Ladies’ London: Debrah Dhugga, Managing Director, DUKES Collection

Dukes London

The venerable DUKES London, an historic 90-room property tucked beside Green Park in the most fashionable part of Mayfair, is probably best known for the bar that inspired Ian Flemming to have a martini as James Bond’s signature cocktail. More recently, the hotel has made a name for itself as the loveliest London hotel for the ladies. Luxury Travel Advisor popped by last week to meet the managing director, Debrah Dhugga, and learn more about the hotel’s Duchess Room Service, a discreet amenities and services program tailored to solo female travelers, and the hotel’s new partnership with Dyson, the innovative British technology company behind many household appliances.

When did you introduce the Duchess Room Service and what is included? 

We introduced the program a few years ago after researching what women want when they travel alone, plus my personal experience and surveying many of our guests. The intimate size and style of DUKES is well-suited to women traveling alone, and we are near to many of the offices for media, the arts, legal and fashion. The Duchess program includes a personal welcome from me and an all-female staff attend to female guests, including room escorts, room service and housekeeping. We provide fresh flowers, female amenities (think: bath salts, make-up remover and the like), women’s magazines in the room and the option to utilize the Fresh Pantry, a selection of healthy and nutritious in-room dining options, including locally sourced snacks from local London markets, at an additional price. The success of the Duchess program has increased our solo female travelers to about 30 percent of our occupancy, which is fantastic.

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Why partner with Dyson? 

Yes, our latest news: A partnership with Dyson enhances the offerings to include complimentary in-room blow dries using Dyson’s Supersonic and Airwrap hair styler for female guests. It was a logical next step to offer more services for women, and I happened to meet some of the Dyson team, as they opened a retail shop not far from here on Oxford Street. It made perfect sense: Dyson is an amazing British luxury brand. Now, they get to showcase their new hair-styling products in our gorgeous rooms, and our guests get a fabulous blow dry. Travel hair can be challenging! The weather, the outlets not being the same as wherever you’re from: It is a relief to be offered the Dyson service.

What are your top tips for women visiting London (either on their own or with girlfriends)?

A must-do is a visit to Selfridges Shoe department! Even if you’re not a shoe-lover like I am, it is a great "Wow" experience—they virtually have a entire city block of shoes. And a wander up Bond Street, even if only to do some window shopping—they have the most gorgeous stores. 

You can’t came to London without a visit to the West End for a show, Tina, the musical about Tina Turner has been quite popular this fall. London has many fabulous museums. My favorite is the National History Museum. Another top tip: Lock & Co. Hatters is our neighbor and is the oldest hat shop in the world; you can easily lose an hour in there, just learning the history of the shop.

Any “locals” secrets?

For treasures and rare finds, Grays Antique Centre, specializing in antiques, jewelry, watches and collectables; for interesting fashions, I love Dover Street Market; and always entertaining and unique is any play at the Donmar Warehouse

What are your favorite places to eat and drink (besides DUKES)?

My all-time favorite is Caprice. [It's] British food in a stylish black-and-white setting just off Piccadilly. For Asian Fusion, I love Coya, which also has a great bar area. And for pub food, Thomas Cubitt; it’s a great informal neighborhood spot that serves comforting food in Belgravia.

While we’re chatting, anything else new at DUKES? 

The hotel has just finished a multimillion-pound refurbishment, which has seen upgrades to all guestrooms. We have a new executive chef, Nigel Mendham, who is doing an amazing job serving delicious traditional British dishes with contemporary twists and our Great British Restaurant (GBR); plus, we’ve just relaunched our afternoon tea service in our Conservatory. 

And the famous martinis?

Still happening at the historic Dukes Bar—and our Cigar Garden serves the cognacs and Cuban cigars in a heated outdoor area.

DUKES London is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Travel advisors can contact head of sales and marketing, Hubert Losguardi at [email protected]

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