Luxury Explorer Review

5-Star Hotel Review

The Berkeley

United Kingdom

The Berkeley enjoys a 5 Star location in Knightsbridge with a roof-top pool overlooking Hyde Park

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The Berkeley


Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, London SW1

Travel Information

London City Airport- 30 mins
London Heathrow - 35 mins
London Gatwick - 1 hour 15
Nearest Tube - Knightsbridge or Hyde Park Corner

Top Tips

Try the chilli and lychee martini in the stunning revitalised Blue Bar

5-Star X-Factors

A long lunch or a romantic dinner in Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley


London's shining 5-star upgrade
The Marcus bubble


London's shining 5-star upgrade
The Marcus bubble

London's shining 5-star upgrade

Out with the old and in with the new – this is what you’d think when you roll up under the swish glass canopy that spans the entrance of one London's best hotels, The Berkeley on Wilton Place, Knightsbridge.

It took 52 vast panes of glass, together with 16 carbon fibre struts, original steel work, honeycomb aluminium, curved teak and glassy grey limestone, to create this striking entrance, which for Christmas is lit by 17,000 cascading LED lights. The visionaries behind this, Roger Stirk Harbour and Partners – who worked on the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Lloyds building in the City of London - were instructed by owner Paddy McKillen to combine modernism with classic architecture. So with an avant-garde entrance as alternative as this, it was interesting to see just how transformed the interior of the hotel would be.

We chose the The Berkeley to inaugurate our new panel of UK contributing editors. It felt like the right benchmark for 5-star uber-luxe in order for us to all agree on just how high the bar can rise in this highly competitive luxury market.

Walking up the limestone steps and through the revolving teak doors you are struck by the inviting, warm and fresh appeal this facelift has given the entrance and reception area. Visiting in the grip of winter, the open pale sandstone-surround fireplace in the foyer, framed by a cascade of white weeping amaryllis, pussy willow and birch, was aglow with soft tempered flames behind a glass screen. Within seconds, the warm offering of refined city-chic-cossetting spread its embracing tentacles as we shed the cold, our coats, and the world outside.

The celestial Collin’s Room

The new Collins Room designed by the former creative director at David Collins, Robert Angell, is a light-year-shift from its predecessor. I always liked the intimate vibe of the Caramel Room, but it wasn’t as eye-catching or alluring as this. Flooded now with natural light, which pours in from the front, the bespoke style of silver and dove grey Art Deco, including Carrara marble, mirrors and opulent rounded chandeliers made of pearlescent white leaves, makes the room feel positively ethereal.

This shimmering radiance wasn’t lost on any of us and, if anything, it sparked our creativity and brainstorming. We ate a light lunch of slightly seared tuna organized as a pretty niçoise along with pink Laurent Perrier before enjoying a little box of London-afternoon-tea-imperative, Prêt-à-Portea bakes and biscuits.

These hâute couture mouthfuls, inspired by the latest runway trends, are served exclusively at the The Berkeley in the Collins Room. We complemented our fashionable collection with a dainty cup of uplifting jasmine Silver Needle tea from Fujian in China. It felt almost sinful, placing a small red Mochino bag between my lips, followed swiftly by a bright pink Manolo Blahnik stiletto. However, the only place they may have landed with some sin is on my hips. I reluctantly saved the rest of my designer treats for my little girl.

Suite dream

Contributing editor, Kelly Hail, was my chosen companion and partner in crime for the rest of the stay. We bid farewell to the others, but not before a sneak peak of our John Heah Grand Terrace Suite. John Heah was the visionary behind, amongst many more, The Four Seasons at Sayan in Bali as well as the Aman Residences, Amanera in the Dominican Republic. If you are an ‘Amanjunkie’ you will get a feeling of that addiction right here in Knightsbridge.

First impressions are always the most powerful and the blowback after the key turned was splendid, not least because of the amazing, almost painterly, view of St Paul’s Church; a beautiful grade II listed building, built in 1843.

Serene and exotic

The most striking interior feature of this calm, tranquil and elegant suite has to be the organic sweep of flawless honey-toned hardwood. Not only is it underfoot, cloaked with a couple of fabulous rugs, but it seems to merge seamlessly into walk-in wardrobes, a guest cloakroom, the ‘marbleous’ bathroom and a king-size bed facing the immaculate terrace overlooking the church. The terrace is approached by a wall of sliding glass doors and offers comfortable loungers, as well as a long dining table and fitted banquets. What an outstanding place to entertain in the summer with a private gathering to the soundtrack of birdsong and church-bell!

I think the most touching ‘stay-with-me-moment’ (and keepsake) were the monogrammed pillowcases. We had KH and SM embroidered onto the edge of our long pillow slips. For even sweeter dreams we were given our very own monogrammed silk eye masks, in ballerina pink and black. Not to mention the Burberry trench coats, immaculate and on-loan for our stay, hanging beside the dressing gowns in one of the wardrobes. Oh, and the totally ‘marbelous’ bathroom was adorned with green bottles of bamford potions which you can soak in while admiring St Paul’s.

The Haybarn spa by bamford

With the other editors heading home, it was time to ascend to the 7th Floor to check out the creamy and dreamy offerings from the bamford Haybarn spa. Because we were meeting friends in the Blue Bar at 6.00pm we chose to focus just on our feet and ended up with butter-soft heels and beach-pink nails.

The Haybarn looks and smells delicious in its organic and holistic loveliness; all pale wood and smooth stone with the heavenly scent of bamford’s signature notes. It’s well worth booking a longer treatment here, followed by a few laps in the glorious pool at the pinnacle of this landmark hotel. The views up here are breath-taking and the lighting and stillness is incredibly peaceful. I also noticed, through the sheets of rain, the adorable little outdoor cinema.

The iconic Blue Bar

So with feet all good it was time to dress up for our little gathering in one of London’s most legendary bars, The Blue Bar. While this bar has also undergone a metamorphic shift, it is still blue. In fact, a more appealing majorelle with iris, while the light that it now basks in from the wall of glass at the front of the building makes it very sexy indeed. The seating is plush and curvy in crushed velvet and faux-cream ostrich, while the marble and crocodile-effect flooring gives it a rather outrageous but compelling decadence. By night the lighting is scintillating, low, but iridescent.

What’s more, not only are the cocktails world-class, such as my divine signature cocktail, a Belle Hélène, made with fresh pear, vanilla, chocolate, champagne and cognac; the bar menu is excellent too.

Stop press - The Blue Bar now has in-house competition

The Berkeley Bar & Terrace has opened to great applause. Created by Irish designer, Bryan O'Sullivan, the new bar is hidden away, but is set to become one of London's most exclusive bars with a muralled 'snug', walnut panelling and a truly cool vibe. 

To Marcus or not to Marcus? 

We had thought we were going to eat out, as Marcus (Marcus Wareing’s 2 Michelin star restaurant - read our Marcus Bubble review) was of course full (you need to book this spectacular occasion well in advance), but we were so comfortable and settled that we chose to work our way through a few of the bar snacks on offer. We started with crispy tuna rolls with a pickled mustard, followed by skewered deep fried tiger prawns hanging upside down from a rail above a sweet chilli and tomato dip, Irish rock oysters, and Aberdeen Angus beef sliders. Perfect.

A tough act to follow

The following morning, after a full English breakfast laid out before our entrancing view, we reluctantly packed our bags, pillowslips and eye-masks and bid the staff farewell. The service at The Berkeley is quite frankly the very best. With my car returned and valeted as ‘new’, with all evidence of bucolic life washed and waxed away, I left feeling satisfied that this was indeed a tough act to follow.

Sophie Marchant
Sophie Marchant

The Marcus bubble

Marcus at The Berkeley in Knightsbridge is one of the ultimate dining experience in London, encompassing every necessary ingredient for complete-cuisine-cornucopia. The third Michelin star is yet to come and the chef is not shy about his ambition. "Why would an actor not want an Oscar?" Precisely, Marcus.

We have known Marcus as a chef since his early days as a Ramsay protégé at Aubergine. Witnessing his rise into the Michelin galaxy is both satisfying and consistently pleasurable. Dining at Marcus (formerly Marcus Wareing) is an occasion, an electrifyingly gastronomic event, as well as pretty faultless. He is, without doubt, a perfectionist, though showing no signs of an obsessive-compulsive-kitchen-disorder.

He is naturally gifted with food and, standing in his kitchen as plates pass his scrutiny, you realise that he also oozes calm, charm and togetherness, the combination of which keeps all the stirring solely over the hob. What a rarity: a two, to-be-three, Michelin-starred chef and an ego beautifully intact.

So, when you have such a lovable chef, with sapphire-blue eyes, it draws you to the restaurant regardless of the table-terroir. Moreover, the fact that it is located in one of our all-time favourite hotels, The Berkeley, in the heart of Knightsbridge, makes it exquisitely palatable. 

The staff here are faultless. The team at Marcus blend so smoothly that you never feel your table is over-worked, under-serviced or wanting for anything: a magical mix of good vibe, supreme training, sportsmanship, and a great team leader.

To the tasting menu...

Before we could blink we were offered a glass of champagne from the vast wheel bearing chilled silver urn and, prompted by the head sommelier, we chose a vibrant pink Gossart. Following this was a taste sensation that will linger for quite some time: small triangles of foie gras pâté nestled between millimetre slim Melba toast together with a bowl of fresh and light in colour and density taramasalata. It gets off to such a good start at Marcus that you really can't help yourself from sliding into a utopian gastro-bubble.

The tasting menu appears long, eight to nine courses, but Marcus is not about quantity. It is not the size of the portion with him, or the calorific portion in the size; it's about blending ingredients, enhancing and balancing flavours, and spontaneous flair, consistently gifting each plate with a maximum score. Not a single course overwhelmed either the stomach or the nose. This really is the smell of sweet success.

A faintly familiar, irresistibly delectable 'amuse bouche' flute, of tarragon foam atop a flavoursome sweetcorn soup, was followed with muffled squeals of delight along with Mathieu's choice of a glass of '96 Banyuls Grand Cru, Val D'Aunis. You keep telling yourself that things can't get better but they do, or they take you off-piste, into uncharted cullinary territory, triggering an immediate impulse to return for more.

The Scottish scallop which followed, hooded with a weightless bacon foam, was so strikingly presented it reminded me of a shooting star: even the food is personifying Marcus. It was heavenly: spot on in texture, faintly sweet, with caramelised braised onions and woody Alsace bacon inducing a serious bubble-swoon. We sipped a young and tangy complementary '06 Kerner Praepositus, Abbazia di Novacella, one we would never have uncovered ourselves.

Next was the most delicately soft and tender quail I have ever tasted lightly poached then expertly roasted. Marcus works with the seasons and as corn 'off' the cob is in full swing, we savoured whole crunchy pieces together with fresh cobnuts in a perfectly pitched symphony of tarragon. We sipped on a '03 Gigondas, Domaine de Montrius newlyweds, perhaps, but with a promising future.

Renewed relish

At this stage you could expect to feel outrageously satiated, but the precise saporosity within each course is almost scientifically balanced, allowing you to continue with a renewed relish from one plate to the next. Put simply, Marcus does not like to overfeed. Fullness would burst the bubble.

Next, a light delight of caper and golden raisin puree-charged Dorset turbot, on a bed of gently-peppered, lightly-cooked baby gem lettuce, along with a small glass of this sea-dream's natural companion, '04 Meursault. Fantastic!

The two 'main' courses, of either best end of salt-marsh lamb, or roasted saddle of Cranborne Estate venison, varnished the bubble with a luminosity obtained only from utter perfection. How does Marcus do it?

The exacting flavour from both meats was so pure that all the mouth-watering entourage alongside just enhanced, though never smothered, the naturally flavoursome host: caramelised shallot, fennel, Pommery mustard; prune purée, pomme boulangere and jus-quite-divine. Mathieu gave us a sip of '01 Barbara Fores Coma d'en Pou, and '99 La Chappelle de la Mission Haut-Brion.

The big squeeze

Stop! In the name of waistline, surely you can't continue...we did, and with a little gap for a smidgen of Saint-Marcellin, Langres and Valençay (as good as it gets in France). After this we strode gallantly into the gentle onslaught of dessert. Not a lover of puddings, I thought I would resist, but this was not possible: a tornado of beckoning vanilla cream encased in a wall of crunchy caramel on a bed of honey-poached plums in spiced plum sorbet reverted resistance.

Using his uncanny skill, Marcus had cut the sweetness with the spices and created pudding nirvana. After a visit to the pristine kitchen and a congratulatory embrace with the maestro, we floated off upstairs.

Our suite 215, above the brightest stars in London's cosmos-kitchen, was sensational. The avant-garde suite is washed in soft steel-blue tones, with a glorious triple aspect over Wilton Place. In elegant urban style it offers lashings of contemporary comfort: flat screens, including one embedded in the marble wall above the deep bath-tub; silk walling throughout; a cavernous bed to dream to; stylish bespoke furniture, and a capacious and solid marble bathroom glittering with Asprey products.

The magical combination of suite retreat together with cuisine-cornucopia kept our Marcus-bubble well and truly sealed. And with the menu constantly changing and offering new culinary journeys, it won't be long until our next visit.

Sophie Marchant
Sophie Marchant

Luxury Explorer
Luxury Explorer
Luxury Explorer
Luxury Explorer