Some stunning hotels and resorts come with siblings at different price points. Naladhu, in the Maldives, is where Roger Federer stays with his wife Mirka, but the neighbouring Anantara islands, all part of the same family, are where lesser mortals book.
The same is true in London. Barely seven minutes’ walk from Buckingham Palace, the Crowne Plaza and 51 Buckingham Gate, both managed by Taj, are neighbours, sharing a courtyard and an Anne Semonin spa.
Stay at 51 Buckingham Gate, a superb luxury hotel, and you pay more, but you get all kinds of goodies, as the gal found out. Take breakfast, for example.
Breakfast for 51 Buckingham Gate people is included, and what an organic feast it is. It is served in the intimate library, with a working fire at the far end.
There are fresh juices on one buffet table – there is also a juicer, and they will squeeze for you specifically. Your own table is already set with designer English butters, from Netherend Farm in Gloucester, and Tea Together jams made in France, by an English couple.
You are brought a little panier of croissants and Danish from the world’s best-known patissier, Poilâne, and you go to another buffet table for more healthy fare. Here are amazing Dorset Cereals (again, the world’s best when it comes to sugar-free), and lots of berries.
Coffee comes in individual shiny silver plungers and it tastes good. You can, of course, always dine upstairs in your room. Sorry, suite. All the 82 ‘front doors’ here lead not into normal bedrooms but into properly-equipped suites, complete with really useable kitchens.
As already related, the two most amazing are the Jaguar Suite, designed by Jaguar’s top concept person, Ian Callum, and now the Cinema Suite, by one of India’s top fashion designers, Sabyasachi Mukherjee (is his nickname really Pepsi?). He has, to say the least, gone eclectic in this super suite, which has its own library.
It has a dining table for eight, and antique drinking glasses for as many as you want. The really savvy, however, might well ask in a few more friends and book the 18-max subterranean Chef’s Table at Quilon restaurant, right in the same block as 51 Buckingham Gate, and run by Taj.
So, after your complimentary cocktails in 51 Buckingham Gate’s library, either head to Quilon’s private room or, on the main floor, to a table that might seat one, or two, or more. One of the walls up here is a collage of thousands of baked-clay medallions with fish scale patterns marked on them. Clever.
Quilon is named after a foodie city in southern India, and the chef, Sriram Aylur, a gentle guy from Kerala, is a genius (the Chef’s Table, formed from old store cupboards, was his idea). He has a Michelin star, which he says helps bring in many more European diners.
I went simply, starting with a Quilon salad and then a lamb biryani, with the most delicious creamy yoghurt. We drank a bottle of Fat Bastard Pinot Noir 2011, with a simple label. It apparently is made by two old friends Thierry Boudinaud, well what a surprise, and Guy Anderson. Obviously a cult wine.
The rest of the table also had yoghurts, as dessert. And then we all said goodbye and, from this Michelin-starred restaurant, I had only three minutes’ walk to the luxury hotel that is my temporary home.
Welcome back, said the smiling Romanian on the door. Luxury travel tip: a top restaurant such a short distance from a hotel satisfies the need to ‘eat out’ and saves an awful lot of time.