The Inspector calls at two new London hotels and says you’ll be spoilt for choice… if you’re happy to pay £1,300 or £1,100 (breakfast not included) for a standard room!
- The Inspector compares The Peninsula with Raffles at The OWO – some £2.5billion has been lavished on them
- Scroll down to see his verdict on which of the luxurious properties is better…
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Two new hotels have just opened in London and some £2.5 billion has been lavished on them. So which one is for you?
They’ve arrived amid much fanfare and considerable astonishment and, although completely different, they hope to attract a similar market, which is to say those who, once you factor in drinks, dinner and perhaps a spa treatment for two, will be handed a bill of about £2,000 for one night’s stay.
The Peninsula overlooks Hyde Park Corner; Raffles London occupies the Old War Office in Whitehall, opposite Horse Guards Parade.
The Inspector compares two luxurious new London hotels – The Peninsula and Raffles London. Above is The Peninsula, located where Hyde Park Corner meets Wellington Arch
The Inspector says that views from The Peninsula ‘rule supreme and there’s an abundance of natural light’. Above is a Grand Premier Park Room
Back story: A brand new eight-storey project costing £1.1 billion, part of the Hongkong & Shanghai Hotels group (there are 11 other Peninsulas around the world). The board waited 30 years to find a suitable site in London — and it’s taken eight years to build, with a feng shui master advising on positive energy flow.
First impressions: Arrive on foot at the front entrance (cars and taxis are not allowed to stop outside) and you’re greeted by two life-size marble lions. A revolving door spins you into the huge lobby, which doubles as an all-day drinking and eating area, perfect to watch the passing parade.
In the evening, there’s live music coming from the mezzanine balcony (Elton John covers on my visit). Other features include vast pillars; chandeliers, a de Gournay mural; marble floors, but nothing so vulgar as a reception desk (check-in is off the lobby in a discreet corner).
Above is The Lobby at The Peninsula where breakfast is served, plus afternoon tea for £95 per person
Or guests arrive by car (perhaps in one of the hotel’s Rolls-Royces) via a cobbled, off-street courtyard to the rear of the building.
Sleep well: There are 190 rooms. Even the cheapest at £1,300 is 50 sq metres. All have exquisite onyx bathrooms with TVs built-in above the taps and floor-to-ceiling windows.
Beg, steal or borrow to have a room facing Hyde Park Corner, with Wellington Arch opposite and Apsley House to your left.
There are 190 rooms at The Peninsula. Even the cheapest at £1,300 is 50 sq metres, reveals the Inspector
Each room at The Peninsula has ‘exquisite onyx bathrooms with TVs built-in above the taps’
On the top floor of The Peninsula there’s Brooklands (above), which opened last week, overseen by French chef Claude Bosi
The Peninsula’s guests arrive by car (perhaps in one of the hotel’s Rolls-Royces, pictured) via a cobbled, off-street courtyard to the rear of the building
The Inspector is impressed with The Peninsula’s Little Blue bar (pictured). ‘Its list of cocktails brings innovation in a glass,’ he writes
Doubles at The Peninsula cost from £1,300 (room only)
It’s one of the world’s biggest roundabouts, but you don’t hear a thing (although you can open a side window if you want London to be your soundtrack). It’s a mesmerising view.
Something to eat and drink: In addition to The Lobby (where breakfast is served, plus afternoon tea for £95 per person), there are two restaurants.
Canton Blue is Chinese food of the highest order, with decor influenced by the Keying junk trade ships that sailed between Asia and Europe in the mid-19th century. On the top floor there’s Brooklands, which opened last week, overseen by French chef Claude Bosi. There’s an outside terrace for al fresco dining but in the event of inclement weather a table inside is at your disposal. The bar next to motor-themed Brooklands is sensational at night: St Paul’s Cathedral, the Shard, Big Ben et al putting on a show. There’s also a grab-and-go coffee shop designed by the Conran partnership, with funky art.
Romantic liaisons: Little Blue beneath Canton Blue, and with its own street entrance, can only seat 20. The bar is constructed from stacks of apothecary drawers and its list of cocktails brings innovation in a glass.
Extra treats: The spa, gym and hairdressers are due to open next month in the basement along with a 25-metre pool. Rooms have ‘valet boxes’ accessible from the corridors. Pop your shoes in the box and they come back polished a few hours later. Oh, and the ballroom lifts are big enough to take a car.
- Doubles at The Peninsula from £1,300 (room only), peninsula.com, 020 3907 7500.
RAFFLES AT THE OWO
Raffles London occupies the Old War Office in Whitehall, opposite Horse Guards Parade. The historic building is owned by Britain’s richest family, the Hindujas
Back story: Britain’s richest family, the Hindujas, acquired this historic, trapezium building in 2014 and the extraordinary restoration project cost £1.4 billion. Originally completed in 1906, using 26,000 tons of Portland stone, 3,000 tons of York stone and more than 26 million bricks, this is where the likes of Churchill, Haldane, Kitchener and Profumo had offices.
It was after one particular briefing at the Old War Office in June 1940 that Churchill returned to Downing Street and wrote his famous speech about how ‘we shall not flag nor fail…’ This is the first UK hotel of the Singapore-based Raffles group. And the Princess Royal, no less, cut the ribbon.
First impressions: Grand, imperious, iconic. The Grand Hall gives way to the sweeping Brescia marble staircase with richly veined alabaster balusters.
At the top of the first flight, an ornate, 19th-century French clock hangs on the wall — and it was from here that leading members of the Government used to address senior staff. Look up and there’s a Murano chandelier, commissioned from a company in Venice. Much of the wood panelling and almost all the flooring is original.
Above is The Lawrence function space at Raffles London. The Inspector’s first impression of the building? ‘Grand, imperious, iconic,’ he says
The Inspector describes Raffles London as ‘grand, imperious, iconic’. Above is the hotel’s sweeping marble staircase
Sleep well: Only 120 rooms and arguably the best of the lot is the Haldane Suite, with a bust of Churchill on the mantelpiece — but it costs anywhere from £18,000-25,000 a night, depending on the time of year.
Curtains all operate electronically. I could see soldiers on their horses in Horse Guards across the road. The lead-in rate is £1,100 a night, but most rooms will set you back more than £3,500.
Something to eat and drink: Eventually there will be nine restaurants and three bars. The slinky Guards Bar is lively — so we take a seat in the more sedate Drawing Room with its ornate stone fireplace, before moving on to the main restaurant, Mauro Colagreco, named after the famous Argentinian chef who will be chasing Michelin stars there (his restaurant Mirazur in the south of France already has three). Opposite is Saison, which aims to bring the Mediterranean to Whitehall.
Arguably the best of the 120 bedrooms at Raffles London is the Haldane Suite (above), with a bust of Churchill on the mantelpiece
‘The lead-in rate is £1,100 a night, but most rooms will set you back more than £3,500,’ the Inspector says of Raffles London. Above is the Granville Suite
Raffles London houses a Guerlain Spa, with a 20-metre pool (pictured) and nine treatment rooms
Above is Saison restaurant at Raffles London, which aims to bring the Mediterranean to Whitehall
Romantic liaisons: The Spy Bar (difficult to find in the sub-basement but worth the trek) would have James Bond purring. Above the bar is a carbon side section of an Aston Martin DB5 and martini cocktails seem to be the drink of choice. Only hotel residents are allowed.
Extra treats: Heritage tours of the building are complimentary for guests. Or for the more leisurely inclined, there’s a 20-metre pool (which I had to myself before breakfast) in the Guerlain Spa, with nine treatment rooms (90- minute massages cost £270).
- Doubles at Raffles London from £1,100 (room only), raffles.com, 020 3907 7500.
The verdict: Raffles clearly wins from a historic perspective and nine restaurants takes some beating, though some guests might find the Gentleman’s Club wood-panelling heavy-going.
The views from The Peninsula rule supreme and there’s an abundance of natural light. But does the Eastern vibe work in the centre of town? I loved them both. London has got lucky.
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