Luxury Hotels


Girlahead had the good fortune to coincide with Andrew Stembridge, above, at CLIVEDEN, half an hour west of Heathrow and on the Thames. Stembridge is CEO of L&R’s Iconic Luxury Hotels, a magnificent and select portfolio that also includes, in England, CHEWTON GLEN HAMPSHIRE, LYGON ARMS, MAYFAIR TOWN HOUSE and a couple of other London hotels. All have imaginative English-based cuisine – no fancy Korean-something here. The dinner at Cliveden that night started with caviar and halibut tartare, pickled kohlrabi and thyme, and went on to parmesan and truffle risotto with a side of steamed spinach, garlic, toasted pine nuts. The linens were crispest white, the china was RAK. Overhead, three giant chandeliers sparkled. Superb but nothing unique.  What was extraordinary was that every dish had to be carried up a 29-step tightly-spiralled staircase from the subterranean kitchens (can anyone beat that?). That’s what happens, says Girlahead, when you convert a history-full 1660-vintage palace into a hotel. Relevant authorities rule when it comes to adapting to modern life.

Another English icon, THE LANESBOROUGH, overlooking London’s Hyde Park Corner, also focuses on history – and  Englishness (its UAE-based owners, by the way, own the Lanesborough name but Girlahead says don’t expect any more hotels).  Shay Cooper, chef at the new-name The Lanesborough Grill offers such dishes as Coronation crab salad; Beef Wellington, Dover sole and Yorkshire rhubarb trifle. A sense of restaurant theatre comes via table-side service and art on walls around, curated by Art Acumen, is all for sale.

VILLA D’ESTE, a Leading Hotel of the World on Lake Como, focussed on composers on 12th May. Partnering with Teatro Sociale Como, it held a dinner starting with Rossini’s favourite egg dish, leading to Risotto Verdi, with asparagus, cheek lard and raw porcini, and finishing with Soufflé Donizetti – paired wines were mostly Frescobaldi. And entertainment was live, that night.

Be entertained every night on P&O Cruises’ Iona if the company’s culinary ambassador, Kjarten Skjelde, is aboard. This guy’s a versatile genius. Back home in Stavanger he owns two restaurants. He’s constantly on television, his agent is the top Norwegian general-entertainment outfit – and he cooks like a dream.

Right now in Cannes, Girlahead suggests Film Festival participants may well need a bloody strong drink.  Fouquet’s at HOTEL LE MAJESTIC BARRIERE has a suggestion, a Bloody Majestic – Polugar Rye Vodka 2cl, Sake Golden Dragon 6cl, yellow tomato juice thaï basil and Menton lemon homemade bitter and fragrance, celery salt. Hear Barriere’s brand guru here: