London is my home so I admit that I probably have a bias. I think it is one of the most fascinating cities in the world. It’s historic, cultural and cosmopolitan, and the celebrated attractions cover a reasonably small area. A well-placed hotel, such as Park Plaza Westminster Bridge, will have you at the heart of everything on your holiday wish-list.
You don’t have to be a tourist to be impressed by the view from this new and contemporary hotel. It’s a 3D version of the postcard visitors would send home to the family…but it’s got, in true Harry Potter fashion, moving traffic and river boats …and the Houses of Parliament …and the tower of Big Ben …and the London Eye. Park Plaza Westminster Bridge is a destination hotel in every regard.
I personally never tire of that vista – it changes with the weather and the time of day – but a hotel must be comfortable to warrant a visit, and must be something special to deserve a return booking. Park Plaza Westminster Bridge ticks lots of boxes: location, facilities, dining options and thoughtful design.
The reception for this hotel is on the first floor to take advantage of that aforementioned vision of our seat of government and the eponymous bridge. It’s an expansive open space that could take on the cramped characteristics of an airport check-in area were not its visitors encouraged to leave their luggage on the lower level, so without that clutter the first floor remains striking and spacious. The restaurants and bars are on this level but are tucked away in corners to avoid that shopping-mall food-hall ambiance that so often tarnishes the stars of large hotels. Ichi Sushi & Sashimi Bar, 1WB Lounge and Patisserie, Espressamente Illy coffee bar as well as Brasserie Joël are all here, offering everything from light snacks to more substantial meals.
Our room was on the 12th floor and just as contemporary as the public spaces, well-appointed with high-end toiletries, bath and shower. The bathroom acted as a divider between the bedroom and the lounge space. This sported a cream leather sofa that doubled as a bed, turning this stylish unit into a family suite with just a click or two. It’s an ideal office space for those unfortunates who, like us, work on the run. Wardrobe doors with glass murals, mirrors and a brace of suspended flat-screen TVs impress the guest with techy international vibe. Modern, not minimalist, luxury.
I had expected the ubiquitous mini-bar and I wasn’t disappointed, but there were other practical touches to this comprehensive refreshment station: a microwave, kettle and cutlery to allow guests to bring in their own food. The foresighted management know that times are tough and food can be a worry when there’s a hotel bill to pay along with entrance tickets (thank goodness at least museums are free in London). Kids just want familiar meals and here parents can provide those, just like at home.
We were a couple of hungry adults who craved more than microwaved pizza so we wandered down to Brasserie Joël. Chef Joël Antunes has given his name to the restaurant and he has returned to the UK after more than a decade overseas. He will be best remembered for founding Les Saveurs in the early 1990s, which earned a Michelin star. The brasserie menu is broad and accessible. My guest chose Chicken Liver Terrine with Fig Chutney, which was a traditional French starter and served with a couple of tranches of smoky and delicious grilled bread. Nothing elaborate but just right.
The menu changes frequently but there is always something to tempt even the pickiest of palates. I was intrigued by the braised aubergine in balsamic vinegar. This was in fact the best aubergine dish I have had in years. It was melting, sweet and glossy, and topped with a wedge of creamy mozzarella which, although good quality, was hardly necessary – the aubergine shone alone. A stunner, and should be a signature dish.
Aged Beef Tournedos Rossini with foie gras, truffle sauce and a thick slice of melting braised potato was the main course for my partner. He asked for his beef to be rare and it was indeed cooked to that specification. There was a ring of colour from the searing but the centre of the cut was rosy. A well-seasoned dish with an attractive presentation.
Traditional Fish Pie filled with prawns, salmon, haddock and leek gave a simple counterpoint to the meal. This is comfort food at its finest: a smooth potato and cheese topping over a rich fish filling that was flavourful, piping hot and typical of authentic brasserie dishes. They don’t have to be made with costly ingredients, it’s a style of cooking, and it’s becoming more popular. Brasseries give diners what they want: good, well-prepared and presented fare that they feel they would want to replicate in their own homes …and this reviewer would, if only someone would give her the recipe for that aubergine starter.
Rhubarb Macaroon with Strawberry Sorbet is chic. Who would not have noticed the proliferation of bakeries and confectioners selling those decadent and stylishly French Macaroons? This was a symphony of pastel shades and contrasting textures. Light but with richness from those classic cookies.
A little Semi Freddo Vanilla Ice Cream and Coffee Granita was all I could manage but it arrived, substantial and striking, in a sundae glass overflowing with coffee crystals and ice cream. The addition of a cup of espresso finished a delightful and relaxing dinner. A melange of old favourites and new culinary trends in a restaurant that prefers country-style linen to starched tablecloths, and pots of herbs to sprays of roses.
We awoke early. No, we were not bothered by traffic noise (isn’t triple glazing a marvellous invention). We just wanted to open the curtains and gaze across the river to the Palace of Westminster. Red buses and black taxis and a few early risers avoiding the approaching rush-hour together made the scene a moving tapestry of morning London life. OK, so I am a city girl and this city is amazing in the dawn light when it’s the exclusive domain of those who live and work here. We are indeed spoilt.
Breakfast is held in the brasserie and the place was buzzing with American, Japanese and Australian tourists who were to be whisked away to cathedral towns, rolling hills or the coast, as soon as the last crumb of toast was finished. If you want a less frenetic start to your day then wait till after 8.30am, as any civilised visitor would do anyway.
The breakfast buffet reflects the multi-national makeup of the hotel guests. Plenty of fruit and cereals and yoghurt for those with bodies like temples. Plates of cold meats and cheeses for Scandinavians, all the elements for a monumental Full Monty fry-up, and delicate pastries for the French. A good spread of brekkie dishes to suit every epicurean tradition.
Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London is a hotel with much to recommend it. Yes, its location makes it a favourite with overseas guests but that same position makes it sought after by those with business in the financial hub, or those others who need to haunt the corridors of power. It is a popular event venue, and has a spa and all the trappings that make hotels such as this the lodgings of choice for those with discerning taste.
Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London
200 Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7UT
Telephone: 0844 415 6790
Fax: 0844 415 6791
Visit Park Plaza Westminster Bridge Hotel here
Hotel and Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018