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Mondrian London

May 25, 2018

Another year, another trip to the Mondrian London to preside over a conference. This year we were assigned 457 which is a beautiful room.

The bathroom and shower are just fantastic.

Walk in marble and glass shower with a stool and multiple shower heads. Yes please!

welcome notes galore

We’re here for the view.

An early arrival was super smooth. Room ready. Staff helpful. Operations is markedly improved since last year.

Lunch at Northbank across the millenial bridge is recommended.

As is a visit to the Tate Modern.

kandinsky at the Tate

One of the highlights of the Mondrian is the fact that Dandelyan bar is on the premesis. (On the other hand, the Rumpus Room is to be skipped at all cost.)

Marcus restaurant is super fantastic.

This year we called our cocktail extravaganza
#boaredintheusa. More here.

Five showerheads and perfect weather for the Mondrian London.

We were here just over a year ago running the very same small conference that we’re running this time. Well, actually more like presiding; other people do all of the actual running. Anyway, the Mondrian is still very nice.

We’re in the same room category as last year but up one level in 571. And we’ve already been in Europe for a week, so the obligatory Tate Modern visit is documented here (as is our stay at the Zetter), there is no jet lag to contend with, and we’ve even been to Scotland. Heck, we even went out to the American Bar for cocktails!

All that was left was to taxi across the Thames and check in at noon.

An absurdity happened then. Even though the massive NPS support staff had set things up so that our room would be available at noon (and we arrived at 12:30) the room was “not quite ready.” What? I’m pretty sure we even ended up paying for an extra night just to avoid this. Sorry, Mondrian, please get organized and give us our money back for the extra night! The delay was not long (only 12 minutes), but that’s not really the point.

Does it make NPS happy to sit in the lobby waiting? Nope. Not one little bit.

Here is what 571 looks like. We’ll start with the balcony view on a cold, blustery London afternoon. The temperature has dropped 10 degrees Fahrenheit since yesterday.

The balcony is nice. NPS bets the higher rooms with balconies are even better.

The room is spacious and huge with an outstanding bathroom. No sign of plastic.

Dining nook

Sleeping nook

Working nook

Sitting nook

Having an amenity at greeting was nice. But get this Mondrian peeps, guests have actual names! Wow! You should use them.

Why thank you guest experience team driod from the bottom of our customer id unknown heart.

Amenity

We had to order 4 bottles of sparking water to make us through the week. The Kimpton guys mostly have this figured out. Perhaps the NPS computer record was corrupted since last year?

But you’re reading this for the showers, right? Right!

First, a minor diversion.

Extra bathroom

And now for the main show. The incredible 571 bathroom.

Tub and “water closet closet”

What a shower

Yes please

We’re looking forward to week two in the UK. More here as things develop.

DANDELYAN here we come.

What should get a five showerheads rating (on shower karma alone) reduced to four showerheads for poor guest happiness management skills.

Mondrian London Lobby

Mondrian London Lobby

An actual Mondrian at the Tate Modern

An actual Mondrian at the Tate Modern

Regular readers will know that NPS loves to stay at the Zetter and the Zetter Townhouse while in London. But sadly, the group conference we are hosting this week outgrew the Zetter some time ago. The great news is that the Mondrian London is a fantastic place to stay.

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Located on the banks of the Thames just a hop skip and jump from the Tate Modern, the Mondrian London is modern, chic, and packed with high style. It is part of the Morgans hotel group (which includes the Morgan in NYC).

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NPS is assigned room 463—a nice little suite with a balcony overlooking the muddy river. London graces the far side of course.

View from 463

View from 463

River view from 463

River view from 463

A little table on the balcony

A little table on the balcony

The other half of the balcony

The other half of the balcony

463 has plenty of room to work, to entertain, and to sleep (assuming any of the latter actually happens this week).

Couch in 463

Couch in 463

463 sitting area

463 sitting area

463 desk

463 desk

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There are two bathrooms in 463, one proper marble palace and the other a powder room for when guests drop by. The shower is fantastic with multiple shower heads and tons of room with nary a bit of plastic in sight.

Wait for it

Wait for it

Fantastic shower

Fantastic shower

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The rest of the property is likewise stylish. Rumor has it that the bars are great too. More about that soon enough!

Yellow submarine

Yellow submarine

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The challenge with hopping the pond in the direction of London is staying up once you arrive. Whiling away some time at the Tate Modern is a common NPS strategy.

Here are some pictures from today’s excursion.

View from the 6th floor cafe of the Tate

View from the 6th floor cafe of the Tate

Machine

Machine

Tower of babel

Tower of babel

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Valentine (for Ivan Arce)

Valentine (for Ivan Arce)

A visit to Dandelyan for a quick bite before a movie was very satisfactory indeed. Dandelyan won COTC’s best new international bar last year. It is clear why. Attention to detail and interesting cocktails to be found. Get the lamb meatballs and the pork buns!

Dandelyan visit with Aiden, Alex and Jack behind the bar

Dandelyan visit with Aiden, Alex and Jack behind the bar

The cocktail list is extensive and interesting, though the use of “refactored” standard drink names is a bit misleading. For example, a quick paw through the menu had me skip right over the Fairchild’s Mule (because it said Mule) and the BDC Negroni as well. That would have been a mistake. When I ordered a “gussied up French 75” Aiden suggested the mule. He was right.

Fairchild’s Mule
40 ml cardamom infused hendrick’s gin [10g cardamom per 700ml hendricks]
2.5 ml clove cordial [could sub in allspice dram for this British treat]
2.5 ml ginger distillate [cantons might work too, but if so drop the syrup]
5 ml simple syrup
12.5 ml lime juice
shake and double strain.
add 20 ml champagne and 20 ml fever tree ginger ale

Porter's gin by Alex Lawrence

Porter’s gin by Alex Lawrence

Barman Alex Lawrence has created Porter’s gin, which is on the aromatic side of the scale towards Hendricks. Alex uses Leopold’s method (without really knowing what that is). He made me a London Calling with his product:
50 ml porter’s gin
15 ml fino sherry
20 ml lemon juice
10 ml simple syrup
2 dashes of Regan’s 6 orange bitters
stir down, serve up. garnish with grapefruit zest

Working at Dandelyan (Gin and Arrack with a house Negroni chaser)

Working at Dandelyan (Gin and Arrack with a house Negroni chaser)

The fact that Dandelyon is associated with the Mondrian is an excellent happenstance indeed. But why does is close so early (M 1:26, T 1:17, W 1:09)?

And the Mondrian has a private movie theater, the Curzon, too. Saw Victoria which helped me meet the staying up on day one goal.

Dinner at Texture was absolutely outstanding. Fish tasting menu was delicious and the wine list was fun to work with. Yet another Michelin star with Jacob!

Five showerheads and high expectations for a super week in London. This entry will be updated as the week progresses.

Third time’s a charm. This year’s cocktail extravaganza was hashtagged (as always) with a tip of the hat to the Clash. (See #londonculling and #rockthecasbar entries.)

From our base at the Mondrian London, we headed out to the shard for lunch.

The food at Aquashard is remarkably good. Fuel up!

After lunch, it was off to the Alchemist. Espresso was in the cards since it was early yet.

Next we paid a visit to our friend Alessandro (and delivered greetings personally from Jacques Bezuidenhout) at Duke’s hotel bar. Simply put, Duke’s somehow makes the best martinis in the world. Better to only have one.

Plans called for a visit to the Ritz bar, but we ran into a shoe-ware issue (someone had on trainers that cost as much as a car). So fuck the Ritz. We will be back never.

No worries, the Connaught Bar manned by Micheal was incredibly great. We sat at the bar. Somehow the Connaught became our home away from home with two visits the next day during much fun was had.

We paid a visit to Gerry’s Wines and Spirits to amass a treasure trove of Amer Picon and some very old Cuban rum. Graham and insta-graham were a blast. Gin tasting occurred.

Then it was time for prophylactic ramen at Bone Daddies. Great ramen with a rock and roll vibe. Beer seemed like a good idea.

Bar Swift was our next target. Without a reservation we shlepped downstairs. After a round, our waitress took pity on us and gave us a great round booth. Then we got into the George T Stagg 2016. Wise?? Of course it was wise.

Next up was a visit to one of our all around favorites, the American Bar at the Savoy. Our barman on point at the establishment did what he could to find us some Catoctin Creek rye to use in the Red Lips Rye. He had 24 hours. Sadly, his attempt was unsuccessful, but he did put in a real effort.

We always seem to get stuck at the American Bar for 2 or 3 rounds, after which we head downstairs and transfer our tab to the Beaufort. Two of our party bowed out after the American Bar visit around 10:30.

It was left for the remaining cocktail enthusiasts to pull all of the weight. Down to the Beaufort we went. Frankly we were not impressed with this visit. Though we love the bar and past visits have been fun (if not expensive as hell), there seem to be too many Russians around for comfort these days.

Back home to the Dandelyan it was. We made it in time for fernet and a last call that seems to have involved two CR#2’s and six Liberals. These things happen!

So, after all this we somehow ended up opening a bottle of champagne at 2am on the balcony. That was a bad idea.

You would figure that we had learned our lesson, but we had not. The next afternoon after some ramen (medicinal this time) at Monohon ramen we walked over to the Zetter Townhouse for some hair of the dog.

Which naturally led us back to the Connaught Bar to see Michael again before our fancy night out.

We leave you with a recipe for a Coburg Collins
50 ml London dry gin (no 3)
20 ml lemon
15 ml simple syrup
10 ml fino sherry
2 dashes celery bitters
top up with soda water over big ice.

#rockthecasBAR

May 11, 2017

When iteration one’s hashtag is #londonculling where do you go from there? Obviously #rockthecasBAR!

This time we fueled up before our London cocktail adventure. And we even paid.

Then it was off through the crowded streets of London to Dukes Hotel. If you are in the mood for a Bond-inspired super high octane cocktail on the martini spectrum, Dukes is the place. We were explicitly warned to have ONE (in all caps even) by a professional! Thanks for the warning Jacques, you were right.

We walked the few blocks up to the Ritz for round two. We were almost let into the casino to do some gambling (which was not the plan). A corrected trajectory put us through the front door to Rivoli. It was Negroni time.

The beautiful clear ice was branded in the Savoy style. Everyone is copying everyone else in London.

Time for a cab to Clerkenwell, hailed by a snarky doorman. Back to…wait for it…the Zetter Townhouse to see the dead cat. This is our regular London haunt and we were immediately recognized at the door.

Here kitty kitty

Sticking with the gin, we decided on a Zetter Gimlet made with some infusion or other (I believe a kind of tea). It was delicious. The cat joined in.

While waiting for companion three to arrive from across London at rush hour we started feeling parched, so we ordered a round of 20th Century, some pistachios, and some jerky sausage.

Twentieth Century
10 ml lemon juice
10 ml creme de cacao
20 ml cocci americano
40 ml dry gin (jensens)
stir. strain. express lemon peel. small lemon garnish.

The kitty will have another

Ramen is always helpful the day after too many cocktails, but we were just getting started. Prophylactic ramen is now a thing. Monohon ramen is just as great as we thought it would be. Super authentic and delicious.

As NPS is writing this and feeling rather surprisingly good in the morning, I suppose that the prophylactic ramen did its job. Unfiltered sake was not really what the doctor ordered, but we had it anyway.

Warning: This is not a cocktail

A short walk to Callooh-Callay was when our kung fu set in. We walked right past the waiting people, made a joke with the doorman about being tweeners, and immediately sat down at the crowded bar. We were served by either Carrie or Mary. Callooh-Callay is a raucous place where quiet conversation is not in the cards.

Either Carrie of Mary suggested a Hanky Panky. We’re always up for that.

Feeling like talking to each other again, we cabbed it over to the Savoy to visit the Beaufort. We are sad that the Beaufort has changed its menu. They now feature some kind of cartoon menu that seems very Disney. NPS does not approve.

We ordered a Silver Bullet and a Never Ending Story (or two) even though the waiter tried not to let us.

By this time our phone use capabilities were waning and hashtags were slipping into gobbleddygook. We cabbed back to home base at Mondrian Sea Containers, missing a train in the meantime.

Dandelyon was packed of course, so we used our magic to waltz right in and rearrange the furniture. Alex was behind the bar and one year older. Complimentary bubbly arrived which put us in the mood for a French 75.

This somehow made Fernet happen and then it was off to bed. Meanwhile, the guest experience fairies delivered a bottle of champagne while were were out and left it with a personal note. Nice touch!

#londonculling, #rockthecasBAR, what’s next??

Are we spoiled at NPS? Why yes we are. We just got back from 20 days staying in one fantastic hotel after the other in London, Prague, Oslo, Paris, and back in London again. And we flew upper class on Virgin Atlantic. So yes, we are way f-ing spoiled.

And you know what? Annapolis sucks for hotels. You can choose old lady or you can choose chain (as witnessed below), but you can’t choose a B&B because they have an absurd two night limit. This town needs to scrap all existing hotels and start over. Kimpton, where are you?

So we find ourselves suffering from Prague-itis (just got some antibiotics for that) in the worst possible disaster of a situation for NPS.

Let the fun begin! As I am typing this at 9:34pm a wedding reception is going on downstairs. You can see it out of the window in the only superior suite on the property. In the atrium. In kind of a hyatt meets omni design disaster from the late ’70s.

Noise making room

Noise making room

The guys helping make the noise even have real things to bang on! The only saving grace is at least they are playing all classic rock. It’s like listening to FM radio.

They're nice now, but we will hate them later

They’re nice now, but we will hate them later

Room 241 is a “superior suite” in a “luxury” hotel. Neither term applies. Sorry guys, maybe in the ’70s.

Bedroom behind a divider

Bedroom behind a divider

Living area separated by the divider

Living area separated by the divider

Um, design of some sort?

Um, design of some sort?

Desk thing

Desk thing

Then there is the NPS coup de grace, the worst kind of shower over tub plastic shower with an obesity bar to boot. Just the worst. We hate these showers.

This is a classic plastic shower.  It sucks.

This is a classic plastic shower. It sucks.

Obesity bar for Trump supporters

Obesity bar for Trump supporters

Plasticized curtain

Plasticized curtain

Bathroom console

Bathroom console

But there are things even worse than the plastic shower in the baby blue bathroom.

What the hell? Empty mini bars sitting by the wall.

What the hell? Empty mini bars sitting by the wall.

Listen "luxury" hotel. People in "superior suites" should not pay $4 for water.

Listen “luxury” hotel. People in “superior suites” should not pay $4 for water.

A hole in the divider.  Nice.

A hole in the divider. Nice.

This mirror on the closet thing.  Brady bunch set?

This mirror on the closet thing. Brady bunch set?

So we will boogey on down to some bass and drums while the wedding people are still down there chirping or screaming or whatever it is they are doing. Yes, it is loud.

The thoughtful staff did send up a bottle of wine for us to drink ourselves to sleep with. LOL. That was nice. Thanks you guys.

Kind Wine

Kind Wine

But no, we have to stick with a very low two showerhead rating anyway and a fervent hope that there is a power failure in about 3 minutes that knocks out the wedding reception in the atrium. Hmmm.

Sunday brunch at Harry Browne’s was very good and involved mimosas.

Annapolis, you’re such a cute town. Get a real hotel. No really, just do it!

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As an appendix, we should state for the NPS record that management did what it could to remedy the situation we experienced in Annapolis. Good management makes a big difference.

As one small example, we needed some shirts pressed for a wedding and of course every single dry cleaner in the state capital of Maryland is closed on Sunday (including the one that the hotel outsources to). So management asked housekeeping to please press our shirts for us while we were talking to them about the other issues in this post. That was a far more creative solution than the front desk had come up with (which was more like, gee that’s a bummer). Adult supervision is a good thing.

When you start your trip at the Mondrian in London, swing through the Golden Well in Prague, upgrade yourself at the Hotel Teatro Christiana in Oslo, it is not really the right context or set of expectations for arrival at Klosterhagen Hotell. For sure the staff is super friendly and the place is clean and nice, but it is a budget hotel and not really what we’re looking for here at NPS.

Norway in a Nutshell Fjord

Norway in a Nutshell Fjord

On the positive side, we spent a day cram packed with travel on the Norway in a Nutshell tour. We were joined on the second half of the tour by some great friends and spent the entire trip talking and laughing. We were stymied by the fact that beer was not served on the fjord boat until May 1st (a very ridiculous and slightly too Norwegian thing). But we had a great time anyway watching the Japanese tourists feed the flying rats.

After dropping our bags from the Leaf at the hotel, we had a very nice dinner indeed at Bryggeloftet & Stuene Restaurant right on the waterfront and serving dinner since 1910. Excellent Norwegian cuisine.

Akavit from Bergen

Akavit from Bergen

Bergen turns out to be a very hard place to find an upscale boutique. We know, because we have been here multiple times, usually landing at the Scandic for some conference or other. So we were up for a change of venue at the Klosterhagen Hotell and it is a good time to experiment we hear because there is some kind of mysterious hotel workers strike escalating in town mostly in the chains like Radisson. That did mean we only got one room instead of two (the town is packed), but really the room was so tiny that adding another body was no big deal. Yes, we’re spoiled and we intend to stay that way.

We were assigned tiny room 209. The room numbering system is inventive and quirky.

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The bed in 209 with inches to spare on either side

The bed in 209 with inches to spare on either side

A nice non-plastic shower

A nice non-plastic shower

The rest of the tiny bathroom

The rest of the tiny bathroom

Spartan breakfast room

Spartan breakfast room

Things to fix:
cold eggs in the morning
super flaky net that requires re-authentication way too often
very thin towels that add to two and not three
thin veneer of flooring in rooms and common areas
an espresso machine that has seen better days
that mysterious plastic thing in the shower

What IS this thing?

What IS this thing?

Checkin desk

Checkin desk

Things to keep as they are
super friendly Bergen people
color scheme
location
very nice shower (needs a bigger bathroom to live in)

To add to the fun, Tuesday is garbage day, and that starts around 7am. Yays.

Anyway three showerheads for the Klosterhagen Hotell which is very nice, but not in the big leagues.

#LondonCulling

April 16, 2016

Well it seemed like a good idea at the time.

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How many fabulous cocktails bars can you visit in 12 or so hours (without rushing)? Who will be left standing (or wobbling) at the end of the day? And most importantly, who will be culled?

We began at the Hutong restaurant at the Shard. The view was fantastic, the food was good, and the company was superb, but the most ridiculous part was the urinals (with a view over the city).

Our supposedly quick tube ride over to the Savoy was thwarted by British public transportation ridiculousness. Tried to buy three day cards on the underground. One was printed, my card was charged for three and a cryptic error message that was entirely unhelpful was displayed. After 15 minutes trying to solve the problem and get a supervisor to give us a refund, we decided the process was not worth completing. So you owe me 24 pounds London underground!

The best part? We used the tickets once.

We started at the American Bar in the Savoy which has a fancy new menu as of January. As always, the drinks were as pretty as they were delicious.
savoy american

The best drink we had was no longer on the menu—the wingspan. A recipe can be found in this NPS entry.

Wingspan: American Bar: Savoy: London

Wingspan: American Bar: Savoy: London

We had attempted to head down to the Beaufort bar around 4:15 until we discovered that it was not open until 5. That left us time for a wingspan. Then we had our bill transferred down.

The beaufort has an entirely different jibe.

The Pan American Highway
20 ml bacardi 8
15 ml zacapa 23
15 ml diplomatico
10 ml amer picon
2.5 ml fernet branca menta
10 ml roasted coffee maple syrup
3 dashes chocolate bitters
Stir down. Strain. Serve in coupe with an interesting piece of ice.

A few light snacks of gruyere and foie gras were not quite satisfying us at this point. So it was off to find some light dinner.

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We ended up at Blind as a Pig where our very cute waitress was happy to play along with our silly shenanigans. Emergency clothes pins were distributed.

Our emergency clothes pin supplier was remiss to be photographed

Our emergency clothes pin supplier was remiss to be photographed

We did some napkin art as follows, which seemed entirely clever at the time.

Sated with mac and cheese, fish and chips, and other finger food, and protected by our large supply of emergency clothes pins, we were off.

Next up was the posh Connaught Bar. Connaught is run by Sardinians, who would dearly like to have some fun but who are not really sure whether they are allowed to.

We introduced the Connaught to the Liberal.

Then it was midnight and time for the great cull. What happened? Everybody dropped out but NPS! Lol. I believe it might have been wiser to stop myself.

In memorium of those who left us during the great cull #londonculling

In memorium of those who left us during the great cull #londonculling

Instead, it was off to visit the Dandelyon Bar at the Mondrian again. By now it seems that we know everybody, but it was a special treat when Iain Griffiths was in the house. Iain helps Mr Lyan create new properties. The planet is small.

Could this really be a good idea?

Could this really be a good idea?

Finally, all energy was gone and it was up the lift to crash. Candles on the porch were a special touch.