Luxury Hotels

London’s fun new-name luxury lifestyle hotel, The Hari

Andrew Coney 7 a.m.

The gal loves surprises, and they were there galore at one of London’s newest luxury hotels, The Hari Belgravia, under ten minutes’ walk from Harvey Nichols and Harrods, and Hyde Park Corner and a myriad of embassies around Belgrave Square. This was Sheraton Belgravia for years, and for under one year it was operated by Thompson as Belgraves. In April 2016 Aron Hariilela, Chairman of the Harilela group that had owned it from the start, decided enough was enough and he would start his own brand, called after his late father, Hari Naroomal Harilela. Well, the result is spectacular. Surprise number one, look at the personalised Monopoly board that awaited in room 603, above. Surprise number two, what had formerly been yet-another modern-English restaurant has been, since this February, a stunning Italian bistro, Il Pampero.

Burrata on avocado

Thanks to a really-really delayed flight, I was an hour late for dinner but GM Andrew Coney did not seem to mind one bit. The chef, Claudio Covino – formerly at Locatelli, always a good background – is a friendly, jovial guy, no airs and graces. He sent out bruschetta to start that paired tiniest cubes of Sicilian tomato flesh with borage and other flowers, and then oh, my starter. I had never had burrata and avocado together and the result is sensational (and my veal milanese went magnificently with grilled asparagus, and Vietti 2012 Barolo Castiglione Ritme). I loved the bistro look of the place, with its central bar, and lots of chic young servers who looked as you expect top catwalk walkers to look, but whereas models look as if they are walking to the guillotine these guys and girls move with a purpose, and they smile.

Library walls are lined with real books

Andrew Coney says turnover among his 110 team is so low he does not count it. Partly this is the family nature of the place – Aron Harilela is continually here in London, and everyone carries a copy of his brilliant and idiosyncratic staff booklet, Our Story, Ways and Quirks (‘Hari is a living, personable brand that is destined to become a globetrotting icon. Like a person, it has some unchanging characteristics that function like DNA to create the personality’). And the GM, who lives in the hotel during the week and, at all times, is desk-less, is continuously moving around talking to everyone, and of course they call him Andrew. And the staff must like the fact that guests of the 85-room hotel are joined by locals not only in the restaurant but in the mezzanine library. This, up 17 steps from the lobby, is a multi-area space with hundreds of real hard-cover books and a working fire, comfy and secluded banquettes for two, and a year-round outdoor terrace ideal for small parties, or a smoke. This is a place where pairs or groups of high-achieving millennial females feel perfectly happy.

Clarence Court’s colourful eggs

I was more than happy in room 603 – see the video, below. I had plenty of berries, ample reading material, a tub right by the window and bathsalts as well as lovely Noble Isle toiletries. Generously, I had a folding as well as a full-length umbrella – yes, this is a luxury hotel that thinks of everything. Although there were four hotel-branded bicycles waiting there was no time to pedal around this part of London but I made full use of the 24/7 gym before breakfasting. And, guess what, the eggs are exactly the same brand that I have at home, Mabel Pearman’s Clarence Court eggs, with yolks as intensely coloured as those at Ritz-Carlton Kyoto. As I left I remembered Andrew Coney’s comment that since becoming independent Hari London Belgravia has, with the help of its inhouse digital marketing specialist and Preferred Hotels & Resorts, taken occupancy up by 15% to 90% with an average rate up £50. Now I cannot wait to return, to learn more, and to try the Italian-themed afternoon tea, with or without bottomless prosecco. SEE THE VIDEO BELOW

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Luxury Hotels

Simply Sunday – luxury hotels benefit by working with local brands

Bettys suggests gifts for teachers, or anyone

Harrogate, in Yorkshire, is renowned, says the gal, for gardens, spas and thermal waters, and fine foods.  This is, for instance, the home of Bettys and Taylors Group, founded in 1962 as the marriage between Bettys, which goes back to 1919 and tea specialist Taylors of Harrogate, which can claim lineage back to 1886.

Chairman of the Board Jonathan Wild and MDs Andrew Brown and Linda Close look after a global empire that is best known for chocolate, coffee, tea and breakfast through to evening sustenance, to the tune of well over £100 million a year in all. Cleverly, Bettys Cookery School suggests not only individual lessons in, says, baking & desserts as well as chocolate, but also corporate event activities.  What a great idea for making an assembly of accountants – yawn yawn – more interesting, get’em all to put on aprons and learn how to make quiches (OK, we know real men do not eat’em anyway).

On one occasion in this beautiful Yorkshire town I took part in a murder-simulation weekend (Agatha Christie temporarily disappeared from here).  This time, however, I was fascinated to see how the Bettys and Taylors Group works so closely with the town’s leading business and convention hotel, Crowne Plaza Harrogate, of which more later.  Anyone with an enquiring mind staying at this most agreeable hotel is going to visit the main Bettys Tea Room, in Parliament Street, a mere 15 minutes’ walk from the hotel. You enter the café area, above, through a foyer with a wall of teapots, which reminds me of the display in the Tea House at Beijing’s NUO luxury hotel. My eye was also caught by a display suggesting Bettys gifts as thank-you to teachers at the end of the school year: not having a teacher to thank I still came away with lots of goodies, mostly chocolates and the like, memories of my extremely happy stay in Harrogate. And, as so often, I wished yet more hotels partnered more closely with brand names in their destinations.

Another example of this is also found in England, but further south.  Any luxury hotel in the Banbury, Blenheim, Oxford and Stratford area would be well advised, when suggesting places for guests who must ‘eat out’, to send them in the direction of The Chandlers Arms in Epwell.  Why?  This modernised pub is run by Assumpta Golding, a lovely warm fireball of a lady from the West of Ireland.  She epitomises hospitality, makes everyone, even a first-timer, feel at home.  Come here for typical English cooking – say salmon and new potatoes, with a good glass of wine (and visit the washrooms, adorned with just-picked fresh flowers in vases).  Again, I wish more hotels would partner with others close to their destinations.



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Luxury Hotels

And sustenance, at the super-luxury ForteVillage Resort

Mackerel tartare

In 1995 Lorenzo The Magnificent – also known as Lorenzo Giannuzzi – arrived back at what is now undoubtedly one of the world’s most amazing luxury destinations, ForteVillage Resort Sardegna. In those days there were five dining options. Now there are 21 restaurants, plus numerous bars and snack places and even a Champagne room. During her far too short stay, the gal ate magnificently, and every meal, it seemed, produced different etceteras. Look at the bread presentation, above. That was dinner outside on the terrace at Belvedere, atop the three-floor main building of the resort’s Villa del Parco hotel. Oh, that was a sensational dinner. Chef Antonello Arrus started our meal with mackerel tartare with vegetables cooked in sea-water.

Turbot, to be filleted table-side

The entire resort is half-board, though unlike cruising here you pay for alcohol (I adored the local wines, especially Tuvaoes Vermentino di Sardegna DOC and, for red, Santadi ‘Terre Brune’ Carignano del Sulcis Superiore). Many also pay extra, supplements for dining at three of the restaurants, including Gordon Ramsay’s. In addition  70% of staying guests, who have all had the opportunity for really copious breakfast buffets, and quite late if they want, then pay to eat lunch. Personally I would certainly do lunch (the seafood is SO fantastic). I would alternate, lunching first in Beach Comber and then, the following day, in Fish Market. Both are right by the beach, with open sides and lots of sea breezes. Both have sensational salad bars, where you point to what you want and a server fills an enormous bowl with, in my case, varieties of greens and the local tomatoes that are, say many, one of the keys to Sardinia’s longest-lifespan of the whole of Italy, rivalled only by a few Greek Islands.

Fritto misto

Next the fish you have already chosen from a display of today’s catch is brought, cooked as you want – one day I had breaded calamari, the next it was fillets of turbot. I lived on fish, here. One dinner I had to have the local specialty, fritto misto, with a veritable who’s who, or what’s what, of fish varieties (do the 1,200 people who work here also eat well? None seems even a pound overweight and yes, they work hard but they have a good life, which includes a regular Friday night staff barbeque). Guests could well put on weight, especially with the icecream and cookie stands around, and with a regular programme of eminent visiting culinarians. And the hotel’s own chefs are sometimes taken elsewhere to spread the word on ForteVillage’s fine cooking levels: last winter, the resort ran Gildo’s pop-up at Gstaad Palace from December through to March, and hosted a gourmet festival in Kiev this March.

A store of bottles

Pommery is main sponsor of the resort’s cooking school, but sadly there was no occasion to drink any bubbles, even Prosecco, during my stay. There was so much I did not do. On the list for next time is to find out about Barbie world, and to visit the Mahiki nightclub. I guess I should take a Deejay lesson, and watch Marvin Berglas the musician, and Anatoly Karpov teaching chess. I might even take a cooking class – see the video, below, of Gordon Ramsay teaching there. Honestly, the thing about ForteVillage Resort is that you just DO need to come back again and again and you still cannot keep up with what it has to offer. I am one of the many who simply love this place.



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