I used to stay in London once a week – often at The Connaught. Often for work, sometimes for pleasure. The best of what England has to offer, all within walking distance. The food, entertainment, people, parks, sports and shopping.
Then kids came along.
What was once reading magazines beside the pool, followed by a nap, turned into an endless mission to stop the suicide magnets (aka babies) from killing themselves. They always seem to seek out the most deadly opportunity and charge towards it, defying all logic that there’s eight billion of us. The swimming pool suddenly became a death pit, the restaurant a place to antagonise strangers, and the bedroom a place of torture as they kept us awake. With one child, we could manage, but with two-under-two, that was the end of the London visits. I am always the one in our marriage pushing to travel more – there were no objections from me to stay at home.
Yet time heals all wounds or makes you foolishly repeat the mistakes of the past, so now they’re a little bit older and vastly more spoiled, last weekend, we decided to book our first trip to London as a family of four. I will not bore you with my 423 thousandth review of The Connaught, but instead, talk about the new openings. Walking around Mayfair and Knightsbridge, we found ourselves on an accidental luxury hotel tour. We also had a wonderful time, thank you for asking.
I once met the England men’s football team manager, Fabio Capello, here and got propositioned by a prostitute on the same night – different people, I should add. The Dorchester was a stay-once-never-again hotel for me. Good location and, erm, yeah, that’s it. The rooms felt as fresh as a fart in a bottle. Dorchester Collection’s next-door property, 45 Park Lane, is a substantial improvement, with a vastly different look and feel, but the lack of facilities made it unappealing to return to. They clearly missed me as a customer and took my feedback seriously, as a mere 12 years later, they are on a major refurbishment, which has already concluded with the downstairs lobby not feeling like you were trapped in your nan’s lounge. It’s very Lanesborough-y in style, just not quite as classy. Food is undoubtedly a central theme, with the new The Grill by Tom Booton, a cake and flower shop, and a rather glamorous rooftop restaurant. All the rooms are being refurbished, so I’ll head back once it’s complete. I’m even tempted to stay now, especially as 45 Park Lane has a pool.
Not everyone loves Paris as it lacks any feeling of being in Paris or being anywhere, in fact. It’s basically lifeless, like your marriage. I’m not one of those people; I embrace the apathy. It’s not in my top five Paris hotels, but I like it. Good food, rooms, restaurant, spa, gym and location. It looks like London is going to repeat the same feat. They’ve gone for the soft-soft opening approach of opening on 12th September with about 3% of the facilities open before gradually opening all the facilities by November. Come January 2024, and all the rooms will be available. I assume until then, you have to sleep next door at The Lanesborough.
I am excited about this property, the renderings of the spa, including the 25m long pool, the fitness focus and yet another Chinese restaurant, which, if half as good as Paris, will become a regular for me.
It’s 190 rooms, so it’s on the larger side for my liking, but, just like in Paris, they have not been stingy with the room sizes – their entry-level are close to the size of suites in competing hotels. Once you get into the suites, though, the prices go so nuts that I start to feel deeply inadequate, so have to stare at myself in the mirror and say out loud, “I am a good person ” to overcome my inferiority complex.
Mandarin Oriental Mayfair
Before opening its second property in London, Mandarin Oriental announced its third. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, so let’s see if any of them turn out to be superb. Opening in December, they certainly managed to find a good location. It’s near Oxford Street (which they will undoubtedly be quiet about in their marketing) and Bond Street, but it feels a bit tucked away – similar to The Beaumont. With only 50 rooms and suites, a heavy focus on high-end Japanese and Korean cuisine, and the spa, I’m intrigued. I’m not going with excited just yet, because I’m yet to find a genuinely world-class Mandarin property – they seem to get so close, only to touch the sun and burn.
Maybourne Group, who already own three of the best properties in London – The Connaught, Claridge’s and The Berkeley – are opening their fourth property, a stone’s throw away from The Berkeley, which is already a stone’s throw away from The Lanesborough and newly opening Peninsula. With that many wealthy people in such a small area, it’s just asking for gang wars to break out. Opening in “Winter 2023”, which I believe translates into “whenever we damn please”. It sounds quite similar to their other properties. Jean-Georges is there because it’s physically impossible for him not to be everywhere all at once. He’s already at The Connaught. There’s a different theme per floor, just like The Berkeley. Ah ha, but there is a rooftop bar, which is new. Maybourne knows how to make a grand London hotel, so I’m optimistic about their first suites-only property, particularly as it only has 60 rooms. The also-nearby The Wellesley opened a number of years ago and spoke of their seven-star credentials at being a suite-only property; now they’re managed by Marriott, which tells you how well that went. Here’s hoping Maybourne pull it off.
Ok, I said I wouldn’t review The Connaught but suffice it to say, it might be useful for Maybourne’s fourth London property to be somewhere Connaught guests can go whilst they shut the hotel down and refurbish it. I love that hotel dearly, but it is time for a dash of paint, followed by tens of millions of pounds of investment. They have completed this in The Berkeley and Claridge’s, so it’s only a matter of time.
I don’t like the Raffles brand. I don’t like the location. I don’t like that it’s my job to visit this hotel. It’s near The Corinthia, for Christ’s sake. I’m expected to go to that part of London? What am I? A war correspondent for the BBC? The things I do for my readers. It also boasts nine restaurants, three bars and a spa spanning four floors, making it sound fantastic, assuming you’ve spent your life in prison and had never seen daylight. A property of that scale doesn’t appeal; I can already see it will be a Ned kind of place where the facilities are impressive, but the vastness and impersonal service ruins it. But this is my job, so sigh, I guess I should check it out at some point. It’s opening on 27th September. Pray for me.