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  Christmas Season at the Crown Jewel of London Marriotts

 We came into London after spending three weeks in India. It was  a trip to remember. So much to digest, to review, to reflect upon. Also, such a long journey back to the United States. Then one of us came up with the idea: why not stop off in London for a few days? London in the Christmas season  -- it would be like something out of Charles Dickens (whose 250th birthday was being celebrated all through 2012). And at a Marriott Hotel where quality and comfort would be assured.

Which is how we came to the Mariott Park Lane. The signs of the holiday season were everywhere. Christmas trees were all aglitter. Along the long exterior of the hotel which is directly  across from Hyde Park, red cyclamen were blooming in the window boxes defying a calendar that claimed it was December. Come evening, “Winter Wonderland,” a bit of fantasy built for the 2012 Olympics that remained in the park after the rest had gone, lit up, its shimmering wonder wheel and carousel suggesting a scene out of “Mary Poppins.” And then there was the historic Marble Arch just across the way and busy, bustling Oxford Street just around the corner. We thought how we could travel the world over, but long-time Anglophiles that we were, London would always be second home.

We arrived the first night hungry and almost directly went to the restaurant: 140 Park Lane where we were seated at a table at the very rear of a long, deep, window-lined room. It became our table for the rest of our stay and, in a way, emblematic of the hotel -- not opulent, rather cozy and warm, lively and bustling, like a favorite neighborhood place -- only this one was in the midst of Mayfair.

We were struck by the international the staff. There were people  from India, Italy, South Africa, Lithuania, Russia –a virtual League of Nations. The first pair we met, restaurant manager Ivan Checcin and server Guiseppe, welcomed us with a platter of plump oysters from off the coast of Scotland and glasses of Moet champagne. There followed a dinner featuring tomato basil soup and fresh halibut – simply and splendidly grilled. Sensational dining. And that was just the beginning.

Executive Chef Anshu Angtora

Sous Chef: Sunny Singh

“I’ve been here for almost ten years,” Executive Chef  Anshu Angotra told us. “This is   a destination restaurant. It’s a place for celebrations, birthday parties, anniversaries, engagements. And – as you can see  (and he gestured in the direction of the packed room and lively crowd) Christmas parties.”

At breakfast the next morning, we met Sunny Singh. A native of Delhi, the youthful sous chef came to London some ten years ago and to the Marriott a year and a half ago. With India still so fresh in our minds and hearts, he seemed like a cousin.

Sunny prepared and presented a sumptuous breakfast that featured freshly baked English farm bread, a wonderful blend of papaya and orange juice, fluffy pancakes. and the sunny-side-up eggs one of us relishes. For the other, he prepared lassy, the buttermilk beverage she had become addicted to in India. It was every bit as good in London as in the Himalayas.  “We still do all the traditional British dishes, but with a twist,” said food and beverage director Caterine Axelsson. “We offer culinary surprises and innovative cuisine. Our diners are so knowledgeable about food nowadays, and our staff can explain to them what is available, what’s being served.”

Although she was born in Columbia, Caterine was adopted as an infant by a Swedish family. She had studied in Switzerland and then worked in the f&b industry on cruise ships before moving on to hotels and ultimately the Park Lane.

Food & Beverage
Manager Caterine Axelsson

“I really enjoyed previous hotel work,” she told us, “but I was keen to join Marriott. They take care of their staff as well as their guests.”

Director of Sales & Marketing: Sarah Borges de Sousa

General Manager Miles Pooley

Sarah Borges de Sousa is a native of South Africa. The blonde and beautiful  director of sales & marketing had a decade of  Mariott experience at the Grovesnor Square hotel behind her before moving on to the Park Lane. “This is a boutique- type hotel,” she told us. “Being only 157 rooms, we are in a position to get to know our guests, to give them the personalized attention they wouldn’t get in a larger property.”

We were having afternoon tea, Indian-style, with Sarah when General Manager Miles Pooley joined us.  The first (and was it only?) native Brit we encountered among the Marriott Park Lane family, Miles has been at the helm since 2006. Just the second GM of the property, he not only reflects on his history with the hotel but on the future he envisions. “It’s gone from strength to strength,” he told us. “Of late, we’ve done some soft refurbishments of rooms and public areas. Our fitness center is up to date; our swimming pool is a huge attraction. Now we are turning our attention to the restaurant and executive lounge. The kitchen probably will be retained, but the dining room will be redone.” 

Miles underscored the twin themes we were picking up: the benefits of having an international staff and the advantages of working for the second largest hotel chain in the world.     

“At the Marriott, you feel you are working for a family, not a corporate entity. Bill Marriott and his wife have stayed here four times; I was here for two of them. He’s met my wife and daughters.                        

“He was here last October 2012 -- we celebrated the tenth anniversary of the hotel on the 13th. Afterwards he sent me a note: ‘Happy tenth birthday to Marriott Park Lane – I’m very proud of all of you and this lovely hotel. You are the crown jewel of our London hotels.’”

London Marriott Hotel Park Lane
140 Park Lane
London, England W1K 7AA

Phone: 44-20-7493-7000


Photographs by Harvey Frommer

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About the Authors:  Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer are a wife and husband team who successfully bridge the worlds of popular culture and traditional scholarship. Co-authors of the critically acclaimed interactive oral histories It Happened in the Catskills, It Happened in Brooklyn, Growing Up Jewish in America, It Happened on Broadway, It Happened in Manhattan, It Happened in Miami. They teach what they practice as professors at Dartmouth College.

They are also travel writers who specialize in luxury properties and fine dining as well as cultural history and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. More about these authors.

You can contact the Frommers at: 

Email: myrna.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU
Email: harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU

This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2012 by Harvey and Myrna Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.


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