It was interesting going home to London and staying in a hotel. Very few of our English friends had heard of Corinthia Hotel London. “It’s very safe, ” I said rather defensively. “Scotland Yard is right next door.”
As we arrived, the doorman had a little trouble valet parking [my partner] David’s 1965 Jaguar E-Type Series 1, a racing car not built for tall men sporting top hats. He could not fit into the car even when the hat came off; clearly, the hotel had not thought of everything. The room, however, was perfection, with a very Mary Poppins-like view across the rooftops of London, Trafalgar Square and Lord Nelson behind us and the London Eye in front.
Your cellphone loses reception as you enter the first of the four ESPA Life spa floors. A small amount of panic sets in, but by the time you have tested the vitality pool, amphitheater sauna, ice fountain and marble heated loungers and have rested in a private sleep pod, you can hardly remember your own name—let alone that your life once depended on the Internet.
When I emerged, David had been doing some valiant research regarding the hotel’s ability to produce a good Bull Shot. We met for a late lunch in the restaurant. “This used to be one of the Ministry of Defence buildings,” he told me. Quite a thought: I had just been swimming in an underground room that my grandfather might have used during his time as Chief of Defence staff.
The recently opened Beaumont is the first hotel foray for successful restaurateurs Jeremy King and Chris Corbin.
A maître d’ in a Thom Browne suit came over to welcome us (a lot of very impressive hand rubbing went along with the welcome). I made certain to avoid the crispy pig’s head and black pudding fritter, but I did spot that every Wednesday, The Northall showcases some of the world’s best wines at half price. “Shame it’s Tuesday,” I said. “I’ll just keep drinking till it’s Wednesday,” replied David.
As we walked back through the hotel, we came across its Harrods shop selling Buckingham Palace hand towels and Christmas puddings. “Now that really is for the tourists,” I said, and promptly bought six of each.
We stopped to watch the outdoor terrace being transformed by the David Collins Studio into a lounge for intimate alfresco dining with an exotic mix of terrarium plants. It seemed to be pretty successful considering it was freezing November. I could only imagine how lovely this spot would be on a warm summer day. Indeed, how lovely the hotel would be. I intend to return.
As we departed the hotel, I went around the corner to visit my grandfather at Horse Guards Parade. There he was, dressed in his bronze admiral’s uniform with binoculars in hand. On the other side of the parade ground, we watched the stirring sight of the Changing the Queen’s Life Guard, who have stood guard in that spot since the restoration of King Charles II in 1660. Unlike the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, there are no rails involved here, which makes it more exciting for young, unruly children (I have a few of those) to watch.
I lunched on the top outdoor terrace of The Arts Club on Dover Street, founded in 1863 in order to provide a haven for people with a relationship to the arts. Admittedly, I was there less for the art and more for the outstanding Japanese menu. I popped into Chucs Dive & Mountain Shop, owned by my eccentric friend Charles Finch, who tells his stories through the collections he creates. I walked through the Burlington Arcade as I had done many a time as a child with my mother, who had a set at Albany, a historic private residence that neighbors this iconic treasure of London. I crossed Piccadilly into Hatchards bookshop, then nipped to the 300-year-old Fortnum & Mason and bought myself a big box of rose and violet creams to compensate for not having time to stay for tea.
A few days later, we checked into The Beaumont, so recently opened that the top floor of this discreet luxury hotel was still being completed. There was a cloak of pre-war elegance about this historic building overlooking the tiny Brown Hart Gardens. Friends might not have heard of The Beaumont, but the more civilized side of London is familiar with Jeremy King and his business partner, Chris Corbin, two highly successful restaurateurs. This was their first hotel, and London had waited with baited breath to see the unveiling.
The Golden Age of bespoke hospitality oozed from every corner. The hotel hallways smelled of delicious luxury, all those mahogany doors standing to attention. As David commented, the carefully chosen books in the bedrooms were actually ones that would inspire you to stay in and read (and since David does stay in and read, he would know). The Art Deco-ish bedroom inspires a better night’s sleep than you can remember, especially after a Bellini or two in the American Bar.
The hotel restaurant, Colony Grill, is an American eatery with 1920s charm with leather booths, sepia-tinted friezes and comforting food to match: mac ’n’ cheese, hot dogs and an impressive menu of sundaes. Don’t be misled: for someone more grown up than me, there is a serious selection of shellfish and meats.
Originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue.