London

Gong at The Shard London – A bar with a view!

I booked a table at Gong, the bar of the Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard, when my father came to visit me in November. It was the occasion to finally enjoy the view from The Shard without paying to go to the viewing platform on Floor 72. 

Gong has been a very popular bar since its opening in May and as I didn’t reserve long in advance, the only time slots available were either very early or very late in the evening. I decided to book early at 17:15.

After a full day of sightseeing, we were more than ready to finally sit down, relax and enjoy nice cocktails.
 

Standing approximately at 309 metres (1 014 ft), the Shard is currently the tallest building in the European Union and is home to several offices, restaurants, apartments and The Shangi-La Hotel, which occupies floors 34-52.

Before I visited, I wondered if The Shangri-La has a private entrance or not. And it has. 
Once in the Lobby on the Ground Floor, we were asked the purpose of our visit and directed accordingly. Then, a security agent inspected all bags thanks to a X-ray scanner, like in airports. It was the first time that I saw this procedure in a hotel and I must say that I was a bit surprised. But London being under a severe terrorist threat and The Shard being one of the most iconic landmarks and therefore a potential target, I completely understood and agreed with this measure.
 
Once that my bag was checked, we took the elevator to Floor 35, which is the main floor with the reception desk, the concierge desk and Ting restaurant.
We then had to take another elevator to access Floor 52 were Gong bar is located.
 
As soon as the door is opened, an hostess welcomed us and checked our reservation. A minute later, another hostess came and showed us to our table: in the Champagne bar, near the window. I wouldn’t have hope for a better place!
Indeed, Gong is composed of 3 areas: 

The Cocktail bar

The Swimming Pool 

The Champagne bar, which is my favourite with its Asian decoration and its peaceful atmosphere

Moreover, I was pleasantly surprised that my request for a table window has been taken into consideration and fulfilled. I know that those tables are very popular and this is why I mentioned at the reservation stage that it was for a special occasion (my father’s birthday was just 2 days before). As I already mentioned,  I always play the “special occasion” card to ask for the table I want and most of the times it works.

But note that since 1 January 2015, Gong operates on a walk-in policy basis, which means that reservation is not longer required but also that seating is subject to availability at the time of arrival
I don’t really like this procedure because I think that there is nothing more annoying and frustrating than being turned down.

We were among the first guests to arrive as the bar had just opened. But less than 10 minutes later, it was already full. Most of the people were dressed specially for the occasion. We were only dressed smart-casual, as the dress code required, because we had walked all day and known that we wouldn’t have the time to change before coming.

Gong is the highest bar in London and the view is breathtaking. From our table, we had an amazing view over Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf. It’s a shame  though that the Tower of London is so badly lit because we couldn’t almost distinguished it. 

I don’t really like The Shard in itself because the top seems to be unfinished. But the building is so tall that it’s seen from far away. So, for once, I was happy to enjoy the view without seeing it. A bit like Guy de Maupassant who hated the Eiffel Tower but ate very frequently at its restaurant, explaining that it was the only place where he didn’t actually see it!

Once that we had finished to gaze at the view and to take pictures (which was very difficult due to the reflection), we finally took a look at the cocktail menu. This is also when I noticed the fake rose on the table, which really disappointed me because I always expect fresh flowers in a 5* hotel and the waitresses’ outfit, more appropriated for a spa than for a bar.

I ordered a signature cocktail called the Bermondsey Bubbles composed of Jensen’s Dry Bermondsey Gin, Rose Liqueur, Creole Bitters and Champagne.
It was presented in a nice glass. It was good but a bit too bitter for me.

We also ordered a platter of Premium Iberico Ham with toasted bread and tomato jam to accompany our drinks.

Mixed nuts and olives were constantly refilled. It was a nice gesture but a tricky one too. Everybody is attracted to nibbles which are, most of the time, quite salty. So the more you eat, the more you’re thirsty and the more you order drinks!

And the more you order drinks and … the more you pee!
We both had to use the toilet facilities and were both surprised but not for the same reasons.
My father was surprised that even the toilet had a view and even more surprised to overlook a bathroom in a room one floor lower! 
Just after the opening of the hotel, I had overheard that some rooms had a direct view in the bathrooms of other rooms but I didn’t know if it was true or if it was jealousie. But now, I know that it’s true and it’s very regrettable in such a luxury hotel.
For my part, I was surprised that there was only one toilet for ladies as women tend to pee more than men, especially in a bar! Moreover, the toilet was very small and the sink extremely low.

We decided to take a second rounds of drink and I opted for a glass of Rosé Champagne. It was good but no comparison was possible with the glass of Gausset that I was served at The Maze 2 days before.

The table was booked for 2 hours and 20 minutes before the end of the time, we were kindly reminded that our time has almost elapsed. Our glasses were empty and my vision started to be a bit blurred (I’m such lightweight drinker!) so it the time to leave anyway. Even if I was still thirsty. Bloody nibbles!

PS: There is a minimum spend of £30.00 per person (which is more or less the price of 2 cocktails). When we know that the price to go the viewing platform on top of the Shard is £24.95 per adult, I prefer to pay a bit more and enjoy cocktails while gazing at the panorama!

Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard
31 Saint Thomas Street
London, SE1 9QU
http://www.gong-shangri-la.com

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