By Eileen Ogintz
LONDON (Day 3 of 3) — Free ice cream, a teddy and a kid’s concierge! And there’s a huge park across the street. What more could a visiting kid want?
Perhaps the Queen for a neighbor? The luxe Athenaeum Hotel & Residences is in posh Mayfair, London overlooking Green Park, a two-minute walk to the tube station and a short walk to Buckingham Palace and many other many major sites.
A tip: If you are coming to “see the sites” get the London Pass which gives you discounted admission to some 70 sites and priority entrance.
This hotel for the upscale traveler makes an ideal base. It’s easy to see why it has won so many awards for being a top family hotel as well as for its afternoon tea.
“Welcome Home,” the doorman says with a smile whenever you return. There are just 146 rooms and suites and 18 “residences” around the corner but reachable by a “secret” passageway kids would love. Moms and Dads will love the washer-driers, and kitchenette (yes stocked with that free ice cream!) and couch that turns into a bunk bed.
For families who want the services of a hotel (twice daily maid service) but the space and comfort of home in a prime location, this is ideal. The hotel will even stock the kitchen—or you can peruse Harrod’s famous Food Halls! And of course there’s that free ice cream in the freezer and milk for your coffee or tea (I’ve never seen so many varieties of Nespresso (chocolate or caramel flavor perhaps?).
Make sure to notice the “Living Wall” built in 2009, a vertical garden that was designed by artist and research scientist Patrick Blanc to mirror Green Park.
The hotel is family run with whimsical touches –miniature toy soldiers or taxicabs mounted as room decoration, photographs of the Beatles and Spice Girls in the hallways, just reopened last summer after a multi million dollar make over that includes Galvin at the Athenaeum, created by the well known Galvin Brothers, the first partnership for the Michelin-starred chefs and a hotel. We dined well on fresh oysters, braised short rib and halibut. But I liked that you could also order just a burger, lamb curry or a salad and some ice cream for desert. Most of the people dining here aren’t hotel guests which says something about the quality.
Of course there is Afternoon Tea! Parents will also like the spa and gym, though why work out inside when you can go for a run past Buckingham Palace?
The cozy Bar at the Athenaeum is ideal not only for a drink (great cucumber martinis!) but a sandwich, burger or hot dogs for the kids. There are plenty of non alcoholic smoothies too (How about an Indian Cooler—Mango, raspberry and coconut water or Before Green Park –Spinach, carrot beetroot, ginger and pomegranate?).
Apparently, before kids and teens visit, the kid’s concierge reaches out asking kids their personal likes so that some appropriate toys and games are waiting—along with a teddy. And the Kid’s Concierge can help parents plan too. A first time visit to London with kids can be overwhelming, just as can a visit to any city.
It’s nice to have someone to help. Welcome Home—in London!