Destination: England: London
45 Park Lane
The newest U.K. property to join the Dorchester Collection (which owns such landmark hotels as the Plaza Athénée in Paris and the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles) offers a more subtle, contemporary take on luxury. Located next to the group’s (flashy) flagship Dorchester, in Mayfair, the 45-room boutique hotel occupies a restored historic building, which used to house London’s Playboy Club but is now a far-cry from 1960s bunnies. French designer Thierry Despont (interior designer for Bill Gates and the Carlyle among others) created lavish but cool interiors, with original contemporary art, including works by Damian Hirst, chocolate-brown suede walls and pretty limed mahogany.
The views of Hyde Park—all of the rooms look onto the green expanse—are a lovely destination-specific detail. The only “event” space in the hotel is a media room, of course, with super-comfy chaises and an intimate vibe (it seats a mere ten people). With no reception and it’s intimate interiors, 45 Park Lane doesn’t feel like a hotel and maintains the vibe of a cozy club. The only real glitz factor at 45 Park Lane is an outpost of Wolfgang Puck’s Cut restaurant franchise, which has received some mixed reviews for its high prices and noisy rock n’ roll soundtrack (selected by Puck himself). More winning is the cool Bar 45, on the first floor, which stays open until 2 am and serves innovative cocktails and popular bar snacks, like mini Kobe sliders and steak or tuna tartar.
Covent Garden Hotel
Divine, not too pricey and situated in the heart of London’s theater district, Covent Garden has an intimate and clubby atmosphere that draws a star-studded crowd—Scarlett Johansson, Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet are all fans. Owned by Kit and Tim Kemp’s Firmdale Group, which has six other hotels in London and one in New York, Covent Garden was designed by the talented Kit Kemp, who lovingly decorated each of the fifty-eight bedrooms and suites in a different style. Appealing touches include fabric-covered mannequins that complement the rooms, oversize headboards towering above plush four-posters and top-of-the-line Miller Harris bath products. Giorgio Armani likes Penthouse 303, and John Malkovich always books Room 201 (though Junior Suite 5, all red toile and high ceilings, would be my pick). Rest assured that whichever room you choose will be delightful.
The sister hotel of the Halkin (also owned and run by the Como Hotel Group), the Metropolitan is a fashion darling, with hip but minimalist interiors, a Zen vibe, and boasting a branch of Nobu and one of London’s most acclaimed spas on the premises. Many rooms overlook Hyde Park, and those on higher floors are veritable cocoons of serenity floating above the green expanse. The members-only Met Bar remains one of London’s trendiest meeting spots (guests have automatic access).
This elegant boutique hotel near Buckingham Palace in Belgravia is where Kate Middleton decided to spend the night before her wedding. The vibe here is traditional English, particularly in its excellent service. In fact, the Goring is one of the few truly old-school English hotels left in London. Interiors boast silk wall coverings and lovely whimsical touches (a toy sheep on every bed) that give the Goring a lot of character. Each of the sixty-eight rooms has a different decor. In good weather breakfast is served on a patio overlooking the croquet lawn. This is a great option for those who want a larger hotel without the luxury label or who prefer a property that feels English through and through. Belgravia’s excellent cafés, restaurants and shops are all within walking distance.
Founded by Singaporean hotelier Christina Ong, this boutique hotel, on a quiet street in Belgravia, is a favorite retreat for the fashion crowd. The Ongs, who own Parrot Cay in Turks and Caicos and the Four Seasons in the Maldives, study design trends; they built an empire on importing such labels as Giorgio Armani to Asia, so it’s not surprising that they know how to cater to fans like Donna Karan and Donatella Versace. In the sleek, 41-room Halkin, the staff wears Armani uniforms, the rooms have cherry wood paneling and the menu emphasizes fresh local ingredients. The rooms, with their minimal clutter, cream-colored fabrics and subtle touches, such as taffeta curtains, feel like experiments in inducing serenity—fittingly, they were designed by a Milan firm called Laborati Associati. Downstairs, off the cool lobby, is the very spicy cuisine of Australian chef David Thompson’s Nahm, the best Thai restaurant in London, from which you can also order room service. One major drawback for the fabulous-looking people who tend to stay there: If working out is part of your daily ritual, you will have to hoof it to the Halkin’s sister hotel, the Metropolitan, to use its small basement gym, which is decidedly less glamorous than doing yoga back in your meditative room. Double rooms from $490.
For special Indagare benefits, members click the plus sign.
This forty-four-room boutique property, part of the Firmdale empire, resembles an haute version of a bed and breakfast. Interiors (courtesy of Kit Kemp) are stylish and contemporary while still quintessentially British: snug sitting rooms, sandstone fireplaces, a library for afternoon tea. There’s no restaurant, but a wonderful breakfast is served in the sitting rooms (room service is also available). Tucked among elegant, residential townhouses, the Knightsbridge is also very well located for first-time visitors: down the street from Harrods, Harvey Nichols and the V&A Museum.
The Stafford London Kempinski
The 109 rooms of this historic hotel are scattered throughout three distinct buildings in the Edwardian St. James neighborhood, including a main house (recently refurbished), the romantic Carriage House (former stables with country home interiors) and the Stafford Mews, added in 2007 and housing surprisingly modern suites. A quintessential British vibe prevails, and even though the hotel is just steps from Piccadilly and the area’s acclaimed contemporary art galleries, it feels wonderfully tucked away and quiet. The American Bar has been one of London’s most famous watering holes for visitors since the 1930s.
Search By Keyword
The famous French ski resort, in the Haute-Savoie region, is...
Change comes slowly to this small Bahamian island, and that’s...
New on Indagare
Give the Gift of Indagare The perfect present for travelers: a membership to Indagare. Buy now
Indagare Insider Trips: Cuba, Myanmar and India: We’re planning trips throughout the year. Contact Indagare (212-988-2611) to be added to the wait list.
- Community: Share advice with fellow members asking about your favorite travel discoveries.
- Indagare Insiders: Three-day itineraries for families in London and art lovers in Vienna. Plus, fashion insider Chiara Ferragamo’s picks on what not to miss in Florence, Bonnie Gokson, owner of Hong Kong’s lofty Sevva on Hong Kong, Culinary Insider: Budapest.
- Rant & Rave: Indagare members can share their advice with the community by logging in first, then clicking here: Rants & Raves.
- Give the Gift: Indagare: Give the gift of travel intelligence with a membership to Indagare. For details or to order, call us at 212-988-2611 or click here: Gift Membership.
- Indagare Plus: Remember that hotels marked by an Indagare Plus symbol offer preferential rates and benefits to members.
- Indagare Share Feature: Share articles, postcards and reviews with family and friends on such networking sites as Twitter, Facebook and Delicious. Simply click on the three small dots that symbolize our connect icon, at the end of every article, and follow the link to the networking site of your preference.
- Sample Indagare: With free bi-weekly email blasts on new hot spots and insider tips when you sign up for our mailing list.
- Profile feature: Members share your profiles, comments, favorite articles and IQs. Just click on the Profile tab on the upper right of your screen and look for the Edit My Profile blue tab.
- Indagare means to discover, explore, seek, scout in Latin.