London hotels: 10 of the very best
I’ve been tired of London – hell, I’ve been tired of life plenty of times as well – but there is something about the capital that keeps dragging me back. Of course, work commitments require me to venture to Victoria on occasion but as a West country girl through and through, there is always a certain reluctance in me.
I feel I’ve had a bit of a breakthrough this year. I’ve found some really, really lovely hotels that have protected me from all the aspects of London life that I despise. There are hotels that are almost other-worldly in their abilities to pamper their guests. And they walk that fine tightrope between being plush and impressive WITHOUT being intimidating.
ROYAL GARDEN HOTEL
This hotel wasn’t even on my radaruntil this year but when a friend of a friend joined the PR company, I popped over for a quick tour of the rooms and a glass of fizz. It’s a vast hotel, much bigger than it looks from the outside, but cosy and homely inside. It is popular with international visitors for its series of suites: ranging from a executive-style apartments to family friendly adjoining park suites to four luxury master suites.
There are two things that really stand out about this hotel. Firstly, the stunning views of Kensington Gardens from the high-end, park-side rooms. Secondly, the destination Chinese restaurant on the 10th floor, Min Jiang.
I took a friend who is a lawyer-to-be to Min Jiang for dinner. Well, I reasoned, chances are he can shout me a fair few dinners in return when he qualifies… We started with a steamed vegetarian Dim Sum platter (a very reasonable £13.50), packed with spring rolls and hot and sour vegetables. For mains, we were more adventurous, with stir fried ostrich in Mongolian sauce (£24), Sichuan double cooked pork belly (£18) and lobster (£60). Dishes were spiced yet balanced, subtly flavoured and presented with flair is a modern, relaxed setting popular with corporate diners and residents alike. An experience not to be missed, whether you are staying for the night or just passing through.
Summer rates start from £180 per room including use of Soma Spa and a full English breakfast. Guoman Hotels also just launched a summer promotion with limited £79 rooms at the group’s five centrally located hotels including The Cumberland in Marble Arch and The Grosvenor Hotel in Victoria, between the 13 July and the 9 September 2012, subject to availability. See Guoman Hotels online.
Best afternoon tea
For old English glamour with serious wow-factor, it’s got to be The Lanesborough. Their thoroughly modernised suites are ideal for business types on the move but while it is embracing the 21st century in terms of its gadgets, it retains a certain Olde Worlde charm – there is a butler on hand to unpack for you, if you are confident enough about the state of your smalls.
In my opinion, it has the best afternoon tea in London – better service than The Ritz, better coffee and petit fours than The Wolseley. Served at the hotel’s restuarant, Apsleys, it includes a selection of teas so rare that many have been bought at auction, and the expertise of our Tea Sommelier will help you make your selection. A great talking point to kick off a very English experience.
Timeless Weekends cost from £295 per room for two nights, including 24 hour butler service and use of the spa and fitness studio.
GROSVENOR HOUSE APARTMENTS BY JUMEIRAH LIVING
Best group accommodation
These apartments only opened last month but shot straight into our top 10 as soon as they unlocked the doors. The Park Lane apartments have 133 residences in all to let, with availability over the Olympics.
We loved the almost casual luxe interior – we certainly don’t have oversized stone bathrooms, Wedgwood and Royal Doulton china and fine glassware at home, but our apartment felt homely. The iconic Lutyens building dates back to the 1920s and the interiors stay loyal to its art deco roots.
Ideal for groups, large families and long-term corporate bookings, guests can use hotel-style concierge service for help with transport, leisure and entertainment bookings, but enjoy all the privacy of a discreet apartment.
Prices start from £450 per night for a studio apartment, with a minimum 10-night stay.
JW MARRIOTT GROSVENOR HOUSE
This hotel is also our best all-rounder – excellent location, exemplary customer service and fabulous food – in mammoth portions! Grosvenor House has an American opulence about it and guests feel pampered from check-in to check-out.
It is ideal for Jubilee year, as seven-year old Princess Elizabeth, the future Queen Elizabeth II, even took skating lessons on the hotel’s ice rink in 1933. Get a taste of regal charm with Diamond Jubilee Afternoon Tea including finger sandwiches, buttermilk scones with Devonshire Clotted Cream and tea pastries. All will be served amongst Piped Plain Meringues, White Chocolate Dipped Strawberries and Dusted Amaretti Biscuits.
By night, don’t miss the JW Steakhouse at Grosvenor House restaurant. The portions are huge and it is advisable to beg, borrow or steal a dining companion to make the most of the experience. We loved the Creekstone Kansas Black Angus fillet, perfectly cooked and served with a flourish. And be sure to finish with the cheesecake, £10, dubbed ‘the best this side of the pond’ – if you can find room! Rates including breakfast this summer start from £259 per room per night.
Best of the rest:
Best customer service: JUMERIAH LOWNDES HOTEL
Best theatre breaks: CHARING CROSS HOTEL
Best budget: TUNE HOTELS (from £45 per room per night)
Best luxe: SAN DOMENICO
Most quirky: BERMONDSEY SQUARE HOTEL
Historical charm: GROSVENOR HOUSE VICTORIA
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