A distinguished dame gets a nip and tuck
THE nimble blonde on the sofa next to us hasn’t drawn breath in nearly half an hour. In a skin-tight mini-dress that could teach those Megastructures television series engineers a thing or two (despite no visible means of support her chest could be used to balance the next round of drinks on), she continues a high-pitched monologue on her shopping exploits. She pauses only to sip a brightly coloured cocktail as her gentleman friend grins beatifically at the spectacle before him.
A barman pushing a martini trolley meanders through the crowd in this lively space — all sparkly art-deco style courtesy of designer du jour David Collins — and elegant titbits created by a Michelin-starred chef are being dispatched to neighbouring tables.
Welcome to The Connaught Bar, one of London’s coolest drinking spots. This atmospheric bolthole, like the rest of the hotel, has emerged from a multi-millionpound renovation that has landed the historic building firmly back on the city’s hot lists.
Collins created the bar at London’s chic Berkeley hotel, fitted out A-list dining spot Nobu and, more recently, turned his hand to the fabulous new The Gilbert Scott restaurant at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel. He was recruited to design a chic drinking space in the distinguished Connaught and he has more than succeeded. Everyone from young trust-fund types to high-powered businessmen and well-heeled hotel guests are pulling up dark leather bucket seats and sofas and ordering bottles of limited-edition champagne or eclectic cocktails as we pop by for a late-night drink.
The bar, however, is not the only attraction at this new-look five-star hotel, which opened in 1897 sporting the name The Coburg, after Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert of SaxeCoburg (it was renamed The Connaught in 1917 after Victoria’s third son, the Duke of Connaught).
Interior designer Guy Oliver, whose expertise with period detail has seen him take on such projects as 10 Downing Street’s interiors and London’s Royal Conservatory of Music, has stamped his mark on the hotel’s 121 guestrooms and 33 suites. Paris-based India Mahdavi, meanwhile, set to work on the hotel’s second bar, the Coburg, and its ground-floor restaurants.
The result of the three designers’ eclectic styles is a chic escape in the heart of London’s luxury shopping district. There are artfully retained period details (the hotel’s sweeping Gone with the Wind-style staircase so impressed designer Ralph Lauren, apparently, that he created a replica in his flagship store in New York) mixed with contemporary style and all the mod cons.
Our suite is an elegant home away from home, with a library cum lounge and bathroom on the first floor, and a light and airy bedroom up a small staircase. Our huge bed is far too comfortable for its own good but we reluctantly rouse ourselves when we hear the doorbell; it’s our butler delivering a room-service breakfast spread so generous that we won’t be needing another morsel for days.
But who could leave without trying one of London’s best dining spots, given that it is only two floors below. Helene Darroze at the Connaught was awarded two Michelin stars this year and should not be missed. Pop in for a pre-dinner drink at the Coburg next door, and follow dessert with a nightcap at The Connaught Bar before slipping into a deep and satisfying slumber upstairs. Things don’t get much better than that. Michelle Rowe was a guest of The Connaught.
The glamorous Connaught Hotel in London’s Mayfair