London Calling

 

Egerton’s V&A Suite
Egerton’s V&A Suite opens to a private outside garden terrace.

 

We check into five luxury hotels that are must-stays across the pond.

The Savoy

Central London's The Savoy is in fine form after completing one daring and comprehensive renovation. Consider the guest room bathrooms in the 38 River View rooms and suites: they used to be along the outside wall of the hotel, preventing natural light from seeping into the rooms. During the renovation, plumbing was ripped out and the bathrooms were moved inward, replaced by large windows offering city views.

The Savoy’s Claude Monet Suite
The Savoy’s Claude Monet Suite has panoramic River Thames views.

Those who like Old-World opulence will love the Edwardian rooms; they are filled with period touches, such as overstuffed chairs and cushions, and crystal chandeliers. Those with more streamlined tastes will prefer the Art Deco rooms, which conjure the sleek elegance of the 1920s and evoke ocean liners in their décor. Cool Touch: Each room has a framed photograph of a celebrity who once stayed at the hotel.

The most popular are the River View rooms and suites. The five family suites are great for families as they have two interconnecting bedrooms with a sitting room, bathroom and a powder room. The two-bedroom Royal Suite takes up almost the entire length of the building overlooking the Thames, and includes a dedicated butler.

The Savoy also has eight Personality Suites, named after famous guests who’ve stayed there in the past: Marlene Dietrich, Winston Churchill, Claude Monet, Maria Callas, Katharine Hepburn, Frank Sinatra, Noel Coward, Richard Harris and Charlie Chaplin.

The public spaces have also been rejuvenated. Notably, a glass dome that was covered during World War II has been restored in the main restaurant and, in November, Gordon Ramsay reopened the Savoy Grill. Off to the side, a cabaret room is paneled all in black for a very dramatic effect that screams jazz. A chocolaterie is just off the main lounge, and passersby can watch truffles being prepared by hand. 

One of the most glaring aspects of the entire renovation is how understated the luxury is. Whether one’s tastes lean toward Edwardian or Art Deco, the elegance seems effortless and almost casual, making the space classy and comfortable at the same time.

 

 

Advisor Insight

Leo Zabinski of Classic Travel says that his favorite hotel in London is The Lanesborough in Knightsbridge, which he says may feel like a men’s club to some guests. “The big buzz,” he says, “surrounds the new Bar Boulud at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park and The Savoy reopening.” Which hotel he recommends to clients depends on location. “The Savoy is closer to theater areas, museums and the Strand. On the other hand, Mandarin Oriental is a stone’s throw from Harrods and the shopping of Knightsbridge.

“If I was going to London for the first time, and really wanted to say I had seen London, I would pick The Savoy. It was always one of the great hotels, and they are clearly striving to be the hotel. Some rooms have views over the Thames to Southwark Cathedral. You really feel like you’re in London.”

 

 

Head Concierge Ben Malpass (ben.malpass@fairmont.com; 011-44-20-7420-2470) can organize anything from a private cruise on the Thames to a private champagne flight on the London Eye

Luxury travel advisors can reach out to Director of Sales Simon Gilkes (simon.gilkes@fairmont.com; 011-44-20-7420-2684) and General Manager Kiaran MacDonald can be reached via his assistant, Olga Boeser (olga.boeser@fairmont.com; 011-44-20-7420-2351).

The Egerton House

On a tree-lined side street in Knightsbridge, The Egerton House Hotel is ideal for honeymooners and couples seeking a quiet, romantic retreat. The boutique hotel has a decidedly old-fashioned style: Several rooms (including the one we stayed in) have four-poster beds, and the housekeeping ladies don black dresses and white aprons. Butler service is available in all rooms and suites, and the lounges have cozy fireplaces. It’s not all old-fashioned, though: Rooms feature flat-screen TVs in the bedrooms and the bathrooms.

Top rooms include the one-bedroom Victoria & Albert Suite, which has a small outside terrace, or one of the four-poster bedrooms like Studio Suite No. 32. (This suite is also best for small families.)

The Egerton is great for shopaholics, too: Harrods is around the corner and Harvey Nichols is also nearby, as are many shops on Brompton Road, Sloane Street and King’s Road.

Concierge and Guest Relations Manager Jacques Conradie (bookeg@rchmail.com) once arranged holiday celebrations for a Saudi princess and her whole entourage. The restaurant created a special halal menu that was approved by the princess daily. For Christmas Eve, Conradie got two Santas from Harrods to visit the hotel. Presents were brought in from the high-end stores of Bond and Sloane Streets, all selected with the help of personal shoppers.  

Luxury travel advisors can contact General Manager Sandra Anido (sanido@rchmail.com; 011-44-20-7589-2412) with any questions.

The Stafford London

In Mayfair, The Stafford joined Kempinski Hotels this year, becoming The Stafford London by Kempinski. The hotel is made up of three distinct buildings: the Main House, the Carriage House (created from former stables) and the Stafford Mews. The latter two are the most popular, especially since the Carriage House has several suites (including the duplex Guv’nor’s Suite) and the Mews has the Penthouse. Families should book the Mews, as sections of the hallways can be closed off to create multi-room configurations.

 

 

Private Touring

A terrific way of seeing the city is with a small tour company that can create a customized tour. Sue Hillman of It’s Your London, for example, works on a one-on-one basis with visitors to give them a bespoke tour of the city. Armed with a vast knowledge of London and its most popular spots, Hillman pointed out interesting buildings and monuments we might have otherwise walked right past, and shared stories about different neighborhoods and attractions.

 

 

The hotel’s American Bar has been decorated with memorabilia from guests throughout the years (think sports caps and pennants, photos and various trinkets from all around the world). Combined with the plush chairs and dark woodwork, the effect is at once casual and classy. Nice Touch: At some low tables, meals are served on cushioned lap-desks.

Personal Touch: All guests at the hotel receive a folder with business cards and stationery, each emblazoned with the guest’s name and the note, “My Residence Whilst in London.” (Business visitors would put these to good use, but they make for great mementos for everyone.) The Stafford is good for families, and also for shoppers, as it is close to Piccadilly Circus, Fortnum & Mason, Jermyn Street and Bond Street.

Head Concierge Frank Laino (he was the featured cover story in our January 2010 issue) earned his Luxury Travel Advisor Award of Excellence last year by arranging unique experiences. His Favorite: When a couple who regularly stayed at the hotel was getting ready to celebrate their anniversary, the husband (with Laino’s assistance) purchased a bench and had it installed in their favorite spot in Hyde Park. When the couple reached the park, the wife found a plaque on the bench with their names on it.

Luxury travel advisors can contact Director of Sales Sarah Pugh (sarah.pugh@kempinski.com; 011-44-20-7518-1106) with questions. 

The Ritz

In Piccadilly, The Ritz London has some unique luxe touches, like the main hallway’s formal dress code. There are five seatings for tea per day in the Palm Court, and reservations must be made months in advance.

The hotel’s most popular rooms are the Junior Suites, and families will want to book the Deluxe Suites, which come with interconnecting rooms. The attached William Kent House is used for formal functions (the Queen celebrated her 80th birthday here). The House also has three notable suites: the Marie Antoinette Suite, the Royal Suite and the Prince of Wales Suite. Top Tip: The Royal Suite and Prince of Wales Suite offer complimentary private butler service, and butlers can be arranged for any of the other rooms upon request.

The Athenaeum’s Parkview Suite
The Athenaeum's Parkview Suite looks out over Green Park.

Head Hall Porter Michael de Cozar (hallporters@theritzlondon.com; 011-44-20-7493-8181) has arranged everything for guests—from a run to Brighton to procure genuine seawater for a bath to buying a double-decker bus to take home.

Travel advisors can get in touch with Umberto Schioppa (uschioppa@theritzlondon.com; 011-44-20-7300-2247), director of sales.

The Athenaeum

The Athenaeum has plenty of features that makes it notable, from the green wall of living plants to the very modern rooms and suites.

We stayed in one of the suites on the top floor, which has views over Green Park and an old-fashioned four-poster bed. The room was spacious and had a walk-in closet that can double as a changing room.

All New: The hotel’s spa has just reopened after a renovation, and the Moroccan Rose Ritual (a two-and-a-half hour treatment that includes a facial, scrub and massage) is routinely requested. Contact Spa Director Caroline Hoey at carolinehoey@aol.com.  

Head Concierge Darren Muylders (concierge@athenaeumhotel.com; 011-44-20-7499-3464) can arrange activities such as booking a London Routemaster bus for small parties; private viewing of the Crown Jewels; and shopping after-hours at Hamleys.

For more on the Athenaeum, check out the September 2010 issue about family travel in London. Luxury travel advisors can contact Director of Sales Stephen Fox (foxs@athenaeumhotel.com) with questions.