Luxury Hotels

LONDON – 1

Flowers and all of nature are increasingly important to ambience. London’s Grosvenor Square used to be the centre of diplomatic life – haven’t we all, Americans included, had to queue for hours on end outside the US Embassy to the west of the Square?  Now the former Embassy is in rehab mode, being painstakingly transformed into yet another hotel (Rosewood’s Chancery).

There are three prominent memorials in the square’s garden. One, above, is to FDR. Another, by Elizabeth Frink, is to WWII’s UK and US Eagle Squadrons – this was paid for by Chuck Sweeney,  hotelier and entrepreneur who despite accruing incredible wealth through starting the mighty DFS duty-free shopping empire, died near-penniless as he intended. The third is a memorial to the British victims of 911.

At the south of the square, #44 Grosvenor Square to be precise, is a nine-floor hotel. It opened in 1982, named for its developers, Britannia. They still own it, though management has changed over the years. IHG, Hilton and now the Singapore giant CDL. Kwek Leng Beng, CDL’s founding visionary, apparently sees what is now the 307-room Biltmore Mayfair as flagship for a fledgling Biltmore brand: he already has Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi and he envisions about 15-20 others, in A-list world cities.  There will be hotels, says Vella Ramasawmy, Kwek’s London-based Australian MD Biltmore,  and, as in Dubai, branded residences.

Biltmore Mayfair is a hotel for experienced travellers who demand luxury but don’t take themselves too seriously. They’re likely to be American or from the Middle East and they appreciate more than a touch of old-England. The glasses in the champagne-coloured eatertainment centre in suite #441 – overlooking the Adam’s Row mews – are cut-glass, the toiletries are Penhaligon, hardbacks include London is a Forest, and The News from Waterloo.

Breakfast in the Café is a delight, a small buffet with copious bread types, Netherend Farm butter wraps and Hot Jam Lady yoghurts, and plentiful supplies of the Financial Times, The New York Times and The Times. That’s Girlahead to a tee, as is unlimited Veuve Clicquot at Saturday and Sunday brunch, Summer-long. And oh the flowers in the lobby, see below.  Fresh every Wednesday, apparently.