So here is the gal in one of the world’s top luxury hotels, Hotel Bel-Air Los Angeles, about to experiment. This group has an Innovation Committee, which has produced Taste of Dorchester Collection. A small black folder holds individual cards, each offering a dish from one of the group’s hotels. Tonight must be English night, starting off with ‘A fresh idea from 45 – Butter lettuce salad, drizzled in a herb vinaigrette with Tuscan olive oil’. See the card, and see what arrived. It was gorgeous.
And after that came ‘A British classic, fish and chips, at The Barn, Coworth Park‘. I loved the way the beer-battered cod nuggets came with chunky chips and tartare sauce. I went on to ‘Wonderfully British bread & butter pudding, on The Dorchester menu since 1931 opening, made famous by Anton Mosimann during the 1970s’ – it is still his specialty, at Mosimann’s Club in Club. What are other dishes? The Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel suggests a McCarthy salad, named for polo captain Neil McCarthy in the 1940s. The Eden, Rome, suggests Rigatoni alla Norma, for the Bellini opera, and Principe di Savoia‘s dish is Vitello tonnato, cold veal garnished with tuna sauce.
In summer, I would dine magnificently out on the terrace of suite 395, which thoughtfully not only has dining table and upright and lounging seating but a sizeable plunge pool to recover. Early in the morning I don my metaphorical explorer’s hat and after following various twisting walkways between buildings I pass the signature pale blue oval pool before reaching the spa, which has the gym above it. Gracious, there is a woman already working out, at this hour. I open the breakfast room – a request for plain yoghurt comes with a delightful bowl of mixed berries, gratis, and would I like coffee to go?
I am off, leaving this luxury hotel almost before I see it in daylight. I pass the same hydrangea on my way out, past the swans and a white cupola in the wedding garden, and the car is ready. Has this all been a fantasy, and where next?
There is something REALLY special about a personal welcome. The gal can quite understand some over-rushed and over-stressed road warriors wanting it impersonal – check in and open your bedroom door with your smartphone. But, really, in a true luxury hotel having a true welcome makes all the difference. And to arrive at one of the most elegantly tasteful hotels in the USA, the Hotel Bel-Air Los Angeles, and find its boss, Denise Flanders, waiting outside at 8.30 pm was beyond the call of duty.
I am here, for a quick overnight, for a special task – of which more anon. The welcome, meanwhile, goes on and on. An eager young Hollywood could-be is with his boss, and he oh so kindly asks what I need. As all always-travelling ladies experience from time to time, there is a minor emergency. I have broken a nail. No problem. Mr Could-Be Hollywood appears in a few minutes with a brand new pair of clippers that he must have rushed off to buy. He will also make sure that my copy of the Financial Times is waiting before I leave tomorrow at seven (well, ALMOST 12 hours in this lovely hotel, but my life, anyway, is quality rather than quantity).
I am escorted to my room via a garden with exquisite flowers and swans on the river. Elegance and taste are the best descriptions for designer Alexandra Champalimaud‘s interiors, here. She has always come up with such memorable designs, say the bar at Claridge’s in London, and the inner Two-E lounge at The Pierre, New York. Look at the simplicity of suite 395 at the Hotel Bel-Air Los Angeles. The champagne colours and sleek lines whisper crèpe de chîne and, in the ghastly old days of still-smoking, six-inch ivory cigarette holders and strings of pearls below the navel.
Even the shower is gorgeous – and how many luxury hotels’ showers are worth writing home about, and photographing? It is such a simple idea. Put in a mosaic of shapes that echo the stalk of the pristine orchid elsewhere in the room, and add Anne Sémonin toiletries, big size of course, and I wish I did have a crèpe de chîne robe. Even better, however, is the blue and white striped hotel nightshirt, in softest cotton. Put this on and I am all ready for ‘the task in hand’…
The exterior of Montage Deer Valley looks different from every angle, and unique depending on the light. Sometimes it gives the appearance of Disney, at other times you imagine some of the Trapp family coming out singing, says the gal. This luxury hotel attracts a variety of business year round, from meetings through to honeymooners and girlie-groups coming for the spa, which has 29 treatment rooms and ‘considerable’ wet facilities, plus an Olympic-sized indoor pool (kids allowed in two sessions, morning and afternoon, only). But there is lots for every age to do, anytime.
Twice a day, the hotel’s canine ambassadors, Bernese Mountain Dogs called Jonas and Monty, visit in the lobby. Every afternoon, there is make-your-own s’mores, with dark or milk Hershey and a choice of marshmallows (hold’em on long skewers over the outside terrace firepit, and slap on graham crackers to complete the sandwich). The kids’ Paintbox facility is sensational, with outside events, and activities that result in gaining yet another badge – get all 12 and you achieve the coveted Monty status.
There is lots of the Old West about the hotel. In the 100 foot-long Vista Lounge, which has real log fires and winter-long real entertainment, there are statues of stags, and framed oils of local mountain scenes as they were 150 years ago. Down by the spa, however, there is highly modern hand-coloured photography of mountain and canyon interpretations of Utah topography, done in a style called cibachrome. They certainly evoke memories, for instance, of the strategic landscape around Amangiri, which is on the Lake Powell UT side of the Grand Canyon.
These cibachromes were taken, and coloured, by a Park City UT artist, Michael Fatali. This luxury hotel has, from the start, been really keen to support its State. The gym equipment, for instance, is all FreeMotion, which is owned by ICON, started in 1977 by two Utah State University students, Gary Stevenson and Scott Watterson, initially importers of mini-trampolines. ICON, now co-owned with Bain Capital, is based in Logan UT and as well as FreeMotion it has Epic, NordicTrack, ProForm, Weider and a few others. Oh the things I learn as I travel the world….