Three of London’s grande dame hotels are kicking up their heels. The Connaught, which was once so exclusive that you needed a personal introduction to secure a reservation, has retained its intimacy while reaching out to a broader clientele. It hired five of the world’s top interior designers to create 33 rooms and suites plus an Aman spa in its new wing (scheduled to open in July), and brought in Hélène Darroze, an acclaimed Parisian chef, to run the restaurant and bar. Claridges invited David Linley to design eight new suites with bathrooms that rival the bedrooms in size and style. Dubbed “wet rooms” they combine hand-etched Art Deco shower doors with matched slabs of Verona marble and steam-resistant plasma screens. Guests can enjoy custom tours of Mayfair design firms.
Still bolder changes are in the works for The Berkeley, which is located in Knightsbridge, looking out to Hyde Park. Already, Michelin-starred chef Marcus Wareing opened his eponymous restaurant in the space that was formerly occupied by Petrus. To come next year is a two-phase expansion by the firm that’s headed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Richard Rogers. Carbon fiber beams and laminated honeycomb glass will put the building on the cutting edge of innovation and David Collins (who earlier created the sexy Blue Bar) will design the rooms in collaboration with B&B Italia. It promises to be the most elegant contemporary interior in London.
The strategy of upgrading these century-old properties has paid off for the Maybourne Group. Other hotels are floundering, but this distinguished trio is still achieving 80 per cent occupancy. Anthony Lee, who has managed The Connaught for the past 30 years attributes this to the loyalty of regular clients, who treat his hotel as a home away from home. When London was snowed in a few weeks ago, Lee invited his German staffers to make a traditional snowman, augmented with the hotel’s signature umbrella and bag, and the image was a big hit on-line. His success has boosted the confidence of the owners, who plan to add another 20 properties to the group. Wandermelon will keep you posted!
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