To make my list of favourites there needs to be something special about a place, something that really stands out. You know, the type of place you start planning your next visit in your head, even before you’ve left. Read on to see why I would return to Park Plaza County Hall and L’Italiano on my next family trip to London’s South Bank/Westminster area.
Park Plaza County Hall London: Kid friendly and killer views
Snuggled in the heart of South Bank is Park Plaza County Hall. It’s a modern family friendly 14-story 4-star hotel located just across from Westminster and overlooking the river Thames. The higher rooms have spectacular views over London, think the London Eye staring you right in the face when you open the curtains. You are in walking distance of Big Ben, Palace of Westminster/Parliament, Westminster Abbey, London Eye. Many rooms have kitchenettes, separate living areas, baths and free Wifi.
This hotel really caters for families and considering London prices, the rooms are reasonable priced. The hotel restaurant, L’Italiano, is also child friendly and affordable. Think Strada and Pizza Express pricing, but with homemade pasta, pizza (with Chef Steffano’s secret recipe for the base) and other authentic Italian dishes. On Saturdays, kids of registered guests can take the complimentary pizza making class.
We were booked in a Jr. Suite (£319) but were upgraded to a Penthouse (£380), which was on the top of the hotel on the 14th floor and slightly larger and it easily accommodated all five of us. I checked on Trip Advisor and upgrades seems to happen often. Our Penthouse room was like a mini apartment. It had a swirly open plan with tan and walnut interior, with a King bed sleeping area, spacious living area with dining room table and chairs, and a pull down double bed for two of the girls. Housekeeping kindly brought in a roll away bed to accommodate our 3rd daughter. The hotel has all kinds of extras, such as a pillow menu! (in case you want an alternative to the plush down pillow, such as the Luxury Magic Pillow, which is high-density foam.)
Our bathroom was sleek and modern with a rainfall shower, separate bath, black and white granite countertops, pewter furnishings, and bathrobes. A mini cosmetic area had an array of Elemis spa@home amenities, including the usual shampoo/conditioner/shower cap, but also bath salts, toothbrush kit and shaving pack (how did they know we forgot to pack these?).
The kitchenette had everything needed for a quick breakfast or snack lunch (fridge, microwave, plates, bowls, cutlery) and my personal favourite — a Nespresso machine with espresso cups and fresh milk in fridge!
Breakfast was included in the price. It’s served in L’Italiano and is a traditional English breakfast buffet, with a continental twist with extras such as Belgian waffles, muesli, cold meats, smoked fish and lots and lots of fresh fruit.
The hotel does not have parking, although there is a very affordable car park next door (U-Park, £12/day). I was expecting to pay £30/day for parking, so this was a nice surprise.
My 10-year-old’s perspective
The view from our room at the Park Plaza County Hall is amazing! It’s looking down on London and it’s really cool. If you look down you can see a busy road that has tiny people, red double-decker buses and little cars that look like toys. Next to it is Waterloo train station. It’s really nice watching the trains go by. You can see giant sky scrapers, buildings and of course the magnificent Big Ben.
Park Plaza County Hall: Kid-friendly touches
There are several kid-friendly touches, including kids activity packs suitable for their age! (so often they are just colouring kids and aimed at little ones). Ours was for 9 – 16-year-olds and had a Yo yo, cool wrist band, origami kit make a Jumping Frog, lots of Sudoku and word games, and a passport. Their favourite part though was the kid’s vouchers, they could trade in at the bar for ice cream, chocolate bars or soft drinks. A night, the girls came back to a cute teddy tucked in their bed, because you are never too old to hug a teddy bear. The hotel also has a nice Family Adventure Hunt, which includes a long way around ( 3 hours) or the short route (90 minutes). Someone has truly thought this out and taken the time to add those little extras for families.
Don’t miss: Pizza making class!
On Saturdays at 3 pm the L’Italiano chefs run a pizza making class for kids. It’s free for registered guests. Just show up and put on your apron and chefs hat and discover how to shape the fluffy pizza dough into a nice base (it’s Steffano’s own recipe, and he won’t share it, I asked) then lightly cover it with a tomato base (Steffano kindly shared this: tomato, basil, olive oil and salt). The girls then made a four seasons pizza (a separate ingredient in each corner). Red peppers, ham, a spicy salami and onions. Steffano then transferred it into the VERY HOT clay pizza oven, where they only takes 3 minutes to cook! The girls loved their pizza so much they came back and ordered it for dinner.
The pizza making class was really fun. It’s on every Saturday and it didn’t take long because the pizza dough was already made and only took 3 minutes to cook. First we rolled the dough and put some tomato sauce that only had tomato, basil, oil and salt. Then we put mozzarella (I wanted to try it but my mum said no) and made a four seasons pizza with ham, peppers, onion and salami. Then we got to sit down in the restaurant and eat it!
L’Italiano Restaurant: Authentic Italian for families
Eating in London with families can be hit and miss. How many times have you gone for the family option, where the kids love it but mum and dad are a bit disappointed? I’s hard to get the balance right, but L’Italiano does a great job job of keeping kids happy plus making it interesting for the adults too.
Located on the Mezzanine level of the hotel, L’Italiano is an award-winning Italian restaurant that offers home-made pastas, thin and crispy pizzas (made from chef Steffano’s secret recipe), risotto dishes and mains. Pricing is similar to Strada/Pizza Express, but in addition to the usual margarita pizza and spaghetti Bolognese, there are some unusual pastas (such as mezzemaniche – a shorter version of penne). There’s also an extensive Italian wine list (we ordered the Montepulciano s’Abruzzo, a fragrant red finished with dried fruits).
When it comes to food, I love recommendations, so I asked our waitresses Silvia for her list of favourites. For starters, she recommended Struzzichino alla Bresaola (garlic bread, rocket, cherry tomatoes, boccocini di bufala and bresaola) and the Antipasti all’Italiano, which was a plate of Parma ham, Coppa, Salami Felino, marinated artichokes and breaded baby mozzarella.
For pasta Silvia recommended the Mezzemaniche alla Norma (Mezzemaniche pasta, spiced aubergine and oregano sauce, basil, and grated ricotta), which was light. My eldest ordered spaghetti alla carbonara and the two youngest ordered pizza from the child’s menu.
I always say I am going to skip dessert, and then end up ordering it. I couldn’t pass up the Panacotta Rabarbaro (Vanilla Panacotta with poached rhubarb) and the Vanilla cheesecake, which had a crunchy biscuit base mascarpone cheese vanilla and strawberry compote.
Net: If you are looking for a family friendly hotel in central London that has both luxury and value, Park Plaza County Hall is an excellent option. I’ve classed it as one of my favourites because I think the views in combination with the spacious rooms are great value and makes a memorable getaway. L’Italiano is the perfect complement to the hotel, with a menu and prices that will please adults and kids alike.
IF YOU GO:
Park Plaza County Hall London 1 Addington Street, London SE1 7RY +44 0844 415 6760 parkplazacountyhall.com Family friendly hotel in South Bank with great views of Big Ben and London Eye. Don’t miss the pizza making class on Saturdays.
L’Italiano Restaurant, inside Park Plaza County Hall London, 1 Addington Street, London SE1 7RY +44 0844 415 6760 parkplaza.co.uk Real Italian food at affordable prices. Menu that will appeal to both kids and adults.
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We were guest of the Park Plaza County Hall Hotel. All opinions are my own and my family’s.