Within a grandiose listed building (once St Olave’s grammar school for boys) in London Bridge, you’ll find the unmistakable LaLiT London, which opened back in 2017.
It’s the 12th luxury property from the company, and its first outside of India. With its sumptuous interiors, flawless service and fantastic location, it quickly established itself as one of the English capital’s most compelling blockbuster hotels.
Here, we take a deep dive behind that glorious red brick exterior…
From the outside, the stunning three-story building is as distinctly English-looking as ever. It’s straight out of a classic Victorian novel.
Inside, there are further echoes of the building’s past. In the lovingly restored wooden floors, for example. However, the swathes of invitingly cozy Indian-inspired decor diffuse any fustiness.
I loved the occasional flash of orange mixed with the whites and creams in the 70 rooms and suites, some with views to the Shard. My room was large, airy and mostly remembered for a charming headboard tapestry, depicting two peacocks shyly nodding away from each other.
Elsewhere, the midnight blue of the high ceilings in Baluchi – once an assembly hall, now an explosive on-site pan Indian restaurant – is gorgeous. Combined with the allure of luminous blue chandeliers, it leaves you feel you’re dining in eternal twilight.
Speaking of dining, on the dinner menu for yours truly was chicken tikka marinated in lime and cashew followed by two large, juicy tandoori king prawns with lightly sautéed spinach.
My guest had similarly tender and high quality lamb chops with an aubergine and potato mash.
The food was faultless and densely flavored, if a little on the light side. (I would have enjoyed another prawn or two). I thus devoured the bread basket. It was comprised of multilayered lachha paratha Indian bread, garlic naan and mango and coconut naan. Ironically, I ended up completely overeating. By dessert – a rich, glossy chocolate concoction with clove smoked yazu curd – I was a goner.
Service and amenities 5/5
The five star service at LaLiT is truly a cut above the rest. It was my first experience of the Hindi mantra ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ – meaning ‘the guest is equivalent to god’. Indeed, the perfect combination of extreme formality and genuine warmth is something you’ll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere in London. (Here, service varies unlike in any other major city I’ve visited.)
For example, during the leisurely sit-down check in process, a man in beautiful Indian dress – all smiling earnestness and direct eye contact – turned what is usually chore into an event. He stands out in my memory in a way 99% of receptionists do not.
The buzzy (and busy) London Bridge is named after the fairly unremarkable-looking 70s bridge of the same name that crosses the Thames into the London Bridge Station transport hub.
From here, you’re connected to every part of the city. (Soho is 17 minutes away by Tube). The same can be said for much of Southern England, including Gatwick Airport.
The area’s other famous bridge – the Victorian-turreted Tower Bridge, often mistaken for London Bridge – is also nearby. The LaLit’s located between the two.
Also within walking distance is the bustling Borough Market. Here traders sell irresistible artisan foodstuffs seven days a week. Be sure to also venture down to super cool Bermondsey Street. It’s full of unique boutiques, cozy restaurants and hip bars.
LGBTI life 3/5
While there are no LGBTI-specific bars on the LaLiT’s doorstep, there are countless LGBTI-friendly ones. Our top recommendation: The Woolpack, for English countryside pub vibes. Then, to Bermondsey Arts Club for intimate cocktailing in ex-public toilet. (Yes, really). Alternatively, hop on the 149 bus and head northeast to some of the capital’s coolest and grittiest queer bars and clubs, like The Glory and Dalston Superstore.
It should furthermore be noted that the LaLiT is an LGBTI-friendly destination itself. For starters, it makes a very direct statement about inclusivity on its website’s homepage – how many do that? Another nice touch is its Facebook profile image. It depicts the LaLiT logo, filtered as a rainbow. A quick scroll back shows the image was first posted in celebration of Pride in London 2017. By September the following year, homosexuality became legal in LaLiT’s parent country. All I can say is, if India’s anything as welcoming as this hotel, I can’t wait to visit.
For more information, visit thelalit.com/the-lalit-london.