One of the greatest pleasures of living near London is the short break potential – trips to the Big Smoke can actually be relaxing (no driving or flying!), and no matter how many times you visit, you’ll always find something new to experience. When stay-at-home restrictions start to ease, how about having your first family adventure take you to the African savannah – without leaving England, of course – on a very special theatre break to One Aldwych, and an evening with The Lion King.
If you haven’t yet seen The Lion King at the West End’s Lyceum Theatre, well, why not? The iconic musical is one you need on your, “I’ve seen that” list – not just because of the hype, but because it actually is that good, and will please everyone in your family, big or small.
The magic begins as soon as the lights dim, with herds of African animals appearing from all directions, and familiar music filling your ears. “The Circle of Life” will get your feelings churning before the first 10 minutes is up, so you know you’re in for a true-to-form Disney emotional rollercoaster – in a good way, of course.
Julie Taymor, the talented director behind the production, has created a show that is a true feast for the senses. It’s a fascinating concoction of visual beauty and technical brilliance – the characters come alive using an ingenious mix of puppetry and acting. Giraffes lumber across the stage on stilts, a cheetah prowls around with its actor counterpart leaping and rearing, and Timon and Pumbaa are cleverly designed so both the puppet and actor can project feeling with a hefty dose of humour.
Even though the show has been in London for over 20 years, being the West End’s best-selling stage production having entertained millions of theatregoers, each performance is as spectacular as the last. The actors’ passion shines through, and they all seem nothing less than thrilled to be a part of this historical show, which on top of the set, the costumes, the story and the songs makes for one unforgettable night for the whole family.
An evening at the theatre wouldn’t be complete without a nearby hotel to call home for the night, and the ideal (in every sense of the word) place for both your overnight stay and pre-theatre dinner is the luxurious 5-star One Aldwych. Just across the street from the Lyceum Theatre, it’s the finest spot to rest your head after your theatre experience.
Parents and children will both receive the warmest of welcomes from staff, as well as Spencer and Lizzie, the hotel’s much loved papier-mâché dogs.
The hotel has various interconnecting bedrooms which are ideal for families of all shapes and sizes, plus extra beds, cots and bed rails for kids of all ages. Suites have separate sitting rooms and dining areas to keep the largest families content.
Younger guests will love the welcome gifts and kids’ bathrobes and slippers, and can make use of the hotel’s Wii consoles in-room, or splash away in the hotel’s swimming pool.
Food and drink
We had the pleasure of dining at both Indigo at One Aldwych, the hotel’s informal but oh-so-classy eatery boasting innovative food from executive chef Dominic Teague; and also at Eneko Basque Kitchen & Bar, the hotel’s intimate, romantic restaurant serving modern Basque dishes from renowned chef Eneko Atxa.
After a cocktail or two at One Aldwych’s Lobby Bar, if you’re after a positively memorable break, I can’t recommend Eneko highly enough. Offering a delectable menu for the grownups, and a separate menu for the kids, Eneko can supply everything from highchairs to children’s cutlery, making mealtimes as enjoyable for the little ones as it is for the adults. From my traditional talo starter (crispy corn talo with heritage tomatoes and basil emulsion) to the gorgeous braised pork cheeks with ham duxelle and confit shallots, to the show-stopping rose marshmallow and strawberry sorbet for dessert, accompanied by a glass vase with a single rose, billowing over with dry ice fog and a rose-scented essential oil – the ambiance was an ideal match to our Lion King escape.
If you happen to arrive in time for afternoon tea, treat the kids to a magical experience with the hotel’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory afternoon tea, featuring fizzy lifting drinks, snozzberry jam, chocolate milkshake mixed by waterfall and lots more adventurous delights.
After a delicious meal and a delightful show, you have Covent Garden right on your doorstep. One Aldwych can provide a professional babysitter so you can stay out all night if you fancy, or do as we did… while away the hours back at the hotel’s glamorous bar, sipping on apple martinis, grateful to have found the perfect getaway this close to home.
The Classic Suite at One Aldwych can be booked from approx. £900/night double occupancy, with kids staying free.
Address: One Aldwych, London WC2B 4BZ
Phone: 020 7300 1000
The Lion King tickets can be booked from £20pp.
Address: The Lyceum Theatre, 21 Wellington Street, London WC2E 7RQ
Phone: 0844 871 3000