From Potters Field right down to the London Eye, there’s always something happening on the Thames’s Southbank – and there are few lovelier ways to while away a summer day (and night) than eating, drinking and making merry along its length.
But then it gets a little too late to make that last train home, or you’ve had one Prosecco too many, or you’re simply having far too nice a time to leave.
So instead, head to a hotel that’s set back just enough to cosset you from the hustle and bustle of the river bank, but near enough to all the action you want to enjoy. Step up Hilton Bankside.
In a dreadful hurry for a business meeting way out west, we hurtle to a stop behind a series of flower-filled letters that spell out the hotel’s name; feeling slightly shamefaced as we hand the keys of our somewhat well-worn vehicle to the top-hatted-and-tailed valet.
We might be hot and bothered, but the front desk staff are cool and unflappable, promising to take good care of our bags, assuring us it’s no problem to formally check in later, and helping us find the quickest route to our destination.
The suite life
Returning in a similar state to which we arrived, we’re swiftly checked in to our executive suite. With slick touches like a mirror suspended from a belt-like leather strap and a sleek desk I’d steal were it small enough to conceal, the sizeable room feels more ‘design hotel’ than chain.
It’s more than mildly tempting to flop on the reclining chair in the adjoining office-lounge room and order a G&T from room service, but as there’s work to be done before any merriment ensues, it’s the desk that gets utilised.
After a rather fraught day, we’d gladly spend the evening indulging in a treatment from the spa’s extensive list before a ridiculously early night in our vast bed, but we’re due for dinner (and sadly, not at Hilton Bankside’s modern British menu-d OXBO).
But a properly powerful shower accompanied by a Rihanna medley piped through to the bathroom speakers from the flatscreen television restores sufficient vigour for us to leave the building – although it’s not long before we make our excuses so we can return to the hotel and ensconce ourselves in The Distillery.
Best bar none
There’s a old-school, New York style to this low-lit bar which, in spite of its size, evokes an intimate atmosphere. The bar team knows its craft and – just as critically and perhaps less commonly – know how to engage with guests so you feel the conversation is far more than lip service.
A short, confident cocktail list specialises in aromatics, tinctures and infusions, whilst the venue majors in gin, offering 50+ examples, plus a menu of G&T combinations ranging from the classic to the esoteric.
We start with a fruity, pisco-based Terre Peruvian, and a robust ‘His & Hers’ which, as it’s for LB and not me, is spritzed with a smoky whisky-based elixir. Should a woman order the same drink, we’re told, that final flourish takes the form of a homemade rose essence.
As responsible drinkers we know that alcohol should be imbibed alongside a nibble or few – and we also can’t resist a fried item. So, from a list of bar snacks where nothing would be unwelcome, we choose buttermilk fried chicken, five-spiced pork belly, courgette fritters and corn aioli, and crispy squid. All are abundant, and all are finger-licking good.
LB suggests taking the few remaining morsels of chicken to our room, but in the end its just the two of us that take the lift up to the third floor. That bed proves every bit as comfortable as our brief earlier explorations suggested; conducive to a welcomely solid sleep.
How do you like your eggs in the morning?
Breakfast is served in OXBO, finally giving us the chance to check out the brasserie’s style. And we like it very much; from the checkerboard floor tiles to a series of decoupaged exotic animal heads mounted on the wall.
The range on both the cereal bar and patisserie table is extensive and diverse, as is the spread on offer in a Continental-style chiller cabinet which features everything from rollmops, to hummus, to cheeses and cold cuts.
But one always feels cheated if they swerve a good-looking cooked breakfast. And so, from a brilliant self-service buffet, LB loads his plate with sausages, bacon and runny-yolked fried eggs, whilst I pile mine too high with nothing but buttery, soft scrambled duck eggs and eat every single scrap.
A noon check-out time means we could happily linger longer – especially knowing that the executive lounge and a public office space with PCs and printers is at our disposal – but a long car journey calls. And so, LB’s tea transferred graciously to a go-cup, we leave the comforts of Hilton Bankside for the mean streets of London.
Make it happen
Where: Hilton Bankside, 2-8 Great Suffolk Street, London SE1 0U
Find out more: To visit the website, click here