Brexit to Britain: Top London Hotels
Thanks to the UK’s vote to leave the European Union—a political exodus popularly dubbed “Brexit”–the pound sterling has plummeted. While that might be bad news for our British brethren, it’s sparked a “Brenaissance” for American tourists who want to make their dollars stretch further across the pond.
With a few more pounds in your pocket, you might consider checking into one of London’s hottest luxury hotels. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best, all of which have something new to offer, from recent renovations to restaurant debuts and the latest in technological innovations.
Imagine the grandeur of a Regency-style mansion, but with 21st Century amenities at your fingertips. That’s The Lanesborough, which has joined the likes of Le Bristol and Eden Rock as part of the illustrious Oetker Collection. In July 2015, this iconic hotel, nestled between Hyde Park and Green Park, emerged from an all-encompassing 18-month renovation.
Every inch of the circa 1830 building was stripped and redecorated to realize interior designer Albert Pinto’s dream of recreating the romance of a 19th century home. To imagine the scale of the project, consider the numbers: 300 craftsmen, 42,000 sheets of 23-carat gold leaf, 500 custom-made moldings, three tons of chandeliers and wall sconces, and more than 52,000 feet of fabric, including exquisite silks and jacquards.
But the transformation goes deeper than the décor. Each room and suite—all of which offer the services of an elegantly attired butler—is equipped with touch screen pads that operate everything from the lights and drapes to the temperature.
Televisions with free on-demand movies are embedded in bathroom mirrors and disguised behind pictures that retract into gold-leafed frames. Phone calls from your room to Europe and the US are free.
There’s a new restaurant, as well–Celeste, restored to Regency-era glory with bas relief moldings and glittering chandeliers. Beneath the original glass dome, guests dine on French-inspired fare overseen by Executive Chef Florian Favario, who was chosen for the post by three-Michelin-starred Chef Patron Eric Frechon of Le Bristol Paris.
The Withdrawing Room remains a favorite for afternoon tea, while The Library Bar serves Cognacs dating to 1760 and cocktails by master mixologist Mickael Perron. There’s also a garden room, with a selection of stogies that includes limited edition Cohibas hand-rolled by Fidel Castro’s personal cigar maker.
One thing that hasn’t changed, thankfully, is the gracious and gregarious attitude of the staff. Whether it’s your first time here or your 20th (should you be so lucky!), they always welcome you “home.”
93 rooms, including 43 suites. http://www.lanesborough.com/eng/home/
The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences
Just as Hollywood stars opt for the occasional nip and tuck, The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences—beloved by silver screen stars like Russell Crow, Colin Farrell, and the late Robin Williams—has undergone a multi-million-pound makeover of its public spaces. In July 2016, the Mayfair landmark unveiled a va-va-voom revamp by Kinnersley Kent Design, whose clients include the Historic Royal Palaces and model Heidi Klum.
Sunlight floods into the lobby lounge and the Gallery above, thanks to new double-height windows overlooking a lively terrace facing Green Park. The lounge, kitted out like a Mid-Century Modern living room, flows fluidly into the hotel’s freshly-minted culinary magnet, Galvin at The Athenaeum.
Michelin-starred brothers Chris and Jeff Galvin head not only the restaurant, but all dining options, from room service and afternoon tea to nibbles in the chic new bar, where renowned Italian mixologist Giancarlo Mancino has created unique cocktails incorporating his own range of bespoke spirits. The Clay Pot Negroni, featuring Negroni steeped in a handmade clay amphora, is a dark delight, while the Down Street Manhattan is a smoking combination of Four Roses single barrel bourbon and port wine.
164 rooms, including 12 suites, 18 townhouse residences and a rooftop suite. http://www.athenaeumhotel.com
Located in fashionable Knightsbridge, a short walk from Harrods and the Victoria and Albert Museum, The Franklin revealed itself as the epitome of sensual sophistication when it opened in August 2016. Encompassing a trio of Victorian townhouses on Edgerton Gardens, the latest addition to the Italian-based Starhotels Collezione is the vision of Anouska Hempel—a former Bond Girl now renowned for her interior design work at hotels like Blakes.
Carrara marble and slate floors, dark gray walls, mirrored furnishings and sumptuous fabrics spin an opulent cocoon. “I love velvet and taffeta, and I’m letting it out and giving it a good shake,” explains Hempel, who aims to nurture “a café society where anything goes, but you still have to be beautiful and elegant within it.”
Just off the lobby, she has created The Cabinet, a cozy, curtained niche lined with velvet banquette seating. “You can hide in here and play games,” Hempel smiles. “It’s secretly, wickedly naughty.”
This sense of sexy glamor extends into The Franklin Restaurant, where Michelin-starred Chef Alfredo Russo oversees seasonal Italian dishes, and the mirror-lined bar, where guests can choose from seven champagnes, 22 varieties of gin, and a menu of martinis—shaken or stirred.
35 rooms and suites. http://www.thefranklinlondon.com
When it comes to technology that not only looks cool but offers real comfort and convenience, this boutique bolthole, nestled within historic townhouses near Victoria station, is head of the pack.
Every room is sleekly tailored in shades of black, white and gray and equipped with a vibrating, electronically adjustable handmade bed, an iPad, a 46-inch 3D television in the bedroom with a library of more than 100 films, and another TV in the bathroom, where glass walls become opaque at the touch of a button.
The hotel all recently began providing guests with a Smart phone to use throughout their stay. It includes free calls to the US, UK, France, Italy, Spain and Germany, as well as access to map features and all the services you would expect from your mobile phone at home.
Named “London’s Luxury Boutique Hotel of the Year” by Corporate Wire’s Luxury Travel Guide, the property offers a free minibar if you book with them directly. What’s more, guests are afforded rare access to gated Eccleston Square, where luminaries like Winston Churchill once walked among its sun-dappled lawns.
39 rooms, from £172.80 ($226). http://www.ecclestonsquarehotel.com
For lovers of great literature, there’s no better place to curl up with your favorite book than the new Kipling Suite at Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair. In April 2016, London’s first ever hotel debuted this 2,077-square-foot space named for Rudyard Kipling, who wrote The Jungle Book during one of his many stays here.
Designer Olga Polizzi, who founded Rocco Forte Hotels with her brother Sir Rocco Forte, pays homage to the author with tasteful, whimsical touches, like the statue of a monkey that greets guests at the door, botanical themed wallpaper, a framed letter written by Kipling while ensconced at Brown’s, and hardbound copies of his classic novel.
As part of the Rocco Forte Suite Experience program, guests of the Kipling Suite can choose from a selection of “backstage passes,” including a guided tour of Peter Harrington Rare Books. It’s especially appropriate for a hotel that hosted not only Kipling but also Mark Twain, who raised eyebrows by appearing in the lobby in his bathrobe, and Agatha Christie, who based At Bertram’s Hotel on Brown’s.
The hotel has a fresh focus on well-being offerings, as well, including bespoke spa products in the suites and spa treatment rooms, delicious and nutritious “Nourish” menu options from British health guru Madeleine Shaw, and even a guilt-free “TEA-TOX” afternoon tea served in the wood-paneled English Tea Room. Now that’s something to write home about.
115 rooms, including 31 suites. https://www.roccofortehotels.com/hotels-and-resorts/browns-hotel/
As Oscar Wilde once said, “I can resist everything except temptation.” It’s no wonder, then, that he was a fan of Hotel Café Royal on London’s ritzy Regent Street. This year, the legendary haunt of bon vivants like David Bowie, Noel Coward and Elizabeth Taylor opened two new food and beverage offerings alongside its gilded Oscar Wilde Bar to offer discerning palates a double dose of decadence.
In 2016, the hotel launched the Green Bar Botanicals & Tonics gin bar. Here, the humble highball gets the royal treatment with a globe-spanning selection of 18 gins and seven tonics, including one tonic made with quinine harvested high in Peru’s Andes Mountains.
Hotel Café Royal further sweetened the deal with the debut of London’s first dessert restaurant. By day, The Café serves breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea.
But every evening, the menu changes to feature Executive Pastry Chef Sarah Barber’s multi-course sweet and savory indulgences, accompanied by an optional wine pairing, in an elegant space swathed in golden marble.
The hotel’s Akasha Holistic Wellness Centre offers indulgences of a different sort. This serene subterranean space houses London’s only Watsu pool and recently announced a 23-karat gold treatment, including hammam exfoliation and a massage or facial incorporating genuine gold dust.
160 rooms and suites. http://www.hotelcaferoyal.com
Last summer, The Berkeley in Knightsbridge revealed a stunning new contemporary look. Architect Richard Rogers has transformed the façade, adding two glassed-in rooms on either side of a revolving door that leads into a teak-paneled lobby created by Robert Angell.
Angell also updated the celebrated Blue Bar and the former Caramel Room (now called the Collins Room, in homage to his mentor, the late David Collins), which have both doubled in size thanks to the glass extensions. While the Blue Bar retains its striking blue walls, the Collins Room—famed for its fashion-inspired Prêt-à-Portea—has been outfitted in Art Deco style, with mirrored tables and grey silk walls emblazoned with hand-painted flowers.
Guests can choose from an array of new suites, as well, including Angell’s Chelsea Suites, which introduced the hotel’s first four-poster beds last summer, architect John Heah’s Terrace Suites, opening onto spacious planted balconies, and Helen Green’s three-bedroom apartment-style addition to the Berkeley Suites, also with a private terrace.
Longtime devotees of The Berkeley will be happy to hear that Marcus Wareing continues to offer two-Michelin starred dining at the eponymous Marcus restaurant, and they can still enjoy remarkable aerial views of Hyde Park from the rooftop garden and pool.
204 rooms, including 65 suites, from £450 ($588). http://www.the-berkeley.co.uk
Stepping into The Kensington, situated in four Victorian townhouses in London’s Museum Quarter, you might imagine that you’ve wandered into a private club. Following an extensive renovation by Alexander Waterworth Interiors, visitors can now relax in a series of comfortably furnished drawing rooms, engrossed in afternoon tea, nose deep in the newspaper or chatting over hearty dishes like Dorset lobster with macaroni and cheese in the new Town House restaurant. Through a doorway, the sound of clinking ice cubes and the hum of low conversation emanates from the wood-paneled K Bar, another recent addition.
The rooms and suites also have a fresh look, including the transformation of the 1,100-square-foot Knightsbridge Suite, which boasts working fireplaces, antique furnishings, a private balcony, and high-tech touches like a 60” LCD TV housed in a gold gilt mirror and a Bose/iPad/iPhone docking station. This year, The Brompton Suite will follow with an arty new look of its own, interconnecting with The Knightsbridge Suite and a Luxury Studio Suite to create a two or three-bedroom apartment-style haven.
136 rooms and 14 suites. https://www.doylecollection.com/hotels/the-kensington-hotel