Hilton London Bankside has debuted a world-first vegan suite.
Created in partnership with multi-sensory design experts Bompas & Parr and given the thumbs up by the Vegan Society, the location offers a vegan experience throughout, from a plant-based check-in desk and keycard to vegan-friendly bedding and eco-cotton carpet.
Here Thomas Reynolds finds out more for Breaking Travel News.
Thorough would-be guests at the world’s first vegan suite at the Bankside Hilton will find reviews of the experience tend to come with a caveat, namely that the reviewer themselves is rather less vegan than the carefully-curated environs they’ve come to inspect.
Worry not readers, what the broadsheets have overlooked, Breaking Travel News deems essential and it was for precisely this reason that your correspondent was deployed to investigate, by bicycle, naturally.
Being a relatively recent convert (three years and counting) and not overly studied in my late-blooming vocation, I arrived wondering how many not-strictly necessary animal products can one suite contain?
The answer is “quite a lot actually,” judging by the panoply of conscience-salving cruelty free features included by designers Bompas & Parr and approved by the Vegan Society.
Let’s start with arrival, where vegan suite visitors are welcomed to a separate plant-based check-in area.
Here the leather seats that feature widely throughout the hotel’s foyer, bar and dining areas are eschewed in favour of chairs upholstered in a pineapple-derived alternative named Piñatex.
The fruit in question is significant, not simply because of its leaves’ leather-rivalling qualities, but due to its historical ties to the area in which this five-star offering is situated.
Roving 17th century botanist Sir John Tradescent the Elder - thought to have introduced the pineapple to these shores - lived in nearby Lambeth for some time, while they were first sold in London a short walk away at modern-day foodie free-for-all, Borough Market.
Key cards, too, come encased in a vibrantly coloured Piñatex wallet.
These double up nicely as subtle visual short-hand to ensure the accommodating Hilton staff apply various vegan considerations and adjustments during your animal-product-free sabbatical.
The suite itself is far from simply an ode to the adaptability of the aforementioned fruit, displaying its cruelty-free credentials in numerous other ways, while not compromising one iota on quality.
No silkworms were waylaid in the production of the soy-silk curtains, nor were any sheep sheared of their wool in order for you to feel the sustainably-sourced, organic cotton carpets and bamboo rugs between your toes.
Pillows come with numerous feather-free stuffings, from buckwheat to kapok, while the shower room is replete with vegan toiletries from Prija, ensuring a conscience as clean as you’ll be.
Even the products used to cleanse the room prior to your arrival have been carefully selected not to include any of the animal-derived ingredients that may have sneaked past less committed hoteliers.
The mini-bar is stocked with healthy fruit, nut and pulse-based nibbles and juices, albeit sadly no booze, but that’s only a drop in the alimentary ocean compared to the wide-ranging in-room menu.
Guests keen on sequestering themselves within this plant-based cocoon can order in from a delectable dispensation of vegan snacks and larger eats for every meal of the day from hearty scrambled (vegan) Quorn and avocado quinoa to tasty cauliflower steaks.
Not to be outdone, the hotel’s restaurant, Oxbo, transforms itself with one flash of your Piñatex key holder - out go the leather seats, in comes the vegan menu.
Arguably the only moment when the joins in this end-to-end vegan experience show comes upon entering Oxbo, when more squeamish animal lovers may momentarily baulk at what appear to be the head-hunted trophies of an exotic game safari on one of the walls.
Fortunately, closer inspection reveals the hippopotamus, bear and friends to be fashioned from papier-mâché, although the origins of what looked a lot like a taxidermied fox cub in a separate display were a little harder to pin down.
The menu offered six ‘main dishes’ and - while the inclusion of ‘chickpea hummus, moutabel (a spicy cousin of babagnoush) and Khobex bread’ as one of their number raised eyebrows - the dhal with courgette, broccoli and butternut was delicious and filling, as was the Portobello mushroom served with grilled aubergine, courgette, soya beans and yuzu oil.
A step short of an education in the possibilities of vegan cooking, the menu, accompanied by one of a good selection of vegan wines, was nonetheless situated towards the upper middle of what London-based plant-preferers have come to expect.
Getting back to the suite, the Hilton Bankside has introduced the world to the possibilities of comfortable five-star lodgings with a conscience.
However, it must be noted that, for now, there does appear to be a premium on that piety, with similar if not superior non-vegan suites available at around £100 less per night at the hotel’s flexible rate. A scarcity-related hike perhaps…
Laudable, principled step in the right direction or zeitgeist-fluffing token gesture, the vegan suite was either way a pleasure to stay in for this this plant-powered correspondent, with the only real quibble that bicycle parking, while kindly accommodated, is not offered as standard.
But who cycles to a five-star hotel anyway?
It will be intriguing to follow how many more vegan suites pop up in Hiltons across the globe in the coming years and how many non-vegan suites are constructed alongside them.