The Dorchester, London
Arriving at The Dorchester on Park Lane is always special.
Its prime place on London's premier soil, overlooking Hyde Park, has heralded London with a legendary landmark, creating what is arguably the 'Grande Dame' of London's most prestigious grand-luxe five star hotels. This year The Dorchester celebrates its 80th anniversary providing a provenance that has not only stood the test of time with great British aplomb, it has created 'Dorchester time'.
It is the preeminent luxury hotel that has been enjoyed by generations where a stay is synonymous with a deeply memorable lifelong London highlight. What's more, The Dorchester has, since it opened its doors in 1931, been the venue of choice for Royalty, political leaders, writers, artists, Hollywood greats and celebrities, from around the globe. I have never been here without noticing a 'public figure' and they always appear extremely at ease. Even if you only do it once: you simply have to stay at The Dorchester. For some lucky luxe-trotters it has become their London dwelling away from home.
While The Dorchester's reputation and quintessentially patrician soul remains intact, the updating of the interior design and décor remains paramount. The scintillating heart of the hotel, The Promenade, was strikingly redesigned, in a voluptuous choral with ornate custom-made gilt-framed mirrors, in 2005 by interior designer Thierry Despont. Enjoyed by guests over the last 80 years as an elegant and delightfully British venue, for tea and informal dining, it remains today as fashionable and popular as ever. There is also a sexily-styled leather topped Promenade Bar with daily live entertainment - from piano tinkling to a Jazz Duo after 7.30pm.
This was my second sumptuous stay in a Park Suite within the last three years. A different floor but the same warm, wood-panelled, elegant, residential feel that is so becoming, you feel instantly 'at home'. If this were your London pad, with views across Hyde Park, you would indeed be blessed, and rich. What's more it is wonderfully palatial in size, feeling far more like an apartment than a suite.
It is liberating staying in such a suite, so much so that you often don't know where to begin. Should you switch on the large Bang and Olufsen television and sink down into one of the plump, immaculately dressed sofas? Should you gaze across to the Park and skyline beyond from one of your many windows? Should you sit at the desk and get on with some work, or enjoy tea at the perfectly polished oval dining table? The Chinese cabinets on either side of the fireplace are stocked with vintage champagne and the finest of spirits and liquors all displayed in a very tempting format. The Dorchester answered this for me: a bottle of Laurent Perrier was chilling beside a cornucopia of colourful fruit. So, I enjoyed it all with a glass of champagne in hand. You want to simply celebrate just being here.
The bathrooms; one guest, one mine, are lavishly plush in floor to ceiling Italian marble, with the main one hosting a bathtub large enough for the family. There is a Deco 'nod' in these rooms, harking back to the buildings 1930's origins, using etched glass and chrome fittings; however modernity does really rule this smooth operation. Both the plush bathrooms benefit from at least a week's supply of Floris bath and body products. Besides, you know what they say about two bathrooms and a marriage!
My bedroom, clothed in duck-egg-blue chintz, was comfortably classical and traditional, with a proud king-size bed, draped curtains, balloon-back chairs, a hand-painted pale yellow dressing table and a large television hidden within a free-standing cabinet. The boudoir strikes a distinctive contrast to the caramel glow of the sitting and dining room, while light beige Wilton velvet pile carpet is fitted throughout.
However, after a night in here, you realise that there is outstanding method in their attention to slumber detail. Firstly, and most importantly, it was, the very best bed I have succumbed to in any hotel, anywhere in the world. This bed-magic was a combination of the finest of thread counts creating the softest of linen, of a holy-sprung mattress, with deluxe fine goose-down pillows, plus, all the lights work on the button. The attention to quietude is astounding: all bedroom floors and ceilings are lined with compressed seaweed, while the external walls are lined with cork. They have gone even further with the suites and rooms facing Park Lane, by installing triple glazing. If only all five star hotels had taken this on board...
A rose wrap before a tasting menu:
The Dorchester Spa reopened in May 2009 with a white flow of alluring Art Deco glamour as the high note. A striking chandelier made up of 72,000 South Pacific white pearls lights up the welcome area, while the walls are draped in swathes of ivory. The all cream and white vibe is contrasted by the slick retro-cool of the Relaxation Room, which dazzles in sapphire blue. It is here that 'swan' parties can be arranged, leaving the hens to cluck elsewhere.
I treated myself to a rose wrap, the signature treatment for September, and spent an hour being scrubbed, showered, and gently oiled in the special remedial nectar blended by Aromatherapy Associates. You can also have the much lauded Carol Joy facials here, Kerstin Florian Treatments and plenty more besides. Had I needed my hair doing then I could have dipped into London's most popular duo at Royston Blythe At The Dorchester. However, I had an early table at The Grill At The Dorchester and that could not wait!
I followed one fine signature with a tasting menu of many. Head chef Brian Hughson has talent. The Grill At The Dorchester may shock some people's sensibilities with its outlandish décor, but the food takes you way beyond the Highland fling. We had five tasting dishes accompanied by a different wine, chosen with flair, with each course. The service was better than impeccable: it was a perfect match with the outstanding food. The marinated scallops paired with a 2010 Gavi di Gavi were a little sweet, undeniably diver caught, delicate but rich with a deep fried oyster, scallop crackling and an oyster mayonnaise...The meal continued with outstanding consistency and fluency but the New Season lamb with sweet English peas, broad beans and girolles, served with the 80th Dorchester Anniversary cuvee, "1753" de Chateau de Campuget 2007, was hands down my best lamb of the year.
It's hard to retire to your suite here without a quick nightcap in one of London's most celebrated bars, The Bar at The Dorchester. Besides, with cocktails along with their master mixologists winning awards year on year, it seemed churlish not to. The apple martini is worth checking in for, and a rather famous household name (can't name drop) had to agree with me.
There is so much to revere about this grand establishment and in many ways it's the different layers of luxury that allow you to create your own 'bespoke' experience. No matter how you cut your classy Dorchester cake, it goes without saying that you will appreciate a near flawless diamond service in a rosy blend of the finest grand-luxe ingredients. You can, if you get it right, have your cake and eat it at London's Grande Dame on Park Lane.