so to fit in a pun about breathing to this section of the trip report. I was more worried about Anne-So than my pun due to her asthma, thankfully we made it through the night unscathed but unhappy. I realise in hindsight we should have asked to move rooms but it was 12:30 am by the time we got into bed and we knew we’d be up before 9 am and then down to breakfast.
After a shocking attempt at a nights sleep we got ready and headed down to breakfast. Service here was excellent.
We recieved a really friendly welcome, were shown to our seats and offered a nice pot of high quality hotel coffee. We explored the buffet and in addition to the usual full English, omelette station and carbolicious goodies were a few sneaky South Asian breakfast delights. Of course I indulged.
Check out was thankfully easier than check in, though disappointingly our complaint about the room was quickly brushed aside with an apology straight from the auto-cue (I should know as I’ve done a fair few like this over the years when there was little I could do to fix a situation there and then). To be fair to the hotel after I filled in the satisfaction survey for our stay I received a sincere and apologetic e-mail from the GM the very next day offering us a suite on our next stay. Now if I can convince Anne-So to return I’ll be taking her up on that offer of that suite!
We hopped back on the bus to Heathrow. No we were not going back up in the air but deep down into the ground. Yes, the Underground into Central London to meet our friend S. As per usual the Piccadilly Line spluttered along through West London and into town. About an hour after leaving Heathrow we met up with S and dropped off our bags at her flat. We then went back the way we just came to catch up with our friend C to help her celebrate a very special birthday with a meal at Cinnamon Bazaar.
We were nicely greeted at the entrance and at first we were unsure as to why we had booked as the restaurant appeared empty. The menu set up was also a little confusing as there were a number of set options but it was not immediately obvious to us without explanation as to what was included with each one. I ended up going for the weekend brunch option with a cocktail as I figured with what I wanted to eat I was going to spend more or less the same but this way I at least got a rather fun cocktail with my lunch. Everyone else just ordered a la carte. By the time we had placed our order we were glad to have booked a table as when our starters came out the restaurant was jam packed, no doubt helped by a very well behaved tour group of teens. Lucky them!
We started with some chaats, the Crab Bonda & Lamb Galauti Kebab
Doesn’t my cocktail look pretty? It was also rather refreshing as well, making a change from my usual beer.
And for mains I had the Lucknow Style Chicken Biryani and the others had a portion of the House Daal, Paneer Mattar Malsala, Butter Chicken and some plain rice.
I have to say I was really impressed with my biryani. It was well spiced and loaded with large chunks of juicy chicken and topped with crispy onions. I also mixed in the occasional dollop of pomegranate laden yogurt to take the edge off the heat and put out the happy fire in my mouth! I love a well balanced biryani, one that builds up with a mix of chilli and whole spices. This one really delivered and I was very impressed.
There was only one let down for me and was the Chocolate Rossogulla dessert. I’m not really sure what it was and whilst it did cleanse my palate it was not filled with the rich, dark chocolatey goodness I was hoping for.
Our friend C was given a little birthday cake and the ladies finished with a big pot of chai which they loved.
We settled up at the second attempt after our first bill seemed to be priced from a mystery menu we had not seen. It was a good meal and best of all C enjoyed it a lot and as it was for her birthday that’s what counted.
So what was next on the agenda after a long lunch? A trip to the Banqueting House with a little dose of anti-Brixit marchers. Thankfully we were not going there to eat but to marvel at one of the oldest buildings in London with it’s beautiful ceilings and a grand history of entertaining some of the most important people in the world of politics and royalty. It was actually a great spot to chill out, find a space, crank up the audio guide and whisk ourselves off to times past. It turned out that the walls of this place certainly had ears!
As it was a lovely day we continued our touristic London walk with a trip through St James Park, strolling round the pond, watching the birds and watching the people watching the birds. It was nice and relaxing.
Before saying good-bye to C we headed to Ole and Steen for a pastry and a coffee as being after 5 pm the better independent places in the West End had now closed. It was a lovely early evening to be sat outside.
We had one last thing on the agenda that day, a trip to the BFI to see Varda by Agnes. But first a G&T on the upstairs terrace. Why the terrace wasn’t packed out like the rest of the bars I have no idea but we weren’t complaining! We loved the film made which was made up of bits of her talks and clips of her films. We were so lucky to have seen Agnes Varda in person at the BFI last year, she truly was a remarkable woman and I hope her work continues to live on through the ages.
Whilst we were done for the day we were not done for the weekend. We were determined to wind down from our trip with a proper Sunday funday before returning to work. That said, Sunday funday didn’t go quite to plan. We tried and eventually failed (again) to get into the Stanley Kubrick Exhibition at the Design Museum. In the end we had to accept that there was no way we were getting in with our 2 for 1 voucher at the weekend, so we made our peace and had a pleasant walk through Holland Park. I’ve always loved the Kyoto Garden there but this time I didn’t. It was our first time back there after having visited Japan and to be honest what once felt like a place from a perfect world now felt messy, crowded and imprecise compared to the magnificent gardens in Kyoto. All this little excursion did was to make us want to go to back to Japan.
Once upon a time we were lucky enough to live in this part of London and at times I miss it very much. We walked in the direction of one of our favourite cheap eats in area, Alounak. Today was our lucky day and we did not have to queue. Over the 10 years or so we have been visiting Alounak doesn’t really change. Service is a little cold, the food comes when it comes which often means mains arrive on top of starters and the bread to mop up said starters comes straight from the oven and goes cold before they arrive… But why do we keep coming back and ordering the same things over and over again? Well the food is delicious. Fresh made starters with hot buttered flat breads straight from the oven and best of all two huge minced lamb kebabs, buttery, soft and meaty served on a bed of perfectly cooked saffron rice and priced at under a tenner. Yes please, I could come here every week (and actually for a time we almost did). All that delicious food was washed down with some fresh mint tea saturated with loads of sugar. Foodie heaven, so, so good!
We ambled through Hyde Park in an attempt to walk off lunch, reminiscing about the old days whilst heading in the direction of the museums.
We had a few hours to kill before the musical extravaganza we had booked for ourselves later in the evening and found ourselves on Exhibition Road where I pulled rank and suggested we head to the National History Museum to go and see the moon! After finding the moon in a small room filled with screeching kids and flashing cameras on selfie-sticks we decided upon heading to somewhere we felt might be a touch more serene in setting, the V&A. It was not, even the cafe was carnage when we ordered some coffees. Fights for tables, long queues, slow service and then getting kicked out for closing just as we were finishing our last sips. OK, maybe another day for the V & A!
After the museums we headed for the Royal Albert Hall, for tonight we were Prommers with our cheap as chips standing tickets we’d booked online that morning. I have to say that the queuing system for those on the cheapskate tickets was a touch convoluted and I’m not sure in the end if any of it mattered in terms of the view we got but anyway…
To cut a long story short there were two queuing systems, one to queue for a spot to buy a ticket which we had bypassed by logging on first thing in the morning to purchase online. The second queuing system kicks in once you have your ticket. You then get a queuing ticket which determines how early you can get into the venue. We initially missed this intricacy of the proceedings and lost about 50 places in the queue for the queue. Shortly before the doors were due to open we were lined up into a battalion of Prommers in rows of 20 before being marched towards the doors.
Whilst it felt like we were near the back of this queue we actually ended up right near the stage. I was thrilled, my first time at the Albert Hall and what a spot for such a low price.
The highlight (for us at least) of Prom 4 was listening to the childhood classic of Holst’s The Planets. Both a staple of school music classes (From S and I) and a vinyl that regularly graced the record deck at home I was excited and I thought my excitement was a touch contagious. Anne-So had never heard of The Planets, prior to my mentioning it, so this would be her first musical ride across the Solar System. But first there was some other music that featured what I can only describe in my non-classical music level expertise as a violin virtuoso, Nemanja Radulović. I’m not sure how one becomes a violin virtuoso but it usually seems to involve having crazy hair and/or clothes, moving around a lot, looking like you feel the emotion of each note and not having a score to follow. In other words being the opposite of everyone else in the orchestra. Whilst the man had a talent his taste for the dramatic become a touch annoying after a while.
Whilst my legs were a touch numb by the time The Planets blasted into action I enjoyed myself immensely. The dynamic range of the music from deafening to near silence was something very special. Often when going to see live music the drums and bass often dominate to the point where some of the lighter sounds get lost in the mix. Not so tonight, every last note was crystal clear from the triangle to the violin and those giant timpani drums that always make me think of a classic Hitchcock movie.
And with that it was time to head back to our friend’s place as the next day we were back to work!
Thanks for following my tale if you made it to the end. Up next a brief interlude and then our epic 2018 trip to Japan.