The gal loves surprises, and they were there galore at one of London’s newest luxury hotels, The Hari Belgravia, under ten minutes’ walk from Harvey Nichols and Harrods, and Hyde Park Corner and a myriad of embassies around Belgrave Square. This was Sheraton Belgravia for years, and for under one year it was operated by Thompson as Belgraves. In April 2016 Aron Hariilela, Chairman of the Harilela group that had owned it from the start, decided enough was enough and he would start his own brand, called after his late father, Hari Naroomal Harilela. Well, the result is spectacular. Surprise number one, look at the personalised Monopoly board that awaited in room 603, above. Surprise number two, what had formerly been yet-another modern-English restaurant has been, since this February, a stunning Italian bistro, Il Pampero.
Thanks to a really-really delayed flight, I was an hour late for dinner but GM Andrew Coney did not seem to mind one bit. The chef, Claudio Covino – formerly at Locatelli, always a good background – is a friendly, jovial guy, no airs and graces. He sent out bruschetta to start that paired tiniest cubes of Sicilian tomato flesh with borage and other flowers, and then oh, my starter. I had never had burrata and avocado together and the result is sensational (and my veal milanese went magnificently with grilled asparagus, and Vietti 2012 Barolo Castiglione Ritme). I loved the bistro look of the place, with its central bar, and lots of chic young servers who looked as you expect top catwalk walkers to look, but whereas models look as if they are walking to the guillotine these guys and girls move with a purpose, and they smile.
Andrew Coney says turnover among his 110 team is so low he does not count it. Partly this is the family nature of the place – Aron Harilela is continually here in London, and everyone carries a copy of his brilliant and idiosyncratic staff booklet, Our Story, Ways and Quirks (‘Hari is a living, personable brand that is destined to become a globetrotting icon. Like a person, it has some unchanging characteristics that function like DNA to create the personality’). And the GM, who lives in the hotel during the week and, at all times, is desk-less, is continuously moving around talking to everyone, and of course they call him Andrew. And the staff must like the fact that guests of the 85-room hotel are joined by locals not only in the restaurant but in the mezzanine library. This, up 17 steps from the lobby, is a multi-area space with hundreds of real hard-cover books and a working fire, comfy and secluded banquettes for two, and a year-round outdoor terrace ideal for small parties, or a smoke. This is a place where pairs or groups of high-achieving millennial females feel perfectly happy.
I was more than happy in room 603 – see the video, below. I had plenty of berries, ample reading material, a tub right by the window and bathsalts as well as lovely Noble Isle toiletries. Generously, I had a folding as well as a full-length umbrella – yes, this is a luxury hotel that thinks of everything. Although there were four hotel-branded bicycles waiting there was no time to pedal around this part of London but I made full use of the 24/7 gym before breakfasting. And, guess what, the eggs are exactly the same brand that I have at home, Mabel Pearman’s Clarence Court eggs, with yolks as intensely coloured as those at Ritz-Carlton Kyoto. As I left I remembered Andrew Coney’s comment that since becoming independent Hari London Belgravia has, with the help of its inhouse digital marketing specialist and Preferred Hotels & Resorts, taken occupancy up by 15% to 90% with an average rate up £50. Now I cannot wait to return, to learn more, and to try the Italian-themed afternoon tea, with or without bottomless prosecco. SEE THE VIDEO BELOW