What's New in London

Planner in Residence
Joe Mensah, director of events and operations at the InterContinental London Park Lane, shares his tips for a delightful stay in the British capital.

What are some of your go-to meeting venues?
We work closely with heritage locations in and around London to present off-site locations. Some of my personal favorites include Hedsor House in Buckinghamshire, or the top of the iconic Wellington Arch just opposite the hotel.

Where is a great place to shop? After all, London is the birthplace of modern tailoring.
Liberty London is a true embodiment of British creativity. Liberty is famed for innovation and design that blends international pieces with fresh British design talent. At the hotel we can arrange for private VIP shopping tours as well as exclusive access to Liberty history.

What are some of your favorite dining spots?
It is a really exciting time for the restaurant scene in London. We are very spoiled at the hotel as we have Theo Randall, which is constantly voted the best Italian restaurant in London. I also really like London’s other local offerings such as Turkish, Indian, Vietnamese — and, of course, a great pub. One of my favorite pubs is the Bull Highgate.

London is heating up for summer
London has been enjoying a lot of capital investment in the past year, and this has meant a boon for planners, with multiple new hotel openings and renovations.

In March 2012, Apex Hotels opened its third London property, the Apex Temple Court, a 184-room luxury boutique hotel, complete with exclusive club lounge and restaurant. Then, in July of last year, the 115-room Park Grand London Heathrow opened near London Heathrow airport, featuring a restaurant, bar, fitness center, complimentary Wi-Fi, and 24-hour room service. It also has three meeting rooms and banquet services that can cater for up to 200.

Also last summer, the 110-room Ampersand Hotel reopened with a patisserie, Bellini bar, and a vaulted cocktail and dining room. The historic property was originally built in 1888, and is billed as "one of London's original Victorian boutique hotels." The property offers three meeting rooms, the largest of which can host up to 50.

In September 2012, the new 80-room, boutique South Place Hotel opened behind Finsbury Circus. The unique property is the debut hotel from restaurateurs D&D London, and it features Conran-designed interiors, two restaurants, three bars, and five meeting rooms, the largest two of which can be combined to accommodate up to 200.

The historic Cafe Royal hotel in Central London opened in the winter of last year as well. The 159-room property is a revamp of the original Cafe Royal, which closed in December 2008 and was famous for being the meeting place for the likes of Oscar Wilde, Elizabeth Taylor, Winston Churchill, and Princess Diana. The new property features five meeting rooms for a total of 5,400 square feet, and includes complimentary Wi-Fi.

Last December saw the opening of more historic lodgings, as the InterContinental London Westminster opened with 256 rooms in the former Queen Anne's Chambers, which were originally built in the 19th century. It features eight meeting rooms and is the first IHG hotel to open in London in 36 years.

Additionally, the Ilec Conference Centre has reopened following a $7.68-million refurbishment. The conference and meeting venue boasts more than 16,000 square feet of space, which can be configured into a total of nine modular rooms. Its newly developed, pillar-free ballroom can accommodate events, conferences, and meetings for up to 1,200 delegates.

The Olympia London event venue has also been redeveloped, with West Hall transformed into a 92,000-square-foot convention facility.

Lastly in 2012, the former Mountbatten Hotel reopened as the Radisson Blu Edwardian Mercer Street Hotel after a $23 million renovation. The 137-room Radisson Edwardian property features Apple TV technology in every room. There are six meeting rooms capable of hosting up to 50 people. Features also include Japanese-style "bento boxes" for lunch.

More on the Horizon
This month, the new 99-room, contemporary boutique hotel Xenia will open in South Kensington. Housed in an artfully restored Victorian building with contemporary interiors, Xenia will comprise a destination restaurant, a bar with an outdoor terrace, a private dining area, and an unspecified amount of event space.

In the second quarter of 2013, the new Shangri-La Hotel London will open at The Shard, one of London's iconic glass skyscrapers. The 202-room Shangri-La will include a lobby lounge and bar, a gourmet lounge cafe with artisan foods, a themed bar situated on the 52nd floor, and three river-facing event rooms.

In July, Olympic Park will reopen as Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park site in Stratford, East London. It will feature lush parklands and waterways, new neighborhoods and world-class venues. The North Park area will feature a nature-themed community hub and the South Plaza is billed as an ideal events venue.

The new Art'otel London Hoxton - the first London property from the boutique hotel group - is scheduled to open sometime this year. The 350-room property will be art-focused, and will feature a gallery space, an arthouse cinema, a spa, and a restaurant on the double-height top floor. Also this year, Nobu is planning to open a modern, architecturally astonishing property with 143 guest rooms and, of course, a restaurant.

Among the other new offerings to crop up recently, is an affordable-luxury property opened by hotel group citizenM last year. It has plans to open two more: citizenM Tower of London and citizenM St Paul's. The hotels will incorporate contemporary design and modern art, though the opening dates have yet to be confirmed.

Meanwhile, floors three through seven of the Trocadero - a gaming and entertainment complex in the city - will be turned into a Tokyo-style "pod" hotel. The 495 windowless "pods" will resemble those of a luxury cruise ship and will be styled with high-quality finishes, as well as a double bed and high-tech bathroom. The hotel will feature a rooftop bar and restaurant, providing breathtaking views of the London skyline.