Jeeves takes charge
The Lanesborough in London specialises in a discreet, old-world style of service more usually associated with the royal household, and that’s down to the hotel’s team of 23 butlers, who as Bertie Wooster once noted of Jeeves, “can buttle with the best of them”.
On hand to wake guests with tea or coffee and the paper, draw baths, rustle up meals at ungodly hours and see to the most outlandish of demands, the team is drilled to keep calm and “buttle” on by Daniel Jordaan, the South African-born head, clad in spit-polished shoes so shiny I spy my reflection and sporting a lapel rose so pert it must be freshly spritzed.
Forgotten your silk jimjams, need a Horlicks with camel’s milk, can’t work the newfangled in-room tablet? Give them a call, no matter the hour; fussy guests are their thing.
In the Royal Suite preparations are underway for a VIP arrival. A gym has been installed in the study, a battalion of clothing racks in one of the seven bedrooms and a TV the size of a billboard hauled into the living room (as if the existing televisions weren’t already large enough).
All across the hotel it’s a hive of well-ordered activity. Three fulltime florists deliver posies to bedside tables; silver pots of tea are whisked to guests newly arrived; in the elegant Withdrawing Room, too-tanned couples are tucking into tiers of dainty cakes while in the Library Bar, cognac bottled in the same year Captain Cook sailed to Australia waits to be poured.
And as we pad through the plush hushed corridors, Jordaan indicates artwork right and left, generally horses and gents in Regency togs a la Mr Darcy. “The hotel has the largest collection of original Regency paintings in the world outside a museum,” he notes.
So the rather dreary painting above the fireplace in my room is a puzzle. Until I press a button on the remote and the artwork rolls away inside its gilt frame to reveal a television. Another TV rises out of a handsome mahogany cabinet at the end of the enormous bed.
“This is one of the few hotels in the world to run entirely on fibre optics,” Jordaan says. All very James Bond, as is the mini bar stocked with Krug, and the bedside tablet (in eight languages) to control lights and drapes, the private telephone line into every room and the business cards bearing my name and number stashed in the desk drawer (handy for shadowy assignations in Soho).
That’s if I can be bothered venturing that far from the hotel’s posh possie on Hyde Park Corner right near Buckingham Palace. The hotel reopened in 2015 as part of the Oetker Collection (sister hotels include Le Bristol in Paris) following an 18-month, lavish refurbishment of all 93 guestrooms and suites involving 300 embroiderers, cabinet-makers, bronzers, lacquerers and gilders.
The Regency-inspired makeover was pulled together by acclaimed designer Alberto Pinto, who died before work began; his sister and business partner completed the project. It’s a shiny opulence that doesn’t always chime with the comfy English country house look we’ve come to know through BBC costume dramas; where’s the faded chintz and dog hair? But that sense of deep, deep luxury, a Pinto trademark, is the real deal. And there’s glamour by the lorry load.
Early evening Saturday and the action at the front door might be directed by Woody Allen as limo after limo draws up to the portico disgorging svelte mother and daughter shopping teams, car boots bulging with labelled bags, ferried with practised ease by a human chain of doorman and butlers. Another butler dodges this fragrant melee and dashes across the road into Green Park, attached to three small, very busy dogs.
Like many of the world’s great hotels the vibe here is residential; this is a home away from home for many, often famous, guests. So the welcome is genuine and comfort and privacy paramount from the outset.
After check-in, that perfect pot of tea served in bespoke Royal Worcester arrives to the room, crumpled travelling togs are spirited away to be pressed and a bath is drawn in the Italian marble ensuite, fizzed with royal extract gel produced exclusively for the hotel by British master perfumer Roja Dove. Almost every element of the guestrooms and suites is bespoke and rooms are colour coded by floor; the smaller yellow rooms on the fourth floor are the most charming with a sunny, country house feel and pretty balcony aspect.