Peter Morrell joins the birthday celebrations for this iconic hotel
It was 1963 and London was about to become ‘Swinging London’. The candle on the celebratory cake for the start of this turbulent and thrilling period in history was the brand new 28 storey London Hilton. The hotel became synonymous with wealth and glamour as the age of celebrity and a new social order dawned.
On the night of the Hilton’s opening the great and the good came to give the hotel their blessing. The Duke of Bedford was there as was flamboyant financier Nubar Gulbenkian, oil tycoon Paul Getty and Richard Beeching who’s claim to fame was closing huge numbers of railway lines.
It was a momentous year for ‘events’, De Gaulle vetoed Britain joining the EU, the Beatles hit number one for the first time, Christine Keeler’s role in the Profumo Affair was revealed, President Kennedy gave his ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech, Kim Philby was named as the Third Man, the Great Train Robbery took place and Martin Luther King delivered his famous ‘I have a dream’ address to a civil rights march in Washington. It was truly some year.
At the head of the Hilton empire was Conrad, the founder. He always had an eye for publicity and would ensure that Hollywood stars stayed at the Hilton when they were in London. This reputation as THE place to stay in the capital has not changed. It was the host hotel for the dignitaries attending the 2012 London Olympic Games and when I was there the surrounding area was bristling with police looking after the many Commonwealth Heads of State who were in residence.
Hilton Park Lane is not just a place to stay but a destination for anyone who wants a great night out. On the top floor is the Michelin starred Galvin at Windows offering a bird’s eye 360 degree view of the city with French inspired food to match. (Read my Galvin’s review here…)
The recent birthday celebrations were held downstairs in the equally famous and laid back Trader Vic’s restaurant. I was greeted in true Polynesian style with a floral Lei to wear around my neck. The décor cleverly recreates a South Sea Island atmosphere with canoes, bamboo rafters and a thatched ceiling. The food was exotic and as Trader Vic’s is the home of the Mai Tai, it was de rigueur to drink this delicious and refreshing cocktail. (Read my Trader Vic’s review here…)
The Hilton Park Lane has evolved over the last 55 years into something of an institution where people expect and get a very high level of comfort and service. The Hilton experience is professionally delivered by its loyal team. Many of the staff have been at the Hilton for a very long time, General Manager Michael Shepherd joined in 2003, Senior Concierges, Paul Still and Bob Carey both joined in 1979 and Executive Chef Anthony Marshall is a culinary veteran from 1997.
There is no doubt that 55 years on from its opening the London Hilton on Park Lane still has glitz, glamour and style and is a place to see and be seen.
Here’s to another 55 years.
London Hilton on Park Lane
22 Park Lane
London, W1K 1BE