Surely, the gal says, modern developers, architects and designers should follow those who went before and put in central staircases that become such features of hotels? Think of the grand staircases at Bellevue Palace, Bern; Belmond Grand Hotel Europe, St Petersburg; The Peninsula Hong Kong – and The Bailey’s Hotel, London. This last luxury hotel is part of Millennium Hotels & Resorts and the company’s newly-arrived and enthusiastic CEO Jennifer Fox, and her Group CMO Simon Scoot were in fine fettle as they prepared to host a small dinner at the hotel’s Olives restaurant. This is a hotel with location – two minutes’ walk from Gloucester Road underground station, on the Piccadilly Line between Heathrow and Piccadilly Circus and beyond.
It also has history, going back to 1876 when James Bailey built his five-floor hotel, with its central staircase – look up, from the ground floor, or down. Today, owned by Millennium’s big-boss Kwek Leng Beng via his CDL conglomerate, it has 212 rooms, all, like the public areas, brought up to date in 2015 by designers ADS (they were helped in details, it seems, by the hotel’s charming Manager, Kim Tian, who tells me she was trained as an electrical engineer and started at this hotel as a housekeeping maid). I am sure this is why everything in signature room 343, the Marie-Elizabeth Suite, worked so perfectly – easy-operate shower controls that you can turn on without getting wet, instant hot water, electric towel rail plus heated bathroom floor, and so much more.
Kim Tian heads a really friendly team, which extends to Olives. Here, the bar is more a pub, and it flows on into the all-day restaurant. Despite the fact you have to enter via the hotel’s reception area. 75% of custom in the busy bar and the equally popular restaurant are not hotel guests but locals. We had a truly memorable dinner, and not only because of an Italian’s skilful service of the Pinot Nero Blauburgunder Sudtirol Alto Adige 2017. Chef Davide Di Croce’s dinner menu is the kind of neighbourhood comfort food that locals, as well as the three of us, like: we all devoured the selection of artisan breads with oil and balsamic, and rolls of beetroot-marinated tuna, and I went on to asparagus salad with ricotta and anchovies, and aged ribeye simply grilled with a watercress salad.
Simplicity is one of the aims, it seems, of not only this historic and memorable luxury hotel but also Millennium’s CEO (Jennifer Fox really cares about wellness, in all its forms). Sometimes, however, determination slips. Having also started with these gorgeous bruschetta, right, oh so simple, I confess that some of us had a final fling – blame our Italian waiter, who brought out three plates of dessert tastings, namely a tiramisu slice, zabaglione in a glass jar, and spiced pineapple in a spoon. Of course everyone has to have fun, and to make up for it I walked up the 77 stairs to room 343 yet again, remembering that every step up adds three seconds to life. And anyway, being on these stairs is a reminder of what this staircase, like others in historic hotels, adds to the character of a property. AND NOW SEE ROOM 343