Luxury Hotels

Doha’s Wonderfully Wacky luxury hotel

Cake shop café

Honestly, after the first of what will turn out to be two – consecutive – overnight flights, the gal wants an eye-ful of beauty, and that is certainly more than possible at the luxury W Doha Hotel & Residences (ask local residents and many will say that this is where you get all Doha’s beautiful people, especially on a Friday night). The 291-room hotel, with 153 attached residences, reached via swinging the ceiling-high mirrored ‘wall’ at the rear of the hotel’s ground floor elevator lobby, has been at the top of the A list since it opened in 2009. Look at the flowers, above, that decorate the lobby, two floors high with hundreds of blue glass sculptures hanging from its ceiling.

Old movie star photos in Spiga bar

I was certainly surrounded by beauty. I loved the pastry shop and coffee corner, a bright nook with a hip-hop bling image of Audrey Hepburn on its wall. Nearby is Spiga, the indoor-out Italian restaurant, where the daily fish, seabass on spinach and a lemon butter, was one of the tastiest dishes for a long time. On the way out I admired Spiga’s bar, where I expected Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe to pop up any moment (I did spy so many other beautiful images, including a perky little female on the glass door of Bliss Spa, ‘Look and feel SPA-tacula every day’ says this image).

Homily that came with welcome fruit …

This is the kind of fun that the whole hotel seems to project. I had dinner with the lively Peruvian marketing director Clara de Lama Daagehi, whose Lebanese husband Wassim Daagehi was back home looking after ‘my babies’. What is the story on the Zoz’s Shakshuka on the breakfast menu, I asked? This is a skillet dish perfected by @zozaljail, also known as Abdul Aziz Al-Ajail, who says if he is not tasting dishes here in Doha he is searching the best Eggs Benedict in London. Wonder which are his finalists? So Clara filled me in, on the hotel’s ladies-drinks-nights, Mondays, from 9-11 p.m., and the fact that the hotel runs the best airside café at the airport.

.. and the farewell note, handed airside

The charismatic GM of this luxury hotel, Turkish extrovert Safak Guvenc, called by on his way to a function, and I was reminded yet again that if a hotel is run by a foodie, then its restaurants and bars will work, as these do here. It was time to go, to my next night in a plane seat, but Clara and her colleague Esra Parin, on her way to open W Amman, were there to see me off, in the crowded hotel lobby, jam-packed at 11.30pm on this Friday night. At the airport, I negotiated the snake-lines through emigration and then security, and on my way down-and-across-and-up to the lounge, there was someone holding a farewell sign. How DID they manage that? it seems that for this fun hotel, which had welcomed me with thought, and farewelled me so uniquely, nothing is impossible. By the way if you want to see a typical bedroom, 608, look at the video below.

 

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Luxury Hotels

Back at Brown’s, that quintessentially English luxury hotel

The drawing room is business meetings morphing into afternoon teas

Brown’s Hotel London is what one could call the epitomal English luxury hotel, with no arrogance and a lot of understatement. It is not even on a main street: its front and rear entrances are on two side roads at right angles to Piccadilly – it started, in fact, as two establishments, Brown’s on Dover Street and St George’s, on Albemarle Street. Go in to what is now one, 117-room, hotel and you are in a theatre of polished wood and glass, and tiles and lots of fresh flowers, says the gal. Go past the drawing room and, day long, local business people are holding meetings here, and, from noon on, the afternoon tea crowd takes over.

Outside of door 218

Generously, they now give you two hours for tea, and as well as the usual goodies on a curate’s stand (delicate crust-free sandwiches, scones and things like that), you choose pastries from a trolley. I did not do tea: I went up to 218, a really lovely suite designed, as with all Rocco Forte hotels, by Olga Polizzi, and I wished I had time to read some of the books, especially the William Shawcross biography of The Queen Mother. I was sidelined by reading an additional room service menu, with health dishes by nutritionalist Madeline Shaw, author of Ready Steady Glow, and then I had a session in the gym, where they thoughtfully offer coconut water and bottled green tea as well as water.

Dover sole, deftly de-boned

I DID do lunch, in Hix, by Mark Hix, and thank goodness we had a reservation, it was full – the draw is the very-English ambience, with modern art by the likes of Tracey Emin, plus the really attentive service, and the food. What better to choose, I thought, than home-smoked salmon, and a Dover sole, which I had chargrilled rather than pan-fried. They had a rib roast on the trolley that day, and as it was wheeled past I thought wow, to make an impact every restaurant should get one of those trolleys, with a bulbous shiny silver top big enough to have a whole roast hog underneath.

Stuart Johnson, enroute to Shanghai

This addictive luxury hotel has been run for the last ten years by Stuart Johnson, as English as the establishment. Our lunch was the proverbial equivalent of a ‘last supper’ as now he has already handed the reins over (to an Italian, Marco Novella): Mr J is on his way, to Shanghai. He is going to open Sir Rocco Forte’s forthcoming hotel, as yet un-named, on the top of a 52-floor tower being built on the West Bund, near the new cruise terminal. Undoubtedly the talented Olga Polizzi – who happens to be Mrs William Shawcross, by the way – will work her design magic there, with a Sino touch. If you want to see what my suite at Brown’s looks like, see the video below.

 

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Luxury Hotels

Yet another divine new-luxury PIG hotel

Local products are well labelled

Local products are well labelled

Luxury hotelier Robin Hutson, who progressed from running Chewton Glen Hampshire to starting the Hôtel du Vin group and, now, Lime Wood Group (owner of the brilliant PIGS hotels), said only this week that  “I prefer to grab a plate of breakfast not piled high with food, then might go up for more, and more again. It’s all down to the individual and their eating preference. Guests must eat what they want however they want to eat it.” The gal headed for yet another of his friendly-luxury properties, The PIG in the Wall, Southampton, to see if he means it. Look at the result, above and left.

The PIG in the Wall

The PIG in the Wall

Yes, as always with a PIG, there are local products, and lots of healthy things and boil-your-own eggs with timers that give you four-, five- and six-minute options. There is a big loaf of still-warm brown sourdough to slice, and toast (and, for health-sceptics, already-sliced white bread in an old-fashioned Hovis tin). As always, there are the PIG croissants, bought in company-wide frozen and cooked to Parisian perfection. But, I must admit, this pig is unique. The others in the family are converted English country house hotels. This one is a converted city-centre public house, the Latimer, literally built into the mediaeval walls of what, to my surprise, is a fascinating city.

A view of room seven

A view of room seven

You are within minutes’ walk of the quay, and cruise terminals, and the main rail station to London, and old Tudor houses and narrow centuries-old lanes as well as today’s city centre, with a big John Lewis store. No wonder this is a relaxing base for pre-cruise and weekend tourism as well as corporate. As always, designer Judy Hutson has done her magic. Room seven, one of 12, is all-over pale avocado, including the posts of the really comfortable bed. Flooring is old rail sleepers, apart from one end, multi-coloured linoleum tiles around the freestanding bathtub (I pampered myself with a Bramley grapefruit bubble bath).

The most divine lemon posset

The most divine lemon posset

And, as with all the PIGS, food is memorable. Since there is no outside vegetable garden here, plants are brought in: a strawberry plant in a terracotta flowerpot adorned my wood table in the bar. At dinner I sat next to a blazing big-log fire, looking across at dozens of named fledgling plants on one shelf of a Welsh dresser, with trays of eggs stored beneath, and logs neatly stacked below. I finished my supper – no ‘dinner’ in this relaxed hotel – with the most eulogistic lemon posset imaginable, with a pig-shaped shortbread biscuit, and a mound of no-sugar stewed blackcurrants. I could have had a glass of local Hambledon Hampshire sparking, or Bollinger, but I stuck with the luxury hotel group’s own-label The Pig Hut Côtes du Rhone M. Chapoutier 2014. On my way back up 17 stairs – more rail sleepers – to room seven, to bed, I noticed framed front pages of The Daily Telegraph, 23 November 1961, ‘Assassination of President Kennedy’, and 9 August 1974, ‘Resignation of President Nixon’. See what I mean about this being yet another memorable PIG?  NOW SEE A BREAKFAST VIDEO, BELOW

 

 

 

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