News & Reviews Europe England Review: The Connaught, London

If you ever need to define first world problems, it’s laying in bed on a Saturday morning in The Mews, The Connaught’s townhouse-in-a-hotel suite, debating with your wife whether this £15,000/n room is better than The Apartment, The Connaught’s even more expensive, penthouse.  This stuff can end marriages.

Subjectivity

Every one of my stays is subjective; it’s my experience, based on the room I chose, the people I interacted with, the activities I partook in, the weather, and whether I’m in a terrible mood as my PlayStation 5 broke and I know that finding a replacement is hopeless due to a worldwide chip shortage.  Yet no stay is more subjective than The Connaught.

It is impossible for me to write an unbiased review of The Connaught.  It is one of my first luxury hotel loves.  Their spa introduced me to Aman, which has had a massive impact on my travelling experience.  This blog would not exist without it.  I’ve been a customer for over 10 years with over 200 stays; I would meet my future wife here; I proposed to her here; she still knows a large majority of the staff from her time working here. I’ve had many ups, and a few downs, with The Connaught, but ultimately if you associate this blog with a single hotel it’s here.  The history I have with this hotel and the connection we still have to it means any review I write is completely incomparable to your own experience.  But where else are ya gonna get your information from, if it’s not me?

The Mews

Speaking of things that won’t happen to you, I was here on a last-minute paid booking and they surprised us with an upgrade to The Mews. If you’re now going to contact reservations and say “This guy got it, why can’t I?” then 1). Don’t mention my name, I ain’t vouching for you and 2)  Read the third paragraph again.

The Mews opened in 2018 and has remained the only room at The Connaught I have not stayed in.  I needed to stay to get my card stamped and my free Starbucks.  My frequent subtle hints like “boy, it’d be nice to stay here” and “be an awful shame were something to happen to your family if I didn’t get The Mews” might have had something to do with finally getting it.  You can take it as a one,  two or even five-bedroom option, by taking the entire floor.  If you can afford £15k/n for a suite, you may as well take the entire floor, as otherwise, people will just think you’re cheap.

To get to the point, it is absolutely gorgeous.  I’ve never stayed in a city hotel suite that has its own private entrance, nor one that has a reception area bigger than some of their standard rooms.  Outside of the stunning design and vast amount of space, the selling point is the private entrance it offers that you allows you to avoid anyone seeing you entering or leaving.  Perfect for celebrities or mass murderers.  You can also come through the normal entrances if you want the paparazzi/police to know of your whereabouts.

As with most suites, it’s not the bedroom that is the selling point, but the living areas.  The Mews may have a small outside sitting area and reception room, but really all your focus is on the living room.  It offers two fireplaces, a library, a bar, and even a grand piano.  More importantly than all of that, The Connaught has finally started to offer free movies, so the TV isn’t just an ornament.  With this, the alignment between the Maybourne hotels is apparent, as it’s using the same AV system as The Berkeley, whilst they also now share the same toiletries by Anatome.  Just as long as they don’t start sharing things like the pastry chef; he’s ours and I will fight you for him.

Would it surprise you if I said the master bedroom was also stunning?  Even the handrails are fine, leather stitched like they belong in a Porsche.  If the suite was only this room it would be a great junior suite; the walk-in wardrobes, plenty of space, seating areas and a bathroom that looks like it stole all the marble going in a Harrods sale.

Let me tell you another first world problem: constantly losing things as the room was too large.  That was the second biggest issue.  The first is that it’s not the most child-friendly room.  It felt like a test of our parenthood to stay here.  Could we survive the night without her dying?   Then we should be awarded Parents of the Year and receive a certificate on checkout.  I think everyone was misinterpreting the baby friendliness too, like when room service brought our 1-year-old some silver cutlery to eat her dinner and porcelain tableware or when they forgot to give her a blanket or pillow.  Who needs heat when you have the comfort of The Mews?

It’s not all perfect in paradise though.  It’s not exactly soundproof and I could hear other people talking.  I started to think I was hearing voices, like staying in this room granted me the power of a god but turned out it was the room next door and the alleyway.  The biggest issue is the view – or complete lack of one; The Connaught suffers from this in general, don’t go in thinking you’re going to get a nice Hyde Park view like Four Seasons Park Lane or the Mandarin Oriental, but there’s certainly something more pleasant than an alleyway where the staff are smoking.

Everything else

Can the arrival and stay list be any better?  No.  Of course not, they’ve had 200 occasions to get it right.  We know all the doormen, the concierge team, and most of the management.  People are genuinely happy to see us, not in the fake sense like when they see you.

Their F&B offering is the best of any London hotel.  I was not the happiest when Jean-Georges came to town, not because of the food itself, just the extremely uncomfortable furniture and inability to get anything but afternoon tea after 2:30.  Well, none of this has changed, but I still regularly go here as it’s just extremely good simple food.  There’s nothing pretentious about it or over-engineered, it’s just consistently brilliant.

They have also added a new bar called the Red Room, which I’ve been to see, but I’ve more chance of seeing prison bars than a hotel bar since becoming a parent.  Having said that, my favourite bar in London is between The Library at The Lanesborough and Coburg Bar at The Connaught.  There’s something extremely classy about the place.  Then there’s the Connaught Bar, which is loved by all, but my only memory is seeing Jeremy Irons in there and shouting “It’s Scar!”.  The Grill recently reopened after a two-year covid-induced hiatus; we ate there several weeks ago, but I was feeling so ill that I’ll reserve judgement until I go back, although my wife loved it.

Their recently opened patisserie is the best.  Truly.  I’d love it even more if they didn’t have to legally put the number of calories on dishes.  The only part I’m not keen on is Helene Darroze, although it recently won 3 Michelin stars, so what’d I know?  I’ve eaten there five times and only once did it impress, but I’ve not been in four years, since they substituted my lobster with cucumber by removing the lobster.  Yummy.

Then there’s the Aman Spa.  I have wasted many an hour down in the basement, where it resides.  The air temperature around the pool is so warm that I find it immensely relaxing to just lay down there, read all your lovely emails and ignore all of them.  If you do fancy getting in the pool it’s often so freezing that I have to build up the confidence to get in, then wimp out and just head to the steam room.  It’s nowhere near as feature-packed as The Lanesborough or Four Seasons Ten Trinity, but it does what I need it to, even if I’d love some more facilities.  I’ll put it on my wishlist now Maybourne have become experts in digging underneath hotels.

Lucie believes the spa therapists are amongst the best in London, and from my experience, during this stay, I can back that up.  I’ve had horrific back pain the last few weeks, having seen multiple specialists try and fix it; the pain came back on Friday and on Saturday I booked in for a quick treatment.  I’d give it a 0/10 for relaxing, but a 10/10 for impact, as all that pain I endured, had somehow prevented the pain I was feeling and I got off the table feeling 90% better.

The future

With their sister properties The Berkeley and Claridge’s undergoing extensive refurbishments, including Claridge’s digging five stories down to add a new spa, inevitably it feels that The Connaught is next.  Even though they’ve added The Mews by buying next door, adding the patisserie by buying another neighbour, added The Grill and the Red Room, a refurbishment of the rooms is what’s needed most.  It seems logical it will come soon.  Yet the FT recently reported the magician behind all this is once again in a fight for his place within the company.  The Beaumont lost Corbyn and King and there was no recognisable difference, so I’ll try to remain optimistic, but there’s no doubt Maybourne is the company it is today because of Patrick McKillen.

The Good

  • Location
  • F&B

The Bad

  • All the rooms are going to underwhelm you – you need a suite

The Luxurious

  • Aman spa
  • Service
  • All the signature suites

Conclusion

My desire to stay in every room is like a bucket list for douchebags.  Mathematically I’m now 50% less douche for achieving it.  Now what have I got to aim for?  Do something nice for someone else?  Sounds awful.

The biggest problem with The Connaught is the entry rooms. I cannot emphasise this enough: only stay here if you’re in a suite.  If you’re budgeting less than £2,000/n then I would not recommend staying here.  The standard room categories, and even the traditional junior suites, are not going to give you a glimpse into why I think this hotel is so great.  In fairness, even some of the suites are not the best, so room selection is absolutely key.  Any of their Specialist Suites and you’re in luck.

So why stay here?  It has the best location, F&B and spa.  I won’t say it’s the best service, as historically The Beaumont wins that, but it’ll certainly be in the top three.  There are definitely hotels with many better attributes; The Lanesborough has much more refined rooms; the spa at The Bulgari is superior; pick one of many hotels and the views are better.  Overall though, this is the best hotel in London and The Mews is one of the best suites.  For myself, the service, familiarity and yes, occasional upgrades, add to it.

As for the debate, the answer is neither; the best room is still The Library.

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 26th Apr '22

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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