by Teresa Machan and Travel writer, The Telegraph, June 6, 2019
In London, Taj 51 Buckingham Gate hotel's decadent and unconventional Cinema Suite is a cinephile's dream. Expect flamboyant decor from Indian designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee, echos of Hollywood and Bollywood glamour and some unforgettable art throughout - including an overblown reproduction of the Portrait of a Man, by Dutch Master Jan Van Dyke.
There is a hint of what’s to come when the lift doors open to the small corridor that leads to the Cinema Suite. On the wall is a framed poster for Apocalypse Now, signed by Francis Ford Coppola. Inside the suite, and at a time when many hotel rooms err on vanilla, I found the vermilion embrace of the Cinema Suite intoxicating.
The suite's foyer is dominated by a huge print from Hitchcock’s The Birds, and interior designer Sabyaschi Mukherjee (renowned in India as the founder of popular fashion brand Sabyaschi) has dressed the walls throughout the suite with original posters, vintage mirrors and lashings of gilt.
The suite nods to Hollywood too - nowhere more so than in the study, which recreates the lair of Godfather Don Corleone. Here, a trio of antler heads keeps watchand the illusion continues with a leather-topped desk topped with a Bakelite phone and a portrait of Marlon Brando in character.
From the entrance hall guests walk the “red carpet” along a corridor that leads to two en-suite bedrooms via a glamorous powder room (complete with companion seating in the form of a leopard-print armchair). One bedroom has a four-poster accessed by a step-chair and a smaller bathroom; the other has a huge wet room with dual showers (both shower heads showing signs of oxidisation) and lighting panels that drench the room in your “mood” of choice. Both bedrooms have a view over the quadrangle below.
The reception room leads to a kitchen (dishwasher and washing machine included) and a large lounge giving onto a separate dining room with seating for 16. At 170sq m (1,835sq ft), the suite packs plenty of space if groups would like to separate after supper but my party collectively gravitated en masse to the suite's lounge.
Sitting there was like being wrapped in a velvet glove. There's just one heavily draped window, making this a place to shut out the world and sink into cosy opulence - ideally while watching a film on the surround-sound 85' high-definition Steinway Lyngdorf screen.
What the opulent space lacks in natural light it makes up for in tactile furnishings - a stout Chesterfield sofa, embroidered lamps, silk drapes and more tassels than a show at Paris’s Folies Bergere.
Our butler and her team were refreshingly approachable and could not have been more helpful.
Part of Taj 51’s charm is that is doesn’t feel like a hotel at all. This heritage property comprises three red brick townhouses built in the late 1800s for families with Royal connections and who needed to be close to the “palace” down the road. The townhouse names: Kings, Falconer and Minsters speak of this legacy - as does this pocket of Westmister today dubbed the Royal Quarter.
En route to our suite, we felt almost like we had the place to ourselves: we didn’t meet any other guests in the corridors, or lift, and there was only one other door on our floor. The check-in desk is discreet. The fitness centre is open 24 hours and the Jiva Spa, which includes a couples treatment room and a vitality pool has just re-opened following a lavish makeover. After a stint in the thermal suite, hairdresser Dar can restore limpid barnets.
Breakfast and afternoon tea are served in Kona - a suite of rooms that lends dining an intimate and exclusive feel matched by faultless and attentive service. In the summer the restaurant spills into a plant-filled courtyard for al fresco drinks and bar food. Dining in Kona was marred only by the out-of-kitler background music. We cut short what could have been a languorous Sunday morning breakfast because of the inappropriately loud and tinny pop.
Afternoon tea, an eclectic, sugar-loaded Alice in Wonderland-themed indulgence at an exquisitely dressed table strewn with flowers, playing cards, strings of pearls and a giant polka-dot top hat, was a highlight of my stay. Savoury snacks, strawberry drop scones and “eat me” macarons were accompanied by a tea menu (with a choice of 22 brews) and champagne.
Taj 51 has another string to its bow in the Michelin-starred contemporary Indian restaurant Quilon. After a lukewarm welcome at reception the restaurant soon redeemed itself. An accomplished waiter explained the menu, taking immediate control of my indecision (too many mouth-watering choices; not enough stomachs) by suggesting a tasting menu tweaked to include any personal favourites.
My friend and I scooped up home-made chutneys with fresh mini poppadoms. When we polished off the Malabar lamb biryani staff immediately offered to replenish it. To complement the food our waiter recommended an Indian wine called Grover Nandi Hills -- a pleasant surprise indeed.
Once upon a not-so-distant time this was London’s largest hotel suite and housed the biggest TV screen (85’ high-definition with surround sound from Steinway Lyngdorf). With cinema-style TV now as likely to be found in the home this is hardly something to shout about. The decor however, is. The cinema suite is neither safe, nor neutral… and I loved it.
Not so keen
The technologies fell short. We couldn’t connect the TV to the internet or other devices which meant no movies other than the ones listed in the DVD library.
The kitchen - without the Bollywood/Hollywood makeover - was devoid of any 'wow factor'. Compared with the brochure-ready kitchens in some newer hotel suites it felt functional but dated. The obligatory Nespresso machine was supplemented by large containers of Tetley tea and packet sugar and coffee. The microwave dial was sticky. There were lots of tea cups but some mugs wouldn't go amiss.
Taj 51 is next door to Westminster Chapel and a stone’s throw from Westminster Abbey. Victoria and St James’s Park tube stations are minutes away.
The Cinema Suite at Taj 51 Buckingham Gate (020 7769 7766) costs from £5,000 per night including breakfast, butler service, a daily “cinematic platter” (canapes and cakes), private phone number and a complimentary bar stocked to order.
This article was written by Teresa Machan and Travel writer from The Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]