Simon Wittenberg checks into the luxurious hotel in the heart of London’s Mayfair to go behind the scenes of the art deco property’s recently-unveiled “Bedtime Stories” initiative for business travellers.
With business travel on the rise following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, being away from home and young children may prove a difficult time for some. Sheraton Grand London Park Lane, a five-star, 305-room, eight-floor hotel on London’s famed Piccadilly that harks back to the roaring 1920s, has therefore unveiled its new “Bedtime Stories” initiative.
This novel idea has been primarily designed for those travelling on business so that, even when they are away, they can maintain the all-important routine of reading a bedtime story to children when going to bed, and do not miss out on quality time together. With free Wi-Fi and video call technology now readily available, connecting on a smartphone, laptop or tablet with loved ones wherever you are in the world, fortunately, has few barriers in the modern era.
This is not the first time that this Sheraton Grand property has focused on the subject of sleep after their “ZZZ-list” was introduced three years ago in partnership with Hatchards (the oldest bookseller in London), and Dr David Lewis (a renowned sleep expert and chartered psychologist). This saw the hotel create an exclusive library containing a selection of books designed to help guests get the best night’s shut-eye.
The Sheraton’s Bedtime Stories library is located opposite the reception desk at the rear of the hotel. There are six firm favourites, including The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Hungry Caterpillar and The Gruffalo. Borrowing any of the new hardback books is free of charge for guests when checking in and are available in several languages, including Arabic, Italian and French.
Arriving late afternoon on a Friday with an 11-month-old to put the Bedtime Stories concept to a “real world” test, our spacious and beautifully-furnished fourth floor Art Deco suite was furnished with the full array of children’s books on the large circular coffee table, and it didn’t take long for these to be spotted by the little one.
First to grab his attention was Wow Said The Owl, and after enjoying the story of when a little owl decides to stay awake all day, plus a few pages of The Gruffalo, which generated some bursts of excitement, this was the ideal preamble to an afternoon nap and a short pause to enjoy the plate of elegantly-crafted pastries and chilled lemonade before heading out to explore this historic London property.
At the heart of the Sheraton Grand London Park Lane is the bustling Palm Court – a popular setting for afternoon tea. It gives guests the chance to admire the splendid architecture running down the centre of the building, and the magnificent arched and ornate stained-glass ceiling. Located off this central area are the hotel’s two on-site eateries, namely “Mercante” for Italian cuisine (open Wednesday to Sunday), and “Smith & Whistle” for American-style dining, where you can find the likes of burgers and chips, for example.
Staying in an Art Deco suite grants unlimited access to the Executive Club Lounge next to the concierge desk, a quiet location for guests and business travellers to station themselves at the many tables and alcoves, and access complementary refreshments. Starting at 17:30 is a small selection of food and beverages, so we opted for an early pre-dinner aperitif and a few nibbles to kick-start the evening’s gastronomic delights.
Mercante was our dining destination during our stay, a 100-or-so cover restaurant which looks out onto Piccadilly and has a small terrace for those who wish to go al fresco and watch the world go by. This restaurant tends to fill up around 7 pm, and there’s a choice of comfortable yellow leather banquettes or separate seating, meaning guests are nicely spaced out from one another so you can hold a decent conversation without being disturbed.
Sitting by the window with our little one propped up in a highchair by one of the many cushions sporting a papaya motif, our Sicilian host was fully up to speed with our pre-specified dietary requirements, and liaised with the chef throughout our visit to tailor dishes accordingly. The à la carte at Mercante only offers a small selection for each course compared to what you would expect at similar Italian establishments, but saying that, there’s still plenty to choose from to make for an enjoyable evening.
From the “Antipasti”, I started with a deliciously oozing Burrata (£12) on a bed of aubergine and cherry tomatoes, which came garnished with a sprinkling of pine nuts. For her entrée, my other half headed for the £6 bruschetta (from the “Cicchetti” sharing section of the menu), which was topped with chopped “San Marzano” tomatoes and olive oil. Both were excellent and were a great opening chapter to our meal.
Moving on to the main course after a short interval, I settled on the “Fish of the Day” (£22), which was revealed as being Lemon Sole – a firm favourite of mine. Carefully deboned before our very eyes at the table and finished with a subtle lemon and chilli sauce poured across the moist fillet, the resulting combination was divine.
My wife savoured the rump of lamb and rosemary jus (£21) with sides of new potatoes (£4), zucchini fritti (£6) and broccoli (£5), a filling combination, and portions that were just right.
With a little room left for dessert, I was drawn towards the tiramisu (£6.50), which didn’t disappoint thanks to its soft soaked biscuits in the middle. Joined by a refreshing raspberry sorbet (£6) for my other half, this completed what had been a superb meal with highly attentive service throughout.
Returning to the splendour of our Art Deco Suite, which houses a comfortable and uber-inviting plush king-sized Sheraton Signature Sleep Experience bed, plus more than enough space for a cot to go alongside, this was the perfect location to pick up another book belonging to the Sheraton Grand London Park Lane’s library.
The Hungry Caterpillar was the literature that was picked out from the selection, and with pages turned with impatience and smiles all around, eyes started to close, and a highly successful afternoon and evening were brought to an end.
Rising early on the Saturday morning after a relatively undisturbed sleep, this was the perfect opportunity to draw back the curtains and recount the story of Peter Rabbit before heading down for breakfast back at the Mercante restaurant. With the eatery transformed overnight into buffet-style stations laden with pastries, cheese, cold meats and different kinds of bread, and hot options to form a traditional English breakfast, including omelettes made on demand by the chef, this set baby and ourselves up for the rest of the day.
From having had the opportunity to sample the Bedtime Stories initiative together as a family to see the experience from the perspective of a business traveller, this is a simple, but an original concept which works. In fact, it’s often those ideas which keep things simple that can generate the most success, and a few books in this case, can make all the difference and bring families together when it matters most.
What is noticeable about the Sheraton Grand London Park Lane is that it makes a point of paying attention to making little ones feel like valued guests, reflected by our son being addressed by “Master”, and staff stopping in their tracks to greet him like a VIP. With nearly 100 years under its belt, this property has all the right boxes ticked to create a memorable experience, and with an excellent location to match, the Sheraton Grand London Park Lane deserves to be full in this post-pandemic era.
Sheraton Grand London Park Lane – Where and How?
For more information on Sheraton Grand London Park Lane and the hotel’s Bedtimes Stories activity, visit www.marriott.co.uk.
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