It was an honour to have been invited to experience the Le Meridien Piccadilly Unlock Art Programme with RIBA ( Royal Institute of British Architects).
The Unlock Art programme offers guests access to local cultural institutions, who the hotel have partnered with, on presentation of their hotel key card.
I was so pleased to have received my own personalised key card, an image taken from my Instagram account.
I was invited to participate in RIBA’s architectural guided walk and also, on a separate occasion, to view their photographic exhibition.
The last time I experienced Le Meridien’s Unlock art program, was when I was in Barcelona. I was there as press, to find out about their collaboration with talented American photographer Gray Malin.
Whilst attending the cocktail party at Le Meridien Barcelona, I remembered taking an Instagram photo of the colourful pineapple lights at the bar.
Pineapples featured in Gray’s work, hence the display. I have been searching for those pineapple lights to buy since then.
Then an amazing surprise happened. When I arrived at my hotel room at Le Meridien Piccadilly, there was a stream of photos from my Instagram playing on a digital frame and there it was, the pineapple photo I took.
But wait! there was a Malin pineapple light waiting there for me too.
One thing I have to say about the Le Meridien group, and that is how amazing they are at paying attention to details.
RIBA’s photographic exhibition took place at Le Meridien Piccadilly’s Terrace Grill and Bar restaurant.
The restaurant was serving up a special RIBA tea menu and how lovely it was to be able to combine having afternoon tea whilst perusing the photos.
My daughter joined me for the tea. It was a lovely mother daughter afternoon. Whilst taking in the exhibition, we were discussing photography and she practised taking photos using the manual settings of my DSLR camera.
Here is a shot she took of me pouring some Jasmine tea from Jing.
I was so excited to sample Jing tea again, especially after having been to a tea masterclass they ran.
Did you know that Green, Yellow and White teas tasted best when infused for 3 minutes with water at 60-80°C? and that there were kettles with special thermometers for tea making?
I also learned that all teas originated from the Camellia Sinensis plant and that it was the different methods of production, such as withering, heating and drying that gave tea its variety.
I was keen to try Jing’s Hibiscus and blackcurrant herbal tea ( top left cup in the photo) after a recommendation.
Strictly speaking, it is not a tea, as it did not come from the Sinensis plant. However it was a truly delicious infusion, fragrant with berry notes but not sweet to taste.
Afternoon tea in the U.K can’t be afternoon tea without scones right?
These were freshly baked and warm. With lashings of Cornish clotted cream and strawberry jam, they disappeared pretty quickly. I’m dreaming of them as I type.
Can I tempt you with a slice of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, topped with a crunchy walnut?
The lovely Barista brought me this complimentary coffee cocktail.
It was an illy coffee with Sloe gin, raspberry and cream. It was delicious but I had to pace myself, you will soon see why.
Here’s a selection of the RIBA photography on display. They’re from RIBA’s archive of 1.5 million photos.
Seeing them up close in person is probably the best way. A great excuse for afternoon tea.
Many of the images were taken between the 1930s to 60s. Some of the iconic landmarks in the photos have since vanished, so this was a great opportunity to see a historical record.
Talking about architecture, the RIBA guided tour took me around the hidden architectural gems of London’s Soho and Fitzrovia.
The hotel is currently offering their guests special RIBA self guided walking tour maps and believe me, it is worth it. It is incredible how we walk the streets of London and not look up at buildings, well, not me anyway. Some of the most beautiful architecture with amazing stories are just there waiting to be discovered.
The photo above is of the back of Le Meridien Piccadilly. It was built in 1908 by the architect Richard Norman Shaw in the Regency style. Stunning isn’t it? All this time I have walked on by and not seen it.
This building with its bold black and white patterns caught my eye. It’s now the Langham Court hotel, but was previously a nurses’ home.
Anyway, back to the tea. Remember I mentioned about pacing myself with the coffee cocktail? Well, this was because I got to sample this amazing Rose buds and fresh raspberries infused Sipsmith gin too.
Isn’t it just so pretty to look at. I’m loving the peachy pink hues and those floating rose buds.
I could have spent all day photographing this, but it was too delicious not to drink.
You too can experience the gin at the Sipsmith sipping garden in Le Meridien Piccadilly’s Terrace Grill and Bar, complete with a smiling Master of Cocktails.
Sipsmith is truly artisanal, produced meticulously in small batches and distilled in Copper. The dry gin contains at least 10 botanicals and has a distinctive sweet spicy and citrus taste.
Gin, illy coffee, scones, cakes and finger sandwiches at the Terrace grill and bar. All sound heavenly right?
If you want an even more colourful and lavish afternoon tea, then you should try the Patisserie party which takes place most Sundays in the Oak room lounge of the hotel, surrounded by wooden panelled walls and chandeliers that hang down over the most colourful of cakes.
I haven’t tried the Patisserie party yet, but I saw some of the colourful cakes you could expect there.
There will be cupcakes of all flavours and colours,
Yummy mini eclairs.
and Rainbow cakes. Only the tip of the iceberg.
Now I’m back home, reminiscing my stay at Le Meridien Piccadilly. Why not treat yourself to a weekend there and enjoy all the Unlock Art programme has to offer.
Here my pineapple light feels at home with my Funkin cocktails scarf which I have temporarily adapted to make a cushion cover.
Hope you have enjoyed the post. Have a lovely weekend all.
( All styling and photos are by me, Geraldine Tan of Little Big Bell. The hotel press stay and tea was complimentary from Le Meridien Piccadilly. All opinions stated in this post are my own. )