MY LONDON: Meet Eiji Tanaka, Head Concierge at Shangri-La Hotel, At The Shard, London
HOW LONG HAVE YOU WORKED AT THE HOTEL?
I have worked at Shangri-La Hotel, At The Shard, London since February 2015, one year after the hotel opened its doors. Before that, I worked in a number of luxury hotels in London.
WERE YOU BORN IN LONDON OR SOMEWHERE ELSE?
I was born in Nara, which used to be Japan’s capital city. In 1999, I moved to London to study and started my first job in London as a luggage porter in the Montcalm Hotel. I completed my studies at a hotel management school in London. London has so much to offer – in terms of history, culture, modern technology and entertainment. Within 30 to 60 minutes you can travel outside the city and experience a completely different landscape, such as the beautiful scenery in Canterbury or Tunbridge Wells. This does not happen in Tokyo!
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
I love meeting new people and discovering things that my job enables me to do, so I feel very fortunate. Also, I really enjoy a challenge. I am passionate about creating memorable experiences for our guests in order to make their stay unforgettable. There is a new challenge every day and it is my job to find a way and a person who can help solve it. I am a member of Les Clefs d’Or, so I often reach out to my international contacts to go that extra mile.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LOCALE WHEN ENJOYING A DAY OFF?
One of my favorite places in London is St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, and I sometimes join their free lunch concerts which take place every day at 1pm.
WHERE DO YOU TAKE YOUR OWN GUESTS WHEN THEY VISIT YOU?
On weekends I like taking my guests to Maltby Street Market to enjoy the local food. I am a real foodie and I love dining out. For drinks, I take them to the George Inn, which is the last remaining galleried inn in London. For dinner, Pizarro on Bermondsey Street is a great spot for authentic Spanish dishes and a wide selection of sherries and Spanish wines. Another must see is the Carlisle House in Chelsea, which is an Edwardian townhouse and showcases how people lived in the Edwardian times. It is like stepping back in time.
WHAT ARE YOUR RECOMMENDATIONS FOR HOTEL GUESTS?
Our ‘At The Market with Chef’ experience is a great experience for first time visitors to London. One of our chefs accompanies the guests down to the end of the street to Borough Market, to select fresh produce for a personalised meal. The chef will use the ingredients to prepare a bespoke dinner for the guests.
The Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret is also a fascinating place and is just metres down the street. The London Bridge area used to be a medical district and was the home of St Thomas’ Hospital. The former operational theatre is now open to the public and allows visitors to see how surgery on humans was carried out in the early 1920s.
Another great local experience I would highly recommend is a tour through Jensen’s Gin Distillery, just a five-minute walk from the hotel. Guests learn about the history of Old London gins, how they are made, and of course, taste them!
IT’S A RAINY DAY BUT WE WANT TO EXPLORE, WHAT SHOULD WE DO?
There are more than 20 free museums in our city, allowing guests to comfortably enjoy culture indoors. I can highly recommend the Tate Modern and White Cube Gallery, which are both within walking distance from the hotel.
WHAT DO YOU RECOMMEND AS NIGHTTIME ENTERTAINMENT?
The West End is a must for anyone visiting London. The most iconic show is probably Phantom of the Opera, and I would also highly recommend School of Rock. When it comes to dining, we are in an exciting location and surrounded by amazing restaurants such as Roast, Fish and Duddell’s. If you have time for a three-hour meal and are looking for a really unique dining experience, I would highly recommend a restaurant called Story located on Tooley Street. Every course is presented as a story; it’s really something else!
WHERE IS THE BEST SHOPPING? WHAT SOUVENIRS SHOULD WE BUY?
Harrods is a great place to find unique and unusual souvenirs. Try the tea counter and ask for the tea that contains gold dust – a unique gift idea for any tea lover. Another great one is an umbrella from the world-famous umbrella store James Smith & Sons.
WHAT DO YOU RECOMMEND FOR FAMILIES?
The Tower of London is a great place for families as it’s both educational and entertaining. If your kids have bundles of energy, then I would recommend the London Dungeons as it will keep them on their toes!
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO GET TO THE AIRPORT?
Which one?! There is a train that leaves directly from London Bridge Station which is located next door to the hotel, to Gatwick Airport, and it only takes 30 minutes. The best way to get to Heathrow Airport is either by tube from London Bridge Underground or by car. They are all accessible from us, especially City Airport where you can touch down and be in The City of London in fifteen minutes by the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) train.