By JIMOH BABATUNDE
THE Langham Hotel, London has remained focus to the ideal behind its construction as an elegant, glamorous and grand hotel in 1865. It has also not lost the legendary afternoon tea served at the dazzling Palm Court that has remained its signature for over 140 years.
Sitting in midst of some visiting journalists at the dazzling Palm Court , the centre piece of the property recently, Brian Gore, Director of Communication of the hotel, was at his best as he tells why the hotel has remained the number one in terms of services and history. Here is an excerpt.
ON using the history of the hotel to market the product:
The hotel has a long history. When it was built in 1865, at that time it was really the first grand hotel to be built, it was a purpose built hotel. At a time it was the largest building in London, there were other hotels at the time but were smaller, there were guest houses.
So when it was built, it was the first hotel to have lift, it was the first hotel to have bath rooms with the bedrooms; it was the first hotel to have telephones in all the rooms. It was always in the first in the use of other technology.
We use the history to tell the story of the hotel and the afternoon tea as a prime example, because when we opened in 1865, we served afternoon tea on the menu and it cost seven pence at the time, but the afternoon tea was invented here at the hotel.
It was actually started by Duchess of Bedford in 1840s, she was a lady of dignity, she was a member of the high society, she used to get tired in the afternoon and will ask her staff to bring her some of the left over from lunch to eat in her room where she is in the afternoon, and then she will invite her friends to come and join her where they will have tea and pastries and so on. That was where it started.
So, when we opened in 1865 there was no else like this in London, there was no other dinning experience like this in London, we had one of the biggest dinning rooms in London and we were serving afternoon tea. We want to say that the real traditional afternoon tea you have today in London actually began here, this palm court in this building.
When we tie history to the hotel, the hotel was built in the Victoria period in London, beautiful Victoria façade in the front of the hotel, which is not normally the case with hotels in London. Some of the hotels are newly built; they dont look as stunning as this hotel is.
Also the location means that we are right in the heart of London, so when the hotel was built, London was kind of growing round the hotel and we are still much at the centre, so we have shopping on our doorsteps, we have parks at our doorsteps, if you want to go the theaters in the evenings, they are at our doorsteps.
So, we are really in the centre and that comes from our history, you can’t build a big hotel like this in a location like this any more , it is never going to happen again. So we have that advantage to us.
On tourist attractions close to the hotel:
The museums, British museum is very close by, some of the parks, regent park is close by here , we have the theaters, the shopping streets of London, we have Regent street, Bond street, oxford street, that is the main shopping area for shopping in London is right here in our door steps.
We have places like the Buckingham palace which is ten minutes walk from here; the London Eye is very close; the tower bridge is close. So, we are really in the heart of London, everything is close by.
On the traditional afternoon tea:
Afternoon tea is such a tradition , the experience here is very involved, so it is a lovely relax atmosphere when you come in and from the room you can see that it is very calm and you can take your time , take two hours and just relax. People come here for celebrations like birthday, weddings and come here to have fun. I think the experience here is probably one of the best in London.
The experience you get here is different from any other hotel. Peaceful lounge, it is luxurious and you can take your time to enjoy live music.
On the restaurant:
The Landau restaurant opened last year, we have father and son Albert and Michel Roux Jr as the chef, and they have incredible history in London. They are very famous, the junior is a TV personality, he has a lot of TV shows, he is very well known in this country. His father opened the first restaurant and handed down to the son, he went into semi retirement, but came back after twenty years to work with the son here.
It has been a great success, I think they wanted to come here because of the prestige of the hotel, the location, we have a beautiful dinning room, amazing kitchen set up which is a great asset to have.
We have two main restaurants, the Landau and the Palm Court as well. We served afternoon tea at Palm Court and also served break fast here as well as meal. The third option is our bar, which also serve bar food as well.
On the rooms
We have 380 rooms. One of the unique thing about our rooms are that they are just refurbished, but because we have large number of rooms, we can do lot of different things, so we may take a large group of people coming into London, we have product like inter connecting rooms which are popular with families.
The concept behind the rooms’ interior is that we are traditional hotel and we have a great history and the same time try to bring in the contemporary touch to that, to make them modern. You notice that when you get to the rooms, there are still traditional features, as you will expect in hotel bedrooms, but the unique twist to the furniture , the colours used are quite contemporaries .
We are so close to many of the tourist attractions in London, many people come to London for shopping , we are perfectly placed for that as we are right in the centre , but we also have a new spa , we have a gym, we have swimming pool, one of the largest in London . The swimming pool is located in the first bank vault here.
On how to maintain the hotel’s history:
It is staying true to the original idea behind the hotel when it was built; you can’t convert the hotel into contemporary hotel or designer hotel, because it will not work. One of our assets is this beautiful building we are in and as I said you will never be able to build this again.