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
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.
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.