Back to Home
Email this Article ARCHIVES Back to newsletter
Looking for the perfect place to stay?
A visit to hotels in London takes us to the utmost romantic and most delightful destinations. Exclusive and quaint, they swathe your stay with a touch of British grandeur of the past.
By Simone Zarmati Diament
And when travel leads you to London, be they amazing restaurants, opulent stores and glamorous hotels, one has to know where to look.
The hotels we stayed at in London are the utmost destination when looking for the perfect place to stay, and they swathe the entire stay with a touch of British grandeur of the past.
One morning, in Leicester Square, the heart of London's theatre district where thousands of people per second go about their business, we had fun watching a TV crew at work, interviewing passer-bys with the question: "Sir/Madam, are you British?" All answers were negative.
Then again while some people may grumble that cosmopolitanism is taking the fun out of British tradition, the fact remains that since Great Britain's incorporation into the European Union, this city has absorbed the best from the people who flock to London from all corners of the world, and is now teaming with exquisite stores and fabulous new restaurants.
We were very lucky; it was cold and gray, but it didn't rain, and we were escorted all the way by the comfort and pleasure we found "at home," starting with The Capital Hotel, in Knighstbridge, London's Mecca of shopping.
With the only Two Michelin Star restaurant in London
A family-owned hotel, it is an end-of-the-century townhouse with 49 rooms and suites, each different with specially selected fabrics, original paintings, and where every piece of furniture is an antique or a work of art.
After a day of museums, shopping and just walking to take in London's bonanza, the perfect way to unwind is with an Afternoon Tea at The Capital, with finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, and freshly baked pastries.
Harrod's was glowing. We went to the Food Hall, an entire floor with five huge halls laden with foods and wines from around the world, showcased like jewelry, and some even priced like jewelry.
Walking up Picadilly: the Caviar House is on the corner of St. James and Picadilly, across from Davidoff, the cigar temple; and De Beers the diamond expert. A little further up there's Fortnum Mason, a venerable department store for specialty foods open since 1708.
Sloane Street is a fairy tale with rich and festive store windows and restaurants. On the night we arrived, all the restaurants had set tables on the side walk and waiters in tuxedos were offering hot wine, punch and foods to shoppers.
The 35 room hotel which occupies three Edwardian homes dating back to the 1890's is so exclusive that there is no marquee or sign. Only a Union Jack marks the entrance to the mansion. All rooms and suites -- with high ceilings and carefully selected antiques, are steeped in Edwardian splendor but with all the modern amenities, and are all named after theatrical and literary personalities.
Our two-room, two-bathroom suite was the Lewis Caroll. We felt in a British Wonderland in the elegant drawing room, the fire place in the library, the large French windows overlooking the garden. A full breakfast is served in a cozy drawing room, and complimentary champagne is offered before dinner; all complemented by a warm and affable hospitality. But best, you can order a traditional English dinner, with roast, venison, fireplace and an English butler in a private dining room; and ask the concierge to organize shopping and sightseeing tours.
The Draycott's Valentine's Special: Since the Draycott is part of the Mantis Collection of Luxury Hotels, all guests staying on Valentine's Day weekend, from Friday, February 11 to Monday February 14, automatically qualify to be entered into a prize draw to fly out to Johannesburg, with a two-night stay at The Saxon, one of South Africa's most exclusive hotels; and transfer by small plane into Kruger National Park for two nights at Jock Safari Lodge.
We went from the Tate Britain Gallery to see the Turner Exhibition. Magnificent! It was fun to take the ferry to the Modern Tate on the other side of the Thames, a couple of miles from Westminster Abbey. That's where the docks used to be, and where Shakespeare's Globe Theatre is now located.
Walking in London is fabulous, and so is public transportation. And what can be better if your hotel is right around the corner from an underground station. Like the Mandarin Hotel.
Smack on Knightsbridge, the breakfast and dining rooms overlook the Park, where you can see people riding their horses in the mist while you're having breakfast.
The view from our room on the 7th floor was spectacular. The suite - one of 177 rooms and 23 suites - was luxurious and extremely comfortable with modern amenities covered in old charm. We were greeted with handmade chocolates and a bottle of grand cru from Bordeaux.
With so much to do in London we didn't have time to enjoy the state-of-the art spa, or The Mandarin Bar, an "in" late-night hangout flanking the lobby. But we didn't miss dinner at Foliage, the exquisite restaurant which has maintained a Michelin-star for three consecutive years.
London is full of new and great restaurants, but Foliage, is one of the best, including the service. Chef Chris Staines contemporary cuisine offers dishes ranging from an extraordinary white truffle risotto with scallops and a caramelized endive tart tatin with pan-fried foie gras to turbot in a velouté of artichokes, and lamb with sweet breads and morels canelloni. Desserts end dinner in crescendo with hot chocolat fondant, amaretto parfait, vanilla and pearl barley sorbet, poached red wine pear, black sesame ice cream and hot chocolate soup, a lemon polenta cake and an extravagantly good selection of British and continental cheeses.
As for theatre, other than the fact that on Leicester Square you can get half priced tickets, the season was disappointing, because what you could see were mainly musicals anyone can see on Broadway: Lion King, Phantom of the Opera, the usual suspects…
We managed to get tickets to see Holly Hunter in a new play, The Bog of Cats, in Charring Cross; it was mediocre. "Old Masters" a comedy with Edward Fox, directed by Harold Pinter himself was as tired as its main actor and unexciting to say the least.
But give me the Capital, the Draycott and the Mandarin and I'll hop back to London at the drop of a hat...
New British Cuisine in Historic Roman Spa Town
After being administered by the Crown and the church in the Middle Ages, The Roman spa town became very fashionable in the 18th and 19th centuries, turning into one of Jane Austen's favorite hangouts. Other notable visitors include 18th century playwright and journalist Henry Fielding, the author of The History of Tom Jones, and astronomer William Herschel, who discovered Uranus in 1781.
Modern day Bath is a delightful town, a 15 minute walk from the Bath Priory Hotel, with narrow winding streets, gardens, charming cafés and antique stores, and the famous Roman Baths and Museum. It is about half an hour away from Bristol.
Built as a private residence in 1835 in the middle of an immaculate garden, and with a state-of-the-art spa, each one of its rooms and suites, named after a flower, is differently decorated with fine antique furniture and traditional British fabrics.
Chef Clayton, general manager Sue Williams and restaurant manager Vito Scaduto have maintained a Michelin star for five consecutive years, making the Bath Priory Restaurant a destination for high end tourists and locals who get a whiff of what's happening in the world of gastronomy with the monthly wine dinners at the Restaurant.
We had a cheese tray from English cheeses only… Well, the proprietor of The Bath Priory Hotel owns the international cheese store Paxton and Whitfield.