Photograph courtesy of Paul Still
Starting out with a presumed temporary gig as a night porter some three decades ago, Paul Still stayed on to work his way up the many flights of Mayfair's iconic London Hilton on Park Lane to not only become its Head Concierge but also to hold position as current president of the Society of Golden Keys, a professional association of “uniformed concierges serving in hotels of an acceptable standard”. In this, our latest Ask a Concierge interview, Paul shares his experiences catering to the needs of a diverse mix of tourists and business travellers as well as A-list celebrities and world leaders.
How did you get your start in the hotel industry? How long have you been with the Hilton?
I started at the Hilton Park Lane 31 years ago as a Night Luggage Porter, it was only supposed to be for six months, but I liked it so much that I stayed!
Can you tell us a little about the history of the London Hilton on Park Lane? Any particularly notable guests or moments that you'd like to share?
The hotel is full of history, it was built in 1963 and was the first Hilton to open outside the United States of America and also became the flagship hotel in Europe. When it was finished it was the first building to stand higher than St Paul's Cathedral at 101 metres and it still dominates the landscape on Park Lane today.
Something not everyone knows, that I find interesting, is that the hotel was actually meant to be 7 floors higher, but this would have towered over Buckingham Palace and allowed people to see into the court.
The hotel has seen many famous faces, from hosting dozens of Heads of State, including Tony Blair and President Mandela, to royalty such as Prince Charles and Camilla and the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh.
The Grand Ballroom also holds many high profile events, and past guests include Bill Clinton, Hugh Grant, Dame Helen Mirren and Lewis Hamilton, to name but a few. Our Whisky Mist at Zeta bar attracts all the A-list celebrities, including both Prince William and Prince Harry, Black Eyed Peas, P Diddy, George Clooney and famous footballers Ashley Cole and Wayne Rooney.
What would you suggest to your guests to see and do around your hotel?
The hotel's location is perfect, not only is it a short walk from some of London's major tourist attractions, such as Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Kensington Palace, and the South Kensington museums, it is close to all the major shopping areas, Knightsbridge, Sloane Street, Oxford Street, Bond Street, and Jermyn Street. To be honest, guests would be spoilt for choice for things to do and see.
Obviously, your hotel's Mayfair location must be a huge draw for potential and returning guests. Are there any lesser know aspects of the London Hilton on Park Lane that most people might be surprised to learn?
I think the best thing about the hotel is that we have outlets to suit all tastes; Galvin at Windows, our Michelin-starred restaurant on the 28th floor, has spectacular views to match the French cuisine, Podium restaurant serves a delightful Chocolate Afternoon Tea everyday, Trader Vic's, has French Polynesian cuisine and tasty cocktails and Whisky Mist at Zeta has great nightlife.
What's the most common request asked by your guests?
Where is Harrods? Where is Buckingham Palace? Where is the Hard Rock Cafe? These are the most common, but we do enjoy more challenging requests!
Top tips for an ideal day in London?
Take an umbrella! It is always guaranteed to rain at the most unexpected times.
Top restaurants always have a much more affordable lunchtime menu, compared with the evenings. Top restaurants and shows are generally more available during the early part of the week.
If it is a clear day, a ride on the London Eye is a must. You can see as far as Windsor. For a romantic touch book the Cupid's Capsule, a private capsule with champagne and chocolates. If you are here with family visit Madame Tussauds with their brand new Marvel Super Heroes 4D experience.
If you need good advice, always ask a concierge!
The London Hilton on Park Lane is aptly located at 22 Park Lane (W1K 1BE). Visit the hotel's website for information.