Spotlight on: The Langham

Spotlight on: The Langham

Stylebible goes to Sydney
Elliot Wilson

Hotels come and go, often seeming to change with the seasons. Some names rise and fall; others gain and retain an ultra-loyal following. During a long holiday in Florida in the 1980s, my father would bundle us kids up in various Howard Johnson’s, a chain of cheap-and-cheerful motels that waned in power after being sold to Marriott, which itself has splintered into a dizzying welter of sub-brands. Others  names just seem to last. They have longevity: not the sort that points to a weary, corrosive conservatism and aversion to risk, but one that recognises that the owners have found a model that works, and are willing to cling to it, through thick and thin, good times and bad.

The Langham is one such name. Whether you are staying at the one off Regent Street in London, with its wicked swimming pool and fine dining at Roux at the Landau, or at the soaring residence in Hong Kong, with its three-star Michelin Cantonese dishes at the legendary T’ang Court, the same themes run throughout. A soothing pinkish hue, mixed with golden hand rails and heavenly-white walls, and the same, ginger-flower essence that is piped throughout the corridors and entrance rooms. Wake up in the morning hush, with sunlight streaming through the windows, and you might feel you’ve slept too long and drifted off to heaven.

Yet again, the Langham gets it spot-on in Sydney. We arrived off a triple-long-haul flight from Geneva, having taken a few days to decompress in Singapore. Even for regular travellers, flying across multiple timezones can take it out of you, but the Langham makes it as easy as possible to make the transition. We arrived very early in the day, settled in in our suite – the rooms range from the Grand Langham Rooms all the way up, through various levels of suites, to the Terrace Rooms with their grand views of Sydney’s big, powerful skyline.

Some of the wonders of staying at the Langham in Sydney are immediately visible; others only slide into view when you glance in the rear-view mirror. Firmly in the first camp is the food, from the excellence breakfast (with its gluten-free options) to the Palm Court, which draws people together for the best afternoon tea in town, and the fine dining of the Kent Street Kitchen. During breakfast on our second day there, we wound up chatting with a superstar Hollywood producer, who was followed everywhere by his elderly soft-haired spaniel. A dog-friendly hotel always gets my respect: they even had a pink Langham-branded water dish outside the front door for thirsty pooches. The in-room dining was good, but not spectacular, and aside from the generously sized swimming pool, the gym and spa facilities in the basement are perhaps a tad too small to do justice to a hotel of this quality.

Then there are the less visible bits. Lets start with the little things: the double doors inside each room and suite that separates the main room from the corridor. Hotels can be places of celebration and silence, but the added barrier ensures that if you are tired – jetlagged, hungover or just recovering from a long work year – you are guaranteed blessed solitude. Then there was the concierge. Like a maître d' or a quarterback in American football, a concierge can, in their own, subtle way, make or break an institution. They are the hinge upon which the hotel tilts: often the piece in the jigsaw you remember much, much later, and which draws you back to the same place, if you visit every month, or once a decade. In our case, Jordie, the concierge on duty during the day, was a wonder. He pointed us toward the good restaurants and bars, and steered us away from the bad or overrated ones. He secured us tickets for our slog up the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and sweated to get us tickets to a big-name singer who was in town for a series of gigs that week.

Finally, there was the way the Langham reacted when one of our party fell ill. They were so helpful: locating pharmacies and doctors, and extending our stay for one night, at the last moment. It’s doubtful whether a big-name, global chain with thousands of outlets would have had the time, or the inclination, to help out like that. They might, but the chances are lower. That’s what you get with the Langham. Beyond the branding and the décor, the fragrance and the hush, you get the extra yard. They go it, and the customer willingly takes it.