Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from Tim Harding, a writer at TubeHotels.com.
While the name is less iconic than that of the Savoy or the Ritz, The Lanesborough may well be London’s most magnificent hotel; an exclusive fortress of luxury that manages to make the other Hyde Park hotels look downright approachable. The Lanesborough was only opened in 1991 in a former hospital on the corner of Hyde Park, but the building itself dates back to 1844, and shares its formidable grandeur with London’s various palaces and whatnot. Nights spent here are the most expensive in the city, going up to eight grand a night for the Royal Suite. The rooms are decorated with amazing elegance and have played host to all manner of celebrities, presidents and royalty, and all feature luxury touches such as a complimentary laptop and a 24-hour butler service. The Lanesborough’s Library Bar is a legendary institution, but the hotel’s real culinary highlight is Apsleys: Heinz Beck’s first restaurant outside of Italy and London’s fastest ever recipient of a Michelin star.
Opened in 1906 and designed to resemble a stylish block of Parisian flats, the Ritz is the greatest of the Piccadilly Hotels, and is one of the best-known luxury hotels in the world. Its rooms are gilded opulently, in a more excessive style than is found in most modern hotels. For feeling like you’re staying in Buckingham Palace, it’s probably the one to beat. While the rooms have all the usual garnishes, the Ritz’s stand-out feature has always been its Afternoon Tea. Served in the spectacular Palm Court on those little three-tier silver stands and featuring a variety of tiny, simple sandwiches, followed by tasty scones and pastries, â€˜Tea at the Ritz’ is a byword for fanciness. If you plan on attending, it’s £40 a head, and you’ll need to book in advance. There’s also a dress code, so no jeans, running shorts and your birthday suit are not smiled upon, and gents will need a coat and tie.
St Martins Lane
In stark contrast to the overwhelming visual nonsense of the capital’s older hotels, St Martins Lane looks like the underwater hide-out of a James Bond villain, albeit one preoccupied with the collection of different types of chairs. This boutique hotel is designed to the hilt by renowned Frenchman Philippe Starck, and has a revelatory modern aesthetic that surprises at every turn. The bedrooms understandably go a little easier on the hard angles, with a smooth white sheen to everything that gives you the feeling of being a genie trapped inside an iPod. The hotel provides access to one of the city’s best gyms, and to the legendary cocktail bar Asia de Cuba; an establishment which has recently introduced its chocolate menu, wherein each cocktail has an equivalent gourmet chocolate, obviously an idea so excellent as to render the rest of this amazing hotel almost irrelevant.
Slightly overshadowed in the public imagination by the Ritz, the Savoy is arguably still the greater establishment, with a rich history that stretches back to its founding in 1889 as the UK’s first luxury hotel. Created with money earned from the Gilbert & Sullivan operas, the Savoy’s initial manager was Cesar Ritz, who established an amazing standard of service that has continued unabated to this day. The building itself was recently subject to an ambitious renovation, and seamlessly blends English Edwardian and Art Deco styles to great effect and its position directly overlooking the Thames is the envy of all the other Charing Cross Hotels. The hotel’s afternoon tea predates that of the Ritz and is just as splendid. The icing on the hotel’s cake is the Savoy Grill, once a haunt of Winston Churchill and now run by Britain’s most divisive celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay.
Fifth place on this list goes to young upstart the Wellesley. The Wellesley is in fact so young that it hasn’t even opened yet, and aims for some time in 2011, but the early press releases of the hoteliers involved are claiming that it will be London’s first six star hotel. As no certification body currently awards more than five stars (despite certain Dubai establishments claiming up to seven), this will be a tough nut to crack, but the Wellesley gets marks for ambition. This all-suite hotel is going to feature the largest single suite in London, with a view over Hyde Park and a private lift. The hotel will feature a jazz bar, Italian restaurant and Britain’s largest bespoke humidor. These are modest attractions (and in the case of the humidor, slightly surreal), but what will really be interesting about this hotel is the surprises that it will throw out and the lengths to which it will have to go in order to justify its headline-grabbing hype.