This very week London gained another luxury hotel, with the opening of Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square. What is now a 100-room hotel, owned by the Chinese-Thai Dr Chanchai’s Reignwood Group (which also holds Wentworth golf in the UK, and Fairmont Beijing back in China) started life as the Port of London Authority headquarters. From its roof, above, you see the Thames and, a mere 300 yards away, the Tower of London: across the Thames you also see, today, the Shard, with Shangri-La London atop. It is actually this new Four Seasons that prompts the gal to ask – what does one expect from a very English hotel?
In London, The Savoy, A Fairmont Hotel, has celebrated Englishness since the current building was finished in 1889 – though it had a few international interruptions, including a Wall Street financier who flooded the then-back courtyard to four feet, and floated people around in gondolas. The hotel’s history includes a lover of the heir-to-the-throne, back in 1917, who later shot dead her husband, apparently a multi-millionaire called Ali Kamel Fahmey. The Savoy is not such a tempestuous theatre today, though there are still regular goings-on, or noteworthy points (if a dinner guest fails to turn up, staff discreetly put in the vacant chair a china cat, after whom Kaspar’s Seafood Bar and Grill are named).
The Savoy has everything, it seems, including a public theatre – the current show, Dreamgirls, has already been running over two months. To understand the theatre that is English hotel-keeping however, and to get the essence of true English flavour, several pointers are needed, both gastronomically and generally. Take that very-English dish, smoked salmon, which is becoming ubiquitous on luxury hotels’ breakfast menus worldwide, to accompany scrambled eggs – one of the best presentations is at The Connaught, where a three-inch tall circle of salmon holds ultra-fluffy eggs. Some of the best comes smoked salmon, in the whole of the UK, comes from H. Forman & Son, the family company founded by Harry Aaron. Served by itself, at lunch and dinner, slices of smoked salmon – Forman’s London Cure – at Brown’s Hotel is also just right, juicy, flavourful, and its lemon is stylishly wrapped in muslin (the only other way to serve lemon as an accompaniment is in the bird-shaped squeezers that Mandarin Oriental Geneva use). Other essentials of a luxury hotel in England? A serious concern on tea – you can choose time-slot afternoon teas at such popular venues as The Berkeley, Brown’s Hotel, Corinthia Hotel London, The Dorchester, The Savoy, where items come on dinky multi-tiered curates’ stands. Perhaps, before a Savoy tea, you might want to visit the hotel’s The Savoy’s teashop, above right.
Yes, lots of the Englishness of luxury hotels comes via its foods. Back to breakfast, where kippers sometimes appear, and where toast should traditionally come standing upright in a silver rack – even British Airways serves its toast this way, in its outstanding London Heathrow Terminal 5 Arrivals Lounge. Talking still of breakfast, where is the best buffet? Head for InterContinental Park Lane, or, if that is full, go 400 yards further west to Mandarin Oriental, for a delicate buffet overlooking Hyde Park. Later in the day, take tea, or coffee, any time in the hotel’s elegant Rosebery Room, which has bespoke East India Trading Co porcelain by William Edward. Right now this stately luxury hotel is in the process of a complete upgrading, so those taking a bus or taxi along Knightsbridge see only a four-floor fabric artwork, by Sir Peter Blake. As always, there is lots going on in London hotels. jc