Last week was the beginning of the English Summer Season, and luxury hotels dressed up for the part – or at least those in the Belgravia area did. Grosvenor Estates owns the freehold of most of the area, and every year it sponsors Belgravia in Bloom: Discover the Language of Flowers, which exactly coincides, intentionally of course, with Chelsea Flower Show. This means, says the gal, that this year, May 20-25 2019 saw hotels everywhere hosting guests in suitably flowery dresses heading off for Chelsea, but luxury hotels in Belgravia also dressed themselves up to the nines. See Andrew Coney, GM of The Hari, Belgravia, above, outside his hotel.
Yes, all the flowers in the photograph above are fresh, and a doorman counted 30 different people taking and dosting selfies in the space of 90 minutes. Even some of the 85 rooms in the hotel were decorated, too: I had enough fruit as well as flowers to keep me going for the whole Summer Season. I also, thoughtfully, had a 30cm-tall fledgling hazelnut tree, to take home and plant: it is from Tree2mydoor.com, an excellent operation doing its part to reforest our landscape (this is a tree of knowledge, said the Celts a long time ago, and eating its nuts will improve your skills, though in what I am not sure). I certainly honed my skills in enjoyable eating while I was back at The Hari – even the walls of Il Pampero, designed like the whole hotel by the brilliant Tara Bernerd, make me smile. There are old photos juxtaposed with what I call Old Dutch Still Lives.
I had two splendid meals there. Chef Claudio Covino had just come back from Italy and his case must have been full of goodies. I started with burrata with baby dattterino tomatoes, named because they are date-shaped, and they hang off the vine in date-like clusters. And then the Milanese here is truly memorable, flattened to near paper-thin, with a half of an enormous round Sorrento lemon – and the wine had to be Italian, namely a Vajra Dolcetto d’Alba 2017, one of seven DOC wines from north-west Piedmont. After that, up in room 703, my bedtime reading was obvious, looking a copy of a newly-published hardback, Tara Bernerd: Place, Rizzoli 2019.
Andrew Coney says he gets tremendous enjoyment from running a hotel with so much personality – for a time his business card replaced the words ‘General Manager’ by ‘Chief Mischief Maker’ and he strongly believes most hotels take themselves too seriously. Evidently his 120-strong team agrees. They are attracted by quarterly health checks, monthly back massages, a chiropodist, discounts in local stores. Online learning opportunities, say to learn foreign languages, are another draw. And although I did not see it I am sure the staff restaurant’s food is fabulous too (are their eggs the colour of my breakfast omelette which Andrew Coney did say came from Italian hens, but then he admits he likes a bit of mischief now and then). They are all so passionate: Guest Relations Joanna Swiecka, from Warsaw, spend hours, for instance, researching tomorrow’s guests – hence my own ‘thirst for knowledge’. As I left this luxury hotel, at 8 a.m., Joanna and her boss were already there, and, outside, people were already photographing that wall of flowers.