Luxury Hotels

RAFFLES -1

The world knows about London’s unique Raffles OWO, a multi-labour of love conversion by the Hinduja family. The hexagonal structure was designed by William Young and Clyde Francis Young in 1906 to hold the War Office, now the Old War Office, OWO. Those who worked in its labyrinth of offices included T.E. Lawrence and, during WWII, Churchill, Ian Fleming and spies galore.

But what is a revelation when actually staying in what is now a 120-room hotel is that this is more than a jolly good hostelry. It’s outstanding. It works.  You may not choose one of the top heritage suites, other than to be able to say you overnighted in Churchill’s office, now the heavily-panelled Haldane Suite.

Girlahead was in #525, the Tower Suite. Great for honeymooners, girls alone, or fitness enthusiasts as it has 25 stairs from bottom to top. For fanatics who eschew the elevator 20m from the suite, there are, incidentally, 141 original, now carpetted, stairs from the fifth floor down to the palatial ground floor, anchored by the much-featured grand staircase – 55 Painswick oolitic limestone steps with alabaster balustrade, ab historic wall clock at the top and an Idogi chandelier sparkling overhead.

A suitable, and much-used, selfie venue, this, especially for hotel MD Philippe Leboeuf, he who has injected French flair into this quintessentially English building ever since he arrived, 26th July 2021. See above.

Back to the Tower Suite. At its lowest level, wrapped in glorious mint-coloured wallpaper with birds and boughs, is the bedroom, with the sparkling white bathroom leading off it. Halfway up the stairs a mezzanine holds powder room and an elegant eatertainment area, with automatic tea kettle, coffee maker and bespoke William Edwards porcelain.  Up more stairs to what is best described as an octagonal eyrie.

From here, look out variously over or across Whitehall. Look far out at St James’s Park and its lake (a previous #525 guest proposed, successfully, on its bridge last week).  Look around the eyrie. There’s seating, and a table handy for holding flowers and, for VIPs, suitable souvenirs, say Dorset Knob biscuits to go with Dorset cheese and a Dorset apple cake. Also in the image below is a framed section of the original, 1906-vintage, floor grill that from 118 years ago covered communication lines along the 3.5 miles of corridor – today, the corridors are carpeted, in a pattern chosen by chief designer Thierry Despont, that has a red, white and black pattern emulating the grill. The welcome notes are hand-written, on gold-printed stiff card. See below.

The bathroom has salts in a marble container and wooden toothbrush and eco paste, paper-packaged. It has heated floor, toilet seat and towel rack – towels are, like the baby’s bottom soft robe and sumptuous bed linens, Rivolta Carmignani (‘baby’s bottom’ was the late Bob Mondavi’s favourite phrase when describing Opus One). And, on the sensory tack, lie on the softly patterned carpet, colour-coordinated to complement the wallpaper, to feel it’s like silk. There is, by the way, a yoga mat, in a black bag. There’s a black Dyson hairdryer, and black curling tongs.

It’s all very intelligently conceived, as is managing heating, lighting and the television. There are books, hardbacks, on Dior, on OWO and Raffles, and Ian Fleming, and more. Requested newspapers were hung outside the door in grey stiff-card bags with pink ribbons that matched the eyrie’s flowers.  And now for the performers who make this play successful.