A luxury trip to London can blow your mind

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The concierge at the luxurious Corinthia hotel will even arrange passes for exhbitions at Kensington Palace. Photo: Mail Today

With an exponential growth in outbound luxury travel from India, at a predicted CAGR of 12.8 per cent over the next decade according to an Amadeus survey, more and more Indians are travelling extravagantly. Higher disposable incomes, a premium on ‘experiences’ rather than just the destination and a big push by tourism boards and hotels to lure the peripatetic from Asia’s third largest economy, is driving the impetus.

London, according to travel surveys, remains a favoured destination. With its exquisite hotels, Michelin star restaurants, a vibrant theatre and arts scene, historic buildings, the exciting capital city of the Old Blighty ticks all the boxes for the sybaritic Indian globetrotter.

FLY HIGH: Travel is as much about the destination as the journey. The words resonate with me as I settled into my capacious Upper Class Virgin Atlantic seat on its new Dreamliner Boeing. A superb onboard service, friendly staff, gourmet meals and a 360-degree flatbed make me so comfortable I loathe to disembark! A vibrant bar dispensing free champagnes and world class wines, mood lighting, a crackling entertainment system and free onboardwifi add to my lush experience. I sleep like a baby too at 38,000ft thanks to the full flat bed and the airline’s synergy with The Sleep Council which provides flyers with tailored meditations for snoozing in each cabin. Just plug in and be guided through a meditation customised for your seat type. The airline’s lounge at London Heathrow, one of the world’s largest, is no less gobsmacking. Its full-service restaurants, a spa, showers, rooms and a salon ensure that you take off and land in style.

Head to the gilded Oscar Wilde Bar at Hotel Cafe Royal on Regent Street for high tea. Photo: Mail Today

HAUTE HOTEL: The Ritz, The Dorchester and The Savoy are passe. With its discreet lobbies, world-class restaurants, superlative service, a decadent spa and a concierge that can fetch you the moon, the Corinthia Hotel is the new green zone of affluence for the global chichi. The fivestar property, sited smack dab in the heart of London (Whitehall), regularly hosts Hollywood blue blood, artists, performers and heads of state. It’s historic building, which goes back to the World War, has been given a slick makeover. I begin my stay (rooms start at GBP 400 or Rs 36,300) with a rejuvenating rubdown at the hotel’s decadent spa, followed by a three-course, free-flowing Laurent-Perrier La Cuvee Brut Champagne Sunday Brunch at its Northall restaurant (GBP 100 or `27,097). All this while, its concierge fulfils my every wish – organises tickets to the London Eye and a sell out exhibition on Lady Diana at Kensington Palace. Oh yeah, it even lines up a chauffeur-driven Jaguar for me to explore London’s prime attractions. What’s not to love?

At Michelin star Chef Raymond Blanc’s Gardening School you can have lunch for GBP 100 or Rs 9,032 a pop. Photo: Mail Today

TEA TIME: No luxury trip to London is complete without experiencing the quintessentially British afternoon tea ceremony. For this, I head to the gilded Oscar Wilde Bar at Hotel Cafe Royal on Regent Street. Established originally in 1865, the elegant art deco space with an authentic Louis XVI detailing, offers the best cuppa in town. Fragrant teas created by renowned pastry chef Sarah Barber at GBP 60 (Rs 5,419) a pop are a highlight. They use flavours/ingredients from four scents created by famed French perfumierDiptyque (Roses, Vanilla, Violette, Verveine). Equally heady are the accompanying treats. Goats’ cheese and pickled apple muffin, moist sandwiches (Cotsworld chicken, dill creme fraiche, Burford brown eggs) and pastries – Lemon Verbena, Violet and Cassis tart, Rose Victoria and a Tahitian vanilla. With a pianist playing live show tunes, afternoon tea at Hotel Cafe Royal is renaissance in itself.

At Michelin star Chef Raymond Blanc’s Gardening School you can have lunch for GBP 100 or Rs 9,032 a pop. Photo: Mail Today

GOURMET CENTRAL: London is a gastronomic haven. And nowhere is this better showcased than at Shangri La at The Shard’s award-winning Ting restaurant where on the vertiginous 52nd floor I partake of a curated Oriental dinner. My legs turn to jelly as I soak in a glittering panoramic view of nocturnal London from my window seat. The lavish three-course meal comprises Loch Duart Salmon with oyster mayonnaise, a lamb bologna and shellfish Dashi with rainbow shard and shimeji mushroom. Dessert is a preternatural Noir Chocolate Delice with poached apricot and jasmine.

GLORIOUS GETAWAYS: London offers quick getaways to many of its spiffy neighbourhoods. Oxfordshire is one such town, a mere one-hour drive away from the city. My destination here is the Michelin star Chef Raymond Blanc’s Gardening School at Belmond Le Manoir. Tucked away in the picturesque countryside, this 15th-century manor sets the gold standard for haute cuisine. I tour the manor’s enchanting hotel, its herb and vegetable gardens and orchards with the head gardener. Sprouting over 90 varieties of vegetables and 70 types of herbs, the garden supplies the restaurant’s kitchen with fresh produce in a concept called ‘Garden to Plate’. The expansive greens are overseen by a bronze scarecrow, modelled on Raymond Blanc himself. There’s an English water garden fed by natural springs created by monks who lived here in the 16th century. A tranquil Japanese tea garden hosts a beautiful tea house. I take a behind the scenes tour of the two-Michelin starred kitchen and wrap up my trip with a memorable, albeit very expensive lunch (GBP 100 or Rs 9,032 a pop) at its stunning Hartley Botanic glasshouse.

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