A dis­tin­guished dame gets a nip and tuck

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Luxury - MICHELLE ROWE

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

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