What: I’ve had the privilege of visiting and reviewing a number of incredible hotels since founding The Handbook twelve years ago, but even I shrieked a squeal of genuine delight (yes literally) when invited to review the Connaught Hotel. Because while it’s underdoubtedly ‘up there’ as one of the most old school of London’s hotels, it’s also one of the most superbly slick five star hotels ever to recieve a seal of royal approval (not only was it renamed after one of Queen Victoria’s sons, but the Queen Mother and Prince Charles are both fans) and, arguably a little less importantly, mine.
New: Not exactly brand-spanking, no, this grand old dame of the hotel world just celebrated her 200th birthday. If I look this good at a quarter of that then I’ll die of happiness! Not only does The Connaught conceal her age, the hotel has kept up with the times and succeeds in exuding contemporary, understated luxury at every step, the Helen Mirren of hotels, perhaps?
Where: In the heart of Mayfair, surrounded by some of London’s finest shopping and sightseeing. It’s also short walk from Laduree, which quite literally has the best macaroons in London, if not the world, so we smuggled a box back to our room to enjoy with the complimentary chilled champagne, which was on-ice on arrival.
The Look: Let’s start with the most important aspect, the en-suites. Forget the impressive marble surroundings of the bathroom, ignore the walk-in shower and the plasma TV over the bath, it’s all about the Japanese loo. This space-age device does everything; hover your hand and the lid magically opens, press a button and it sprays a jet of massaging water up and down for a little bit longer than you expected (word from the wise, don’t stand up during this process or you risk soaking the entire room), settings include ‘oscillating’, ‘power deodoriser’ and ’ dryer’, you can direct the spray and alter the pressure. In fact, with an array of buttons reminiscent of a jumbo jet flight deck, you can be sure that your nether regions will more attention than ever.
And if that’s how they look after your bottom, then you can imagine how the rest of you is treated. The rooms are exquisite, each uniquely crafted by renowned designers Guy Oliver and the late David Collins, with marble fireplaces, oak paneling, and antique furnishings. The rooms come with mood lighting, king-size beds, a respectably sized telly and original artwork. If I’m being honest, as soon as I’d opened the door I didn’t want to leave. Ever.
If you are successfully dragged away from the comfort room you can appreciate the rest of the hotel, which perfectly blends a discreet English ambience (the reception is pure country house splendour) but with the contemporary 5-star touches expected by any modern traveller.
To Eat: Hélène Darroze is one of a handful of women making it in the male dominated world of cookery. She has been named as the Veuve Clicquot World’s Best Female Chef and less than a spoonful into my meal I can understand why she has been awarded two Michelin stars.
To drink: The Bar is quite simply stunning and serves, in my opinion, the best cocktails in town. The design, by the late David Collins, responsible for so much of the latest Connaught redesign, is inspired by English Cubist 1920s art and the textured walls shimmer with silver leaf as you sip away. So much so, in fact, that we have included it in The Handbook’s Top 75 Bar Guide.
Final word: The Connaught exudes understated elegance and style. The service is outstanding, the rooms are extremely well-appointed, with marble fireplaces, oak paneling, and antique furnishings. Spa treatments are available in Aman Spa and are well worth it, and it’s all topped off by Helene Darroze’s sumptuous ground floor presence. I seriously considered barricading myself in like a modern-day Swampy and never leaving. If there was any way to stay forever then believe me I’d be there right now, and I’m sure you’ll feel the same.
The Connaught: Carlos Place, Mayfair, W1K 2AL