LON­DON’S BIG

A stint in win­tery Lon­don ex­plor­ing all three of the Maybourne Ho­tel Group’s finest prop­er­ties leaves the eyes wide open and the heart now for­lorn

Revolution (Hong Kong) - - WHAT MAKES US TICK - TEXT BY MELISSA LIM

Ar­riv­ing at my des­ti­na­tion in the dead of night has be­come some­thing of a tra­di­tion for me, and a scene cer­tainly not un­fa­mil­iar to any sea­soned trav­eler. A wave of ex­haus­tion hits, and all bear­ings van­ish as you slither through a city still sleep­ing, un­sure of what awaits you. Whether trav­el­ing for work or leisure, it can be some­thing of an ap­pre­hen­sive ex­pe­ri­ence when yearn­ing for the com­forts of home.

I have no such un­cer­tain­ties this time, as we pull into a sleek en­trance; a glow­ing bea­con in the dead of night. Seem­ingly non­de­script from ground level, I sprint past the frigid tem­per­a­tures and bound through the swoop­ing re­volv­ing doors and into the sooth­ing, warm bo­som of The Berke­ley, fire­place glim­mer­ing and all.

MOD­ERN MENTALITY

Boast­ing a highly cov­eted lo­ca­tion, nes­tled in fash­ion­able Knights­bridge and mere steps away from Sloane Street, Hyde Park and Har­rods, The Berke­ley is not only im­pres­sive on a map, it’s a jour­ney into con­tem­po­rary, fash­ion-for­ward Lon­don, ex­ud­ing the ele­gance and splendor of this me­trop­o­lis in a de­cid­edly con­tem­po­rary man­ner. There is a re­laxed sense of for­mal­ity, if you can call it that, from the minute you step foot on the prop­erty; a hip, mod­ern feel with a clas­sic at­ten­tion to de­tail, that re­mains ever-invit­ing.

A col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach to de­sign was taken at The Berke­ley, to in­fuse it with a unique, al­beit co­he­sive aes­thetic. A de­sign team headed by Robert An­gell and Lon­don-based ar­chi­tects Roger Stirk Har­bour & Part­ners was en­trusted with an ex­panded en­trance and two ex­ten­sions. An­gell is a pro­tégé of David Collins, who him­self pre­vi­ously de­signed mul­ti­ple el­e­ments within the ho­tel, in­clud­ing the Blue Room Bar, which opened in 2004 and was re­cently re­vamped by An­gell. He also over­saw the de­sign of Mar­cus, Mar­cus Ware­ing’s two Miche­lin-starred restau­rant at the ho­tel, as well as the Chelsea Suites lo­cated on the first floor and the Bal­cony King rooms.

He­len Green Stu­dio de­signed the bulk of the Berke­ley Suites, which fea­ture a style both mod­ern yet sump­tu­ous, while the Ter­race Ju­nior Suites are di­vided into Robert An­gell de­signs with their cool tones and John Heah’s take, with flow­ing spa­ces, hard­wood floors and clean lines. I was lucky enough to bunk down in the lat­ter, which over­looked St Paul’s Church, for two nights.

A range of Sig­na­ture Suites is also avail­able, each unique in its own way. The Opus Suite, for ex­am­ple, of­fers a 270-de­gree view of Hyde Park and Knights­bridge and was de­signed by An­dré Fu, fea­tur­ing a mix of bal­anced spa­ces to com­prise a suite bal­anc­ing ar­chi­tec­tural lines with re­fined de­tails. The Gallery Suite by John Heah is per­fect for art lovers, boast­ing the at­mos­phere of a con­tem­po­rary city loft, with floods of light pour­ing in through French win­dows, and wall art ro­tat­ing ev­ery quar­ter.

Up on the 7th floor, The Berke­ley Health Club & Spa lends a touch of serene coun­try­side against the heav­ing city be­low. The rooftop pool seems very L.A. but boasts quintessen­tially Bri­tish vis­tas, in par­tic­u­lar, a sweep­ing view of Hyde Park. The per­fect spot to es­cape and soak up some rays dur­ing the sum­mer, the re­tractable roof of­fers pro­tec­tion against the el­e­ments dur­ing win­ter­time, trans­form­ing the space to a toasty co­coon to while away the hours… which is ex­actly what I did.

If you man­age to tear your­self away from the pool, there is a fully-equipped gym on the ground floor, or if you are any­thing like me, you will find your­self at the Bam­ford Hay­barn Spa that of­fers an ex­ten­sive range of sig­na­ture treat­ments at the ready, to leave guests feel­ing re­laxed and ready to take on the hus­tle and bus­tle await­ing be­low.

Speak­ing of be­low, we can’t ig­nore the culi­nary de­lights this ho­tel is known for. Home to the afore­men­tioned Mar­cus restau­rant, it also plays to its fash­ion-for­ward sur­round­ings and clien­tele with its imag­i­na­tive Prèt-À-Portea, treat­ing guests to a sump­tu­ous af­ter­noon tea that is in­spired by the col­ors and tex­tures seen on the cat­walks, chang­ing ev­ery six months to match the sea­sons.

PAST MEETS PRESENT

Built in 1897 and con­sid­ered one of Lon­don’s more iconic and lux­u­ri­ous prop­er­ties; The Con­naught takes up res­i­dence in the epi­cen­ter of May­fair, fea­tur­ing an inim­itable blend of Bri­tish tra­di­tion and moder­nity. Just a stone’s throw from Ox­ford Cir­cus and Bond Street, it calls to the bon vi­vant, the lover of both old and new.

Upon en­ter­ing the es­tab­lish­ment, one is im­me­di­ately hit with a pro­found sense of her­itage that evokes strong feel­ings, but turn any given cor­ner at The Con­naught and you might just be sur­prised by an en­tirely dif­fer­ent aes­thetic. Upon walk­ing fur­ther into the ho­tel, past the lobby, I dis­cov­ered a de­cid­edly con­tem­po­rary ex­ten­sion, so much so, I even stum­bled upon a Ja­panese Zen gar­den.

De­spite this, and which­ever wing you hap­pen to find your­self in, there is still an un­der­ly­ing Bri­tish feel to ev­ery el­e­ment, with a mul­ti­tude of room op­tions and dis­tinc­tive suites also on of­fer. The 119 rooms in­clude 30 in the new wing that fea­ture a more Asian aes­thetic, while the rest, de­signed by Guy Oliver, re­main tra­di­tional but light, and much like the other ho­tels in the Maybourne Ho­tel Group, suites tend to bear a spe­cific theme. The Prince’s Lodge, for one, took in­spi­ra­tion from Kabul’s Pea­cock Palace with its vin­tage maps, dra­matic four-poster bed and deca­dent bath­room with mar­ble de­tail.

For a con­tem­po­rary twist, the Apart­ment is un­miss­able. Perched high above Car­los Place, it boasts sprawl­ing views of the sur­round­ing area and is a wel­come es­cape with its muted hues, and it keeps its guests en­ter­tained with its eclec­tic col­lec­tion of art and lit­er­a­ture. Less like a ho­tel room and more like a pri­vate home, The Apart­ment is as per­fect en­joyed alone, soaking in the in­te­ri­ors, as it is en­ter­tain­ing oth­ers.

Should you hap­pen to emerge from the con­fines of your lav­ish abode, the lower lev­els of the ho­tel pro­vide plenty of dis­trac­tion wor­thy of your time. The Aman Spa is the first of its kind of­fered out­side an Aman ho­tel, and is a hid­den respite in the base­ment. Of­fer­ing re­lax­ing treat­ments, there is also a daily mind­ful med­i­ta­tion class on of­fer, as well as a steam­ing 60-square me­ter swim­ming pool.

Should your mind be­gin to wan­der to your stom­ach, there is the Con­naught Bar, that feels like a set from The Great Gatsby, and serves up award-win­ning cock­tails to whet your ap­petite. ‘Hélène Dar­roze at The Con­naught’ is also on hand to whip up some two-Miche­lin star de­lights cen­tered on a be­spoke menu fea­tur­ing 12 mar­ble balls la­beled with dif­fer­ent items for guests to clue in the kitchen to their pref­er­ences.

TRA­DI­TION REIGNS SUPREME

Last but cer­tainly not least, there is no other in­sti­tu­tion that so deeply ex­em­pli­fies the spirit of Bri­tish style, eter­nal charm and im­pec­ca­ble ser­vice than Clar­idge’s. To step foot into this ho­tel is to soak up ev­ery ounce of Lon­don’s his­tory and glam­our. Open since 1854, this ho­tel has hosted fa­mous ac­tors, roy­alty and for­eign heads of state. To put this into con­text, I dined next to Sir Michael Caine, and was told Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks bunked down here one night prior. Did I men­tion David Cameron walked past the re­volv­ing doors one morn­ing? This place is the real deal.

Art Deco is the name of the game when it comes to in­te­ri­ors; a jour­ney back to the 1920’s, where many of the orig­i­nal fea­tures from over a cen­tury ago re­main, fur­ther en­hanced by ac­cents by way of Art Nou­veau, Cu­bism and Fu­tur­ism. Again, like its sis­ter prop­er­ties, guests are spoilt for choice when it comes to ac­com­mo­da­tion boast­ing dif­fer­ent de­sign in­flu­ences.

For an el­e­gant, re­fined ex­pe­ri­ence, the Prince Alexan­der and Royal suites are ab­so­lutely fit for for a king. The lat­ter fuses to­gether the splendor of the Vic­to­rian Age with 19th cen­tury French ar­chi­tec­tural prints and bold col­ors. The Brook Pent­house, on the other hand, pays trib­ute to the 1930s with gen­tle li­lac and cream hues, paired with light oak floors. The spa­cious ter­race pro­vides what is likely one of the best views the city has to of­fer.

Down­stairs, the Fu­moir Bar is the ideal spot to soak up a bit of his­tory; a cozy nook to tuck into their un­for­get­tably deca­dent hot choco­late dur­ing the day, it trans­forms into a se­duc­tive en­clave in the evening to snug­gle up to the lus­cious aubergine vel­vet seat­ing and sip on an era-defin­ing aper­i­tif or night­cap.

On the flip side, a din­ner at Fera is an eye-open­ing jour­ney through mod­ern Bri­tish aes­thet­ics and cui­sine, the lat­ter fea­tur­ing the finest of or­ganic in­gre­di­ents. Head chef Si­mon Rogan’s menu is sen­si­tive to these in­gre­di­ents, re­veal­ing new and unan­tic­i­pated dimensions, and, well, if it’s good enough for Sir Michael…

THE LUX­URY OF LEISURE

For a city that has seen its fair share of high­fa­lutin es­tab­lish­ments and prac­tices, it’s a re­fresh­ing no­tion to see a ho­tel group en­com­pass­ing all styles of ac­com­mo­da­tion, from the tra­di­tion­al­ist to the hy­per mod­ern. It is a feat the Maybourne Ho­tel Group ac­com­plishes with great ease and a por­to­lio of three Lon­don in­sti­tu­tions un­der its wing. It dis­proves the opin­ion Brits only know how to do tra­di­tional and stuffy. I found there to be a real sense of gen­uine warmth to all three es­tab­lish­ments, each lur­ing out the cu­rios­ity within me, as if each prop­erty and its unique story is beg­ging to be fur­ther ex­plored.

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