“Is the arch made of marble? Are there lions at Oxford Circus? Where’s all the grass in Covent Garden?” Ah, the joyous sound of a toddler’s whirring brain…
While many of us pass these historic landmarks daily, barely acknowledging their existence, for a child taking their first trip to London getting a glimpse of Big Ben or the London Eye is the stuff of fairytales.
So it was with excitement, enthusiasm, and lots and lots of questions, that our family approached the centre of town for our first group trip to the capital. Daughter was turning three and we decided to mark the occasion with a special mini-break. We looked into many options for overnight stays but none came recommended higher than The Arch, a family-run five star boutique hotel just a shriek away from Speakers’ Corner.
“How many buses are there in London? Do they eat Piccalilli in Piccadilly? Will we meet the Queen?” As the questions kept on coming we made our way up the steps and into the reception area. After a sharp intake of breath as they were handed activity packs, both offspring turned a faint shade of pink as staff greeted them by name. “We must be VERY important,” whispered the five-year-old, his eyes bulging out of his head as he scrambled to open the football magazine that had just been handed to him. “We must be,” I thought, but then I realised that all guests who entered were getting the same grand treatment. It seems giving residents the five star treatment from the second they arrive is simply just policy at The Arch. We were off to a good start.
Kids are always hungry, and we had a full day’s sightseeing ahead of us, so we decided to grab a bite to eat at the hotel restaurant before setting out on our adventure. Hunter 486 – named after the 1950s dialling code for Marylebone – offers a relaxed dining environment with open plan tables on one side, and more private booths on the other. Spying a secluded booth behind a silk curtain, we settled ourselves there. Our server was straight over with menus and offers of explanations on all the dishes, and the kids were quickly occupied with their activity sets.
Despite the laid-back atmosphere, this is no hotel canteen. The menu offers an array of innovative and exciting plates including a 28 day aged rib eye, pan fried scallops with black pudding, and grilled halloumi with pesto and tapenade. For vegetarians like me there are several options of starters and main courses on the à la carte, and more on the set menu, and for meat eaters there’s traditional fayre or finer dining dishes. Kids can choose from a selection of pizzas, fish and chips or chicken strips.
When it arrived, the food was fresh and flavoursome. The kids’ meals were generous portions, and their mains arrived with our starters so they weren’t whining about missing about as we tucked in. I thoroughly enjoyed my mushroom and truffle tortellini and Daddy barely stopped for breath as he inhaled his steak with bernaise sauce. Desserts were enjoyed by the younger guests while we finished our mains and the delicious bread and butter served with the meals, then we sought out our room in order to leave our luggage and embark upon our adventure.
Haste was not the name of the game, however, because as we ushered into our suite at the end of the corridor, both kids fell over themselves to grab a handful of chocolates they spied on the glass-top table. It’s little touches like this, and the personalised note from Archie – the canine hotel mascot – that make you appreciate The Arch as a hotel which really does cater comprehensively for families.
Our suite was compact but comfortable, with a huge TV, separate fridge area, and huge adjoining bathroom. The stylish sofa bed was converted during turn-down while we were out, so no huffing and puffing or negotiating fiddly fixtures required. And it’s little touches like complimentary Childs Farm kids’ cosmetics that make you value The Arch as a genuinely family-friendly hotel. The pièce de résistance, however, was discovered in the en suite. “There’s a telly in the baaaaath!!!” By the cries that filled the air you’d have thought Christmas had rolled around again. Desperate to don their mini robes and slippers, another thoughtful and appreciated touch, the small people pleaded to shed their clothes and hop in to watch Paw Patrol while bathing. Later though, we promised, and finally bundled them out of the door in search of the sights.
As we emerged from the hotel we were immediately faced with a red telephone box and the sight of Marble Arch looming ahead. Two boxes ticked, we jumped on a red Routemaster at the top of the road (another box quickly ticked) and headed towards the West End where we spent the afternoon being entertained by street performers, roaming round the Transport Museum, and splashing out on extortionately priced snacks at every turn.
When we returned to our room for the night, two exhausted children who had proclaimed they couldn’t walk a step further suddenly shot back to life as they spied yet more chocolates. Some eagle-eyed (or eared) member of staff had heard that it was the daughter’s birthday, and had left a little tray of treats, with Happy Birthday written in white chocolate, and a gift of a fantastic toddler book, right by her newly-made bed. Delighted, the pair squealed with joy, scoffed the lot, then climbed into bed for a much-needed sleep. It had been a long, and thoroughly fantastic, day.
The following morning after playing musical beds several times overnight (don’t you just love an indecisive, over-excited toddler?) we weren’t exactly bright eyed, but a bushy tailed enthusiasm reigned and we bustled back down to the restaurant for the most decadent of breakfasts. A vegan full English for me, complete with scrambled tofu, pancakes piled with maple syrup and berries for the boy, a fine selection of cereals and croissants for the birthday girl, and a triple decker bacon sarnie for Daddy. Just what we needed to fuel another full day’s sightseeing.
As we checked out the kids got friendly farewells from all the staff (although they were probably just glad to see the back of us), and having found our London home from home, multiple promises to return were shouted over our shoulders. Probably leaving the staff shaking with fear… Oh well, we enjoyed ourselves!
- For more information on The Arch, to view rooms or book a stay, see www.thearchlondon.com.
- Belle About Town took advantage of the Family Fun package which includes a complimentary extra bed, welcome gift, Archie the dog toy, milk and cookie at bedtime and more. Click here for full details.