’Tis the sea­son to go shop­ping in London

If you are think­ing of a pre-Christ­mas treat, Sarah Mar­shall has a few ideas for mak­ing it mem­o­rable, es­pe­cially for the younger mem­bers of the fam­ily

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - GLOBE TROTTING -

Most chil­dren have been count­ing down the days to Christ­mas since… well, since last Christ­mas, and as De­cem­ber ap­proaches, they’re prob­a­bly reach­ing some sort of tran­sient, tinsel-themed higher state.

In­dulge their ex­cite­ment with a trip to the cap­i­tal, where the streets re­ally do ap­pear to be paved with gold – if you stand be­neath the dis­plays on Re­gent Street for long enough.

One patch in par­tic­u­lar ap­pears to glow more brightly, at least in the eyes of chil­dren, so don’t be sur­prised to see them flut­ter like moths in the di­rec­tion of Santa’s one-stop shop, Ham­ley’s.

A trip to the toy Mecca is also part of a new Dukes And Duchesses pack­age of­fered by town­house ho­tel, Dukes, with wide-eyed young shop­pers trans­ported through May­fair in a royal rick­shaw. Once they’ve com­piled their stock­ing wish lists, they can visit M&M’s World, fin­ish­ing with a fam­ily trip to see Matilda The Mu­si­cal.

To re­ally make chil­dren feel spe­cial, they’ll also be pre­sented with lav­ish out­fits (a pink gown or a three-piece cos­tume with sash and mil­i­tary hat) and an af­ter­noon tea of cakes and flavoured milks.

Although Dukes is a pol­ished five-star prop­erty, it’s also re­fresh­ingly re­laxed and tol­er­ant; a few sticky fin­ger­prints on the ma­hogany ban­is­ters, or the sound of lit­tle feet thun­der­ing along plush car­peted cor­ri­dors won’t raise any eye­brows.

Nigel Mend­ham’s Thirty-Six restau­rant wel­comes young din­ers for break­fast, and after dark, par­ents can es­cape to the Per­rier Jouet lounge, a draw­ing room sparkling in fizzy lime tones, to find some fes­tive cheer of their own.

The Mini Dukes And Duchesses pack­age costs from £390 (for a fam­ily of four) per night with break­fast. Af­ter­noon Tea for chil­dren and cos­tumes in­cluded. Visit www.dukeshotel.com or call 020 7491 4840.

You don’t need to be based in the West End to ap­pre­ci­ate London’s il­lu­mi­na­tions. As dark­ness falls, the city sky­line beams brightly, putting on a year-round show to ri­val any Christ­mas dis­play.

The best place to survey the daz­zling scene is from one of the Thames-view rooms at the Shangri-La Shard, which opened ear­lier this year.

Oc­cu­py­ing the up­per sec­tion of the cap­i­tal’s tallest build­ing, the slick Bond-style rooms teeter high above some of London’s most fa­mous land­marks. From the wall-length win­dows on all sides, guests can en­joy a panorama of Tower Bridge, the Tower of London and the more mod­ern Cheese Grater and Gherkin.

Watch com­muters charge like ants as they board trains that snake slowly from London Bridge sta­tion, or take a voyeuris­tic peek into nearby of­fice build­ings, with the aid of binoc­u­lars pro­vided in each room. Even the bath­rooms have a view to the out­side world, with a nar­row win­dow placed strate­gi­cally in front of the toi­let.

For a real taste of Christ­mas, head to nearby Bor­ough Mar­ket, where the smell of roast­ing pork min­gles with the sweet scent of fresh pine from Christ­mas trees stacked up for sale. Even if you have no in­ten­tion of do­ing a weekly shop, the food stalls piled high with ar­ti­san cheeses, or­ganic fruits and ex­otic meats are a feast for the eyes.

Thank­fully, all cook­ing needs are taken care of at Shangri-La’s Ting restau­rant, serv­ing an el­e­gant fes­tive menu (four-course lunch £40, five-course din­ner £65). But the real star on top of the Shard’s pointy Christ­mas tree is Gong, the cock­tail bar on the 52nd floor.

Or­der The Nutcracker (a whisky and sherry blend with mulled wine), and

A sparkling sea blue bea­con on the South Bank, this ea­gerly an­tic­i­pated ho­tel from the US Mon­drian group is ar­guably the most strik­ing dec­o­ra­tion of them all.

Fur­ni­ture de­signer Tom Dixon has turned his cre­ative hands to ho­tel de­sign, trans­form­ing the once drab and tired 70s river­bank Sea Con­tain­ers build­ing into a ship-shape work of art.

The nau­ti­cal theme be­gins with a large replica of links from an an­chor chain in re­cep­tion and 68m cop­per hull that curves through the build­ing into hotly tipped restau­rant, Sea Con­tain­ers, where a yel­low sub­ma­rine is sus­pended above the bar.

River­side suites fea­ture bal­conies de­signed to repli­cate those found on grand lin­ers of the early 20th cen­tury, and with touches such as a fuch­sia pink wardrobe in­te­rior, in­spired by the silk lin­ing of a Sav­ile Row suit, it’s ev­i­dent Dixon is try­ing to res­ur­rect that glo­ri­ous era.

The over­all feel­ing, though, is mod­ern and fun, with mu­rals in the lift fea­tur­ing a Pearly King, and even Dixon him­self dressed as a US astro­naut.

That youth­ful per­son­al­ity ex­tends to the Dan­delyan bar where award-win­ning mixol­o­gist Mr Lyan has de­vised a menu based on mod­ern botany. Drinks are cat­e­gorised as ce­real, veg­e­tal, min­eral or flo­ral, with a handy time chart ad­vis­ing the best time of day to tackle each one.

But it’s the ho­tel’s lo­ca­tion that re­ally sells it; close to the OXO Tower and Bor­ough Mar­ket, it’s also a 10-minute walk from the Christ­mas stalls that line the South Bank through­out Novem­ber and De­cem­ber.

Europe’s first grand ho­tel cost £300,000 to build, a frac­tion of what prop­erty in London’s premier shop­ping dis­trict would sell for to­day.

The ho­tel, which will be cel­e­brat­ing its 150th an­niver­sary next year, is a short stroll from Ox­ford Street and the glit­ter­ing win­dow dis­plays of Top Shop, Lib­erty and John Lewis, mean­ing guests can re­turn home with truck­loads of good­ies with­out dis­lo­cat­ing their shoul­ders in the process.

Pay­ing homage to its past, the ho­tel still rev­els in its grandeur with plaques com­mem­o­rat­ing past guests, such as Os­car Wilde and Mark Twain. The gift shop even sells its own leather-bound London guide­book, pub­lished since 1877, while the concierge can sup­ply guests with a pre-loaded MP3 player for self-guided his­toric walk­ing tours of the neigh­bour­hood.

But the ho­tel also has some new ac­co­lades to shout about; its glam­orous cock­tail bar Arte­sian was re­cently voted World’s Best Bar for the third year run­ning. After a day of con­tend­ing with heav­ing crowds and big band ren­di­tions of Jingle Bells, re­treat to the Art Deco en­clave for mixol­o­gist Alex Kratena’s sea­sonal ‘Pine Wait­ing To Be­come a Christ­mas Tree’ cock­tail.

Or go the whole (roasted) hog and book a ta­ble at Roux at the Lan­dau, where a fes­tive menu of spit roast sir­loin beef and but­ter-roast farm turkey is likely to make both eyes and bel­lies bulge. Good sus­te­nance then, for that fi­nal dash to find stock­ing fillers.

The Fes­tive Break (avail­able from De­cem­ber 1 un­til Jan­uary 11, 2015) costs £295pp B&B and free wi-fi. Visit lang­ham­lon­don.com/Christ­mas or call 020 7973 7503.

PA Photo/Hand­out/Niall Clut­ton

Mon­drian Sea Con­tain­ers restau­rant

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