Best London Hotels 2011
A mandatory end-of-year list! As it’s my first, I’m not going to ignore the classics. I’m not ashamed to say that I prefer the Lanesborough to your trendy “Shoreditch” hotels where guests sleep on locally-sourced mashed swede and shower in Goji berry juice. There I go again. Actually, Shoreditch has less crazy hotels than you might think, but I digress. This list is happening right now:
Although its name is less well-known than that of the Savoy or the Ritz, The Lanesborough may well be London’s ultimate hotel; an exclusive fortress of luxury that manages to make the other Hyde Park hotels look downright approachable. The Lanesborough was opened in 1991, in a former hospital on the corner of Hyde Park. The building itself dates back to 1844, and shares its formidable grandeur with London’s various palaces, centres of government and museums. The rooms here are the most expensive in the city, going up to £8000 a night for the Royal Suite. The rooms, decorated with amazing elegance, have played host to celebrities, presidents and royalty, and all feature unobtrusive luxury touches such as a complimentary laptop and a 24-hour butler service. The Lanesborough’s afternoon tea is a legendary institution, but the hotel’s real culinary muscle is Apsleys: Heinz Beck’s first restaurant outside of Italy and London’s fastest ever recipient of a Michelin star.
Opened in 1906 and built to resemble a stylish Parisian block of flats, the Ritz is the greatest of the Piccadilly Hotels, and is one of the most famous hotels in the world. Its rooms are decorated in excessive opulence, with a more OTT style than is found in most modern hotels. For feeling like you’re staying in Buckingham Palace, it’s probably the one to beat. While the rooms have all the usual bells and whistles, the Ritz’s stand-out feature has always been its Afternoon Tea. Served in the spectacular Palm Court on those little three-tier silver stands and featuring a selection of small sandwiches with simple fillings, followed by tasty scones and a few pastries, ‘Tea at the Ritz’ is a British byword for fanciness. If you plan on attending, it’s £40 per person, and you’ll need to book ahead. There’s also a dress code in place, so no jeans, running shorts or bondage paraphernalia, and gents will need a coat and tie.
St Martins Lane
In stark contrast to the fripperies and fineries of the capital’s older hotels, St Martins Lane looks like the underwater hide-out of a James Bond villain, albeit one obsessed with different types of chairs. This boutique hotel is fiercely designed by renowned Frenchman Philippe Starck, and has a revelatory modern aesthetic that surprises at every turn. The guest rooms understandably go a little easier on the hard angles, with a smooth white sheen to everything that gives you the feeling of being a genie trapped inside an iPod. The hotel provides access to Gymbox, one of the city’s best gyms, and to the hotel’s legendary cocktail bar Asia de Cuba; an establishment which has recently introduced its chocolate menu, wherein each cocktail is also made available as a gourmet chocolate. Obviously an idea so brilliant as to render the rest of this amazing hotel almost irrelevant.
Slightly eclipsed in the public imagination by the Ritz, the Savoy is arguably still the greater establishment, with a history that stretches back to its founding in 1889 as Britain’s first luxury hotel. Created with money funnelled from the Gilbert & Sullivan operas, the Savoy’s initial manager was Cesar Ritz, who established an extraordinary standard of service that has continued unceasingly for more than a hundred years. The building itself has been recently renovated, and seamlessly blends English Edwardian and Art Deco styles to incredible effect. Its position directly overlooking the Thames is the envy of all the other Charing Cross Hotels. The hotel’s afternoon tea predates that of the Ritz and is just as splendid. The icing on the cake is the Savoy Grill, once a favourite of Winston Churchill and now under the management of Britain’s most notoriously divisive celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay.
Honorary fifth place on this list goes to young upstart the Wellesley. The Wellesley is in fact so young that it hasn’t even opened yet, and aims for some time in 2011, but the early press releases of the hoteliers involved are claiming that it will be London’s first six star hotel. As no certification body currently awards more than five stars, this will be a tough nut to crack, but the Wellesley gets marks for ambition. This all-suite hotel is going to feature the largest single suite in London, with a view over Hyde Park and a private lift. The hotel will feature a jazz bar, Italian restaurant and Britain’s largest bespoke humidor. In contrast to the aim of six stars, these are modest claims (and in the case of the humidor, slightly surreal), but what will really be interesting about this hotel is the surprises that it will throw out and the lengths to which it will have to go in order to justify its headline-grabbing hype.
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