Luxury Hotels


Well, that’s all over. Dubai’s ATLANTIS ROYAL duly ‘opened’ last night, with Beyoncé, 41, highlighting the gala-for-1,200 with what is described as ‘an incredible rendition of At Last’. According to Mail Online she was paid £35 million to woo the crowd for an hour in what some call a stunning yellow gown but it looks like an adaptation of what would be the world’s most expensive bikini top.

A more earth-bound and culturally-significant opening will be that of RAFFLES LONDON AT THE OWO, Old War Office.  No opening date is set yet but expect it to be sometime late Summer. Girlahead – see above – had the rare privilege of a site tour (as yet photography is only allowed on the 55-step Grand Staircase, built of Painswick oolitic limestone and Piastraccia marble with alabaster banisters)

The 1906-vintage building is on a 250-year lease to two of the Hinduja brothers, working with Westminster Development Services WDS. For the last five years, architects EPR and designer Thierry Despont have been working on converting the 14-floor (seven of which are underground) trapezoid structure to a 120-room hotel, with 85 serviced residences.

Wow this is overkill. There are over five kilometres of internal corridors, and ceilings everywhere are more than double height. There’s enough panelling, much of it original and complemented unrecognisably by modern craftsmanship, to fill, say, the Houses of Parliament, a mere 400 metres away.

World famous parliamentarians of course worked here, at OWO in its military and secret service days.  Winston Churchill’s office here is now a magnificent suite, its panelled bathroom big enough to hold a padel court, its big picture windows looking directly across Whitehall and the two mounted guardsmen who are on sentry duty daily, 10am to 4pm.

One of the hotel’s doors from the street is still named Spies’ Entrance.  This where real spies used to come and go – some suites are named for female spies. Ian Fleming, creator of fictional spy James Bond, used to work here, at Old War Office.

That’s the past, which goes back long pre-1906 (both Henry VIII and Cromwell died at this site). Today, and tomorrow, key elements include Raffles and its service, led by passionate MD Philippe Leboeuf, a massive underground ballroom and significant swimming pool, and a spa, and sustenance. Here the story introduces the great Mauro Colagreco.  Working with the hotel’s Executive Chef, Roger Olsson, from Sweden, Colagreco will have three of the Raffles-run ground-floor restaurants, all looking directly to the street.

Yes, passers-by can see straight into the restaurants, and one of the working kitchens. And outsiders, too, are invited into a panelled memorial room, a remembrance of all the civil service people who lost their lives in the Great War.

Note: the hotel set on its road to reality when Chris Cahill was with Accor. Hear that legend again, here: