Park Lane, London, United Kingdom, W1K 1QA
- Recommended for:
- Couples, Foodies, Honeymooners, Relaxation, Romance, Shopping
Expert review of Dorchester
Built in 1931, the Dorchester is a longstanding London favourite with all the top-class luxury trimmings this implies, including a state-of-the-art spa, grand restaurants, a formidable afternoon tea and sumptuous rooms. I particularly like the way it balances exclusivity with openness - while it is a popular venue for business meetings and lavish functions, hotel guests are also individually pampered with a memorable style.
One of the leading Mayfair hotels, the Dorchester looks west into Hyde Park - albeit from the far side of traffic-filled Park Lane. Buckingham Palace, Oxford Street and Knightsbridge are all witihin walking distance while Hyde Park Corner Underground station offers easy connections to the rest of London.
Rooms are 1930s Art Deco - some with elegantly muted colour schemes, others more flamboyant with rich patterned fabrics. Almost all have prized Hyde Park views - and those that don’t look over the hotel’s own floral terraces. The three rooftop suites have butler service and private terraces, while across the range modern amenities are seamlessly worked in, including Bang & Olufsen TVs, luxurious bathrobes and Floris toiletries.
Despite the abundance of flowering plants in the forecourt and on the façade, the front of the Dorchester has always struck me as looking a little bland. Not so the interior, which is as opulent in gold and heavy stone as you would hope. Behind the foyer, the hotel centres on a grand lobby, called the Promenade, a gently bustling space where residents and locals take tea and relax on plump armchairs while the staff ghost about.
There are 90 kitchen staff at the Dorchester, so you can expect culinary fireworks. Alain Ducasse’s restaurant is technically top of the tree, but is a little too reverent in atmosphere for my taste; still, the three-course set lunch is great value for cooking of this quality. By contrast, the delightfully over-the-top tartaned warriors on the walls of the Grill always make me smile - here you eat breakfast or can try seasonal, modern British cooking from new head chef Brian Hughson. For a real treat, book the private dining room downstairs in the kitchen, where you can watch the sous-chefs as they prepare your meal - and get everything explained by Executive Chef Henri Brosi. I really like the tiny, exclusive bar downstairs from the Promenade. Attached to the China Tang restaurant, it’s all decadent chinoiserie and subdued light. The bar serves dim sum all day and is a celeb-favourite during the week. (I like how boring piped music in the China Tang loos has been replaced by poems read aloud!) The hotel’s main bar, run by highly praised cocktail supremo Giuliano Morandin gets more post-work action that China Tang’s bar, due to the entrance straight on to Park Lane, but I prefer the oval Promenade bar (at the end away from the foyer) for more soothing people-watching, accompanied by solo piano in the afternoon and jazz from 7.30pm. Afternoon tea is served over five daily sittings in the Promenade (1.15-5.15pm, £35.50) or downstairs it the Spatisserie (see below).
There is a gym here, but it was squeezed to accommodate an almost ethereally white spa - refurbished in 2009 to the tune of more than £3 million. The spa carries different exclusive lines of lotions, and has a coolly charming tea area (the, ahem, Spatisserie) in which you can read just before hitting the outside world (or book for afternoon tea, even if you’re not staying in the hotel; £34.50, £43.50 with Champagne).
I expected top-hatted doormen hailing taxis, the concierge and a dedicated theatre desk wangling last-minute show tickets, but found the front desk far more approachable than at some Mayfair hotels: a touch of gruffness to dissuade chancers from trying their luck, but a firm welcome nonetheless. With three staff for every bedroom (there are 90 personnel in the restaurants alone), expect the best.
A lot of loyal return custom, but kept lively by a steady stream of locals checking out the bars, restaurants and afternoon tea. Appeals to both fashion-savvy shoppers and traditionalists, without feeling fusty and old-fashioned.
The extras here can really mount up: £30 per person for breakfast, £19.50 a day for internet usage. But take advantage of the Summer in the City deal, for example, and the room rate (including full English breakfast) drops. In my experience there’s little difference in rates between weekday and weekend visits, but June and July almost always book out well in advance.
More information on Dorchester:
- Price from:
- Park Lane, London, United Kingdom, W1K 1QA
- Business Centre, Fitness Centre, High-Speed Internet, Restaurant, Room Service