Situated across from the splendour of Hyde Park, entering The Lanesborough feels more like walking through a country mansion rather than a hotel in the centre of London. Friendly and international staff offer a relaxed welcome as you leave the bustle of the city behind. In another life, the neoclassical building functioned as St George’s Hospital but its reputation as one of London’s finest hotels has grown since reopening in 2015. The lavish foyer and corridors graced by crystal chandeliers retain the original architectural elegance of the Regency period. The Library Bar is a place to unwind while the Garden Room has a cigar area. It’s believed to be the only one in London and if you can survive a room full of smoke, it’s worth a visit for a spot of people watching amid a colourful cast of international travellers keen to try a Cuban or pre-Castro.
The 93 rooms have fresh flowers and a range of oriental and baroque designs. My bright room was decorated in green, yellow and gold. At the switch of a button, the room’s centrepiece painting vanished to reveal a smart-screen television offering a library of music and film. The rooms are also supplied with tablets. The windows offer views of Hyde Park and there’s triple glazing. The large bathrooms with heated floors are decorated with hand-cut Italian marble. Gratis butler service is also provided.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Walking into the sky blue decor of the Michelin-starred Céleste restaurant is a memorable experience in itself before you have even sat down. Under a glass roof, the gossamer glow of daylight filters through onto traditional white table cloths. I enjoyed a flavoursome courgette and almond soup followed by a prime rib-eye beef with vegetables. A lighter dessert of strawberries and coffee finished off a not to be forgotten dining experience. French chef Steeven Gilles has brought a creative and European heft, although not particularly French, to the gastronomy. The truffle scrambled eggs served at breakfast were a highlight.
DRINK IN THE SIGHTS
I walked past Buckingham Palace and through St James Park to the Churchill War Rooms – the epicentre of Britain’s wartime effort. It’s an astonishing experience dominated by the presence of Churchill. His character haunts every inch of the building from the tiny transatlantic telephone room where he would make secret calls to America to the Map Room and Centre of Command. It’s a place that stokes the imagination as you look around Churchill’s HQ and the room where he would summon the war cabinet. Visitors are privy to the once-secret lives of men and women who would live, eat and sleep underground for the war effort. As you walk through the corridors you can imagine the great orator dictating to one of his private secretaries. The Churchill Museum also has a compressive and interactive history of Churchill’s 90-year life.
The Lanesborough was last year’s winner of England’s Best Hotel Spa at the World Spa Awards. There’s a gym, sauna, bio-energy mud bathing experience as well as facials or full body/deep tissue massage.
ABOUT THE AREA
Immediately outside the hotel is Knightsbridge, Buckingham Palace and Belgravia. There’s a significant Scottish diaspora in the area, just a five-minute walk away is The Caledonian Club, which can be visited but guests are asked to phone ahead. The club features an impressive collection of Scottish art, artefacts and single malts. As well as whisky, the reservoirs of Scottish charm and tradition flow through this club’s rich and storied history. Just a few minutes from here is one of two Scottish Kirks in London; St Columba’s, which fed and delivered refuge for 50,000 Scots returning from the battlefields of the First World War. After the service, a two-course Sunday lunch was provided for £3 by a former member of staff at Buckingham Palace.
For more information please visit www.lanesborough.com