If there’s one thing that can be said about London, it is surely that it will never stop surprising you, however well you think you know it. I recently needed to stay in the Bloomsbury area of London and it was only when I started researching the area for hotels that I really appreciated just how ideal a location it is. The obvious Bloomsbury associations and sights aside, including the numerous picturesque squares and The British Museum, the area is just yards from the end of Oxford Street and an easy ten minute walk from the edge of theatreland and Covent Garden.
The Kingsley by Thistle is especially well located on Bloomsbury Way. The elegant entrance opens onto the ground floor lobby surrounded by the restaurant, bar and reception desk. My room was a Junior Suite and it was great to discover that unlike rooms advertised as ‘suites’ elsewhere, where chucking a sofa in alongside the bed apparently counts, this was genuinely an L-shaped set of three large rooms. A long bedroom with comfortable bed at one end had a sofa and dresser at the other end, while the room at right angles to it had another sofa, generous coffee table and large executive desk. The luxury bathroom with plenty of toiletries was off this second room, and touches such as wall-mounted flatscreen televisions both above the desk and in front of the bed showed thought and genuine attention to comfort and pleasure. Subtle lighting and music created a pleasant welcome, and the turndown service includes a chocolate on each pillow. Bill Bryson has commented affectionately on how we Brits get excited over something as simple as a biscuit with our cup of tea; I have to admit, British though it may be, the chocolate on the pillow always brings a smile to my face. Another pleasing touch is ‘The Kingsley Review’, an up-todate newssheet listing current London events, shows and the weather report for the week. For such a central location, The Kingsley has achieved an air of location-less calm inside. This makes it ideal for business groups especially, and the hotel offers conference groups a free place for every fifth delegate.
Mint Leaf restaurant also enjoys an ideal location, just off Haymarket and in the heart of the West End. The subtle entrance leads downstairs to a friendly welcome in a cloakroom area. Inside the restaurant, several different areas are separated by wooden slats with large gaps in between and by changing the levels slightly, so that a couple of steps down each time divides these ‘rooms’ from a main corridor. As diners can see all the other sections, the effect is a level of a privacy rather than claustrophobic. This arrangement means that it is ideal for hosting group evenings, as gatherings of any size are able to dine in a separate section without feeling cut off from the overall restaurant. Thomas, our waiter, was great at making menu and wine recommendations. We started with a grilled meat platter to share, an ideal introduction to the flavours of Mint Leaf. Meats included guinea fowl, lamb and king prawn, all cooked to perfection and deliciously spicy. Mint Leaf has an amazing cocktail menu with a vast range of unique combinations; I chose ‘Here Comes Winter’, an irresistible combination of Amaretto, Chambord, cinnamon syrup, pineapple juice and Bombay Sapphire, especially perfect for someone like me who loves anything with cinnamon. Javed the mixologist came over during our meal to say hello and it was great to discover that he himself is constantly developing and trialling new blends to add to the range.
Main courses followed, full of quality ingredients and attractive in appearance, accompanied by a delicious buttery naan. Despite being very full after such a feast, we couldn’t leave without sampling Mint Leaf’s desserts, and fortunately they have an ideal option for such a situation – a platter with a small version of four different puddings, including a pannacotta and chocolate mousse, which we shared.
The attentive but understated service at Mint Leaf combines perfectly with lowlighting and the dark wood interior to create a sense of privacy for each table, whether large or small. This is ideally suited to group dining. Mint Leaf also offers group sharing menus, enabling everyone to try a wide range of dishes without the hassle of complicated and lengthy ordering when in a group.
Kingsley by Thistle:
Telephone: 0871 376 9006
Mint Leaf Restaurant:
Telephone: 020 7930 9020