It was England’s annual floral bonanza, Chelsea Flower Show, last week, and no fewer than 12 members of the Royal Family flocked to that part of London to see the blooms. They took particular interest in the Sentabele Garden, designed in honour of Prince Harry’s charity, and of course he was there (he flew over straight after his US polo match). Luxury hotels in London got into the act. The gal was amused to see that on May 23rd, 2013, The Dorchester hosted a Laurent-Perrier Champagne afternoon tea.
They have afternoon tea, in The Promenade, not only every tea time but every minute, it seems, from after breakfast through to dinner… you can people-watch, and admire the flowers. The hotel’s luxurious kaleidoscope of colours hits your eye, indeed, even before you get to the hotel’s Art Deco entrance. Wend your way past orange and yellow pansies, and a Rolls-Royce or two, and you are greeted at the front steps by one of the doormen, in tall black silk top-hat and, even though it is May, a much-needed full-length green coat (same colour as the grass!), with gold buttons.
During Chelsea Flower Show they turned a corner nook of the lobby, normally used for private one-to-ones or something (a kind of business confessional) into a flower arbour. It was bliss, like the best flower shop imaginable. This place does have so much imagination (it will host The Dorchester Collection’s annual fashion prize this October).
In fact it is flowers continually, during your stay in this history-full hotel. Take suite 506-507, for instance. I lay on the carpeted floor near the four-post bed to get a better view of the mediaeval-style moulded ceiling. I looked up, past a standing lamp and a perfect spray of white orchids, or rather an orchid plant. I got up off the floor, which of course was meticulously clean, and admired the purple orchids in the otherwise white-and-grey marble bathroom.
Next it was time to head down to the gym, reached by going past the entrance to the spa. Oh what bliss – this Mary Fox Linton-designed boudoir is just that. It is like a theatrical boudoir, with full-length cream or midnight blue gauze curtains in the corridors, and a café that has Champagne – Laurent-Perrier included – on ice. Overhead are chandeliers of draped strings of South Sea pearls. Fortunately an elegant art sign, with attendant lilies, outside the spa entrance reminds you that you are here at The Dorchester, not in paradise.
My luxury tip today is that for travellers who revel in the best of all design, not only fashion, this is a hotel to put on your list. Alexandra de Champalimaud has done some of the suites, Patrick Jouin has designed Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester (which has three Michelin stars). And Thierry Despont is responsible for the some-say-kitsch Grill leading off the symphony-of-softness Promenade, which is his, too. It is here, by the way, that I meet up with The Dorchester Collection’s regional boss, Roland Fasel, and the young genius Phil Hammond, responsible for the flowers everywhere.