Great British Boltholes: Shangri-La Hotel, At The Shard, London

A night in the capital reaches new heights at this enthralling five-star escape

A night in the capital reaches new heights at this enthralling five-star escape

Why go? Opened in May on floors 34 to 52 of the tallest building in Western Europe, the Shangri-La Hotel guarantees an exceptional experience as you sleep over 400ft up in the sky with spectacular views stretching in all directions from London Bridge.

Best for: A celebration. The Shangri-La is doing good business at weekends with guests checking in for a special night in a swish hotel that enjoys a truly extraordinary location. This isn’t a rock and roll hotel, though – it’s part of a luxury global collection based in Hong Kong that is renown for its high quality service and Asian-style serenity. While the bar buzzes, the overall mood is subdued and sophisticated, a place for fine living and some quiet romance up in the clouds.

Lobby with a view: the Shangri-La’s reception is on the 35th floor of The Shard

The look: It’s all about the views here, so a sunny day helps and in summer the long nights are a bonus. Looking down at the familiar landmarks and intense street patterns is engrossing (binoculars are provided in the rooms) and there are plenty of surprises too – you get to see just how sharply the River Thames bends at Rotherhithe, and it’s fascinating to watch all the trains flowing out of London Bridge with their white-topped carriages rushing along like giant caterpillars.

Not quite all of the planned 202 rooms are open yet, and due to the unique shape of Renzo Piano’s skyline-piercing glass building they are all different. Those classed as Iconic City View, set on the north-facing corners, offer the most impressive vistas of the river and the City. However, wherever you stay it is all highly enjoyable, and you soon get the whole picture once you visit the lobby, bar and restaurant. Then there’s those famous loos with a view…

One surprise is how quiet the world is when you’re so high up, and another is how close the planes seem to come… Some rooms can see into others thanks to their location and reflections in the glass, particularly at night, so make use of the electric blinds for some privacy. The interiors have a plush and restrained feel, with floor-to-ceiling windows, pampering linens and marble bathrooms with Acqua di Parma toiletries. The Asian connection is manifest in many ways – tea cups with lids, a heated toilet seat, kimonos as well as dressing gowns, and a copy of James Hilton’s Lost Horizon, the 1933 novel that created the notion of ‘Shangri-La’. Oh, and there’s also Romeo, a fluffy toy fox and hotel mascot, which recalls a real urban fox that lived up here for a while when The Shard was under construction.

Take me to Cloud Nine: an Iconic City View room at the Shangri-La Hotel

I’m hungry… The main restaurant is Ting (ting-shangri-la.com), which isn’t named after the Caribbean drink – it comes from the Chinese word for ‘living room’. The menu is modern British with dishes such as Dorset crab (£18) and organic Rhug Estate lamb loin (£27). It is not exceptional but a young and talented female sommelier, Anne Lomas, can liven things up with some interesting wines. You can also order from an Asian menu ranging from Szechuan hot and sour soup (£20) to curry laksa (£21), but annoyingly the table has to go for one cuisine or the other. Before that, have a drink at Gong (gong-shangri-la.com) on the 52nd floor, which is a lot of fun. It’s small, inevitably as you’re nearing the top of a spire, so make a reservation. Of course, it’s not named after a Chinese gong, as you might think, but from a word for interlocking wooden brackets – which is something to talk about as you sip its signature Lost Horizon cocktail or a Bermondsey Bubbles (both £19), featuring locally-made gin and blood-red sugar shards. Breakfast (full English £36) is served in Ting, a well-executed and civilised affair that includes Oriental and Arabic menus.

London calling: the view from Ting restaurant at the Shangri-La Hotel © imagepalace.co.uk

While you’re there… This is the sort of unique, pie-in-the-sky luxury hotel where you’ll want to enjoy your cosseting room, perhaps with a bottle of champagne, soaking up the views, soaking in the bath, soaking in the infinity pool set to open on the 52nd floor on 11 August. For an even higher perspective, you can go up to The View from The Shard (theviewfromtheshard.com) on the 69th and 72nd floors, and the building also houses more drinking and dining venues on levels 31-33 (with a separate entrance) – Oblix (oblixrestaurant.com), Hutong (hutong.co.uk) and – our pick – Aqua (aquashard.co.uk).

When you do come back down to earth, Borough Market (Wednesday-Saturday; boroughmarket.org.uk) is a must with its foodie delights. Walk west along the river and you’ll hit Tate Modern (tate.org.uk) and the South Bank, go east and there’s the shops of Hay’s Galleria and the Design Museum (designmuseum.org); to the south lies upcoming Bermondsey and the Fashion and Textile Museum (ftmlondon.org) where you can catch the Made in Mexico exhibition (until 31 August).

Dress code: Elegant. Take your cue from the smiling hotel staff, who wear smart uniforms in a grey and blue brocade.

Book now: Shangri-La Hotel, At The Shard, London, 31 St Thomas St, London SE1 9QU (0207 234 8088; shangri-la.com/london). Double rooms cost from £450, or book a Room With A View package from £530 for two including breakfast and tickets for The View from The Shard. Wifi is free.

Info: See timeout.com, londonbridgequarter.com and london-se1.co.uk.

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