BACKGROUND Historic luxury property Dukes has been open in St James’s since 1908 but last year refurbished its five one-bed Deluxe suites and its Penthouse suite, as well as adding a fine-dining restaurant and champagne lounge. Business Traveller was there to test out the new suites.
WHAT’S IT LIKE? A refined, traditional 90-room property in the best St James’s tradition, with contemporary touches. The lobby has a classic feel, with a dark wood reception desk, pale green walls, big comfy armchairs, framed portraits and a wonderful scent from a large vase of flowers.
A staircase ahead leads down to the health club and up to the rooms, with Dukes bar located off the lobby to the right. I received a warm welcome from the doorman and reception staff, was seen to quickly and accompanied to my room so the room features could be explained to me. A great first impression.
WHERE IS IT? Centrally located and yet tucked away on St James’s Place, in a peaceful courtyard on the left-hand side of the road if you enter from St James’s Street. Green Park tube station is about five minutes’ walk away, offering a direct link to Heathrow on the Piccadilly line. The Victoria and Jubilee lines also stop here.
ROOM FACILITIES There is one Deluxe one-bed suite on each floor, measuring 45 sqm – I stayed in number 311, the Duke of Portland’s suite. The refurbishment has created a bright, elegant and understated feel, with pale walls, crisp white bedlinens and deep blue curtains and throws.
There is a separate bedroom, living room and bathroom. The bedroom has a king bed, bay window (with a view of the neighbouring building), a small flatscreen TV, a glass-topped desk and chair with a Philips keyboard, two dark-wood wardrobes (a safe was placed high up in one of these), and framed floral prints.
Facilities that come as standard throughout the hotel include free wifi, minibars, air conditioning, robes and slippers, bottled water, turndown service and REN bathroom amenities, though in the suites you also get a Nespresso machine, larger TVs, Sony iPod docks (available on request in other rooms), fresh fruit, “sweet treats” (delicious mini chocolate brownies and crisps when I visited) and more REN products.
The white marble bathroom was immaculate and had a shower over the bath, as the vast majority of guestrooms do. The living room was light-filled and spacious with a street view, a circular table and three chairs, two comfortable light blue sofas, a desk with concealed plug sockets, and framed prints of historic country estates. It was a lovely place to spend time in.
The other room categories are Dukes (20 sqm), Classic (25 sqm), Superior (26.5 sqm), Luxury (28.5 sqm), Junior suite (34 sqm) and the 65 sqm Penthouse suite.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS Dukes bar and its manager Alessandra Palazzi are pretty legendary in the London drinks scene – it serves the best (and strongest) martini I’ve ever tasted, made at your table with a flourish and the finest of ingredients, and is said to be where former punter Ian Fleming coined the “shaken not stirred” mantra of his creation James Bond (click here for an interview with Palazzi).
It’s a wonderfully traditional place with a gentlemen’s club feel, dark velvety armchairs you could sit in for hours and old portraits on the walls. As a contrast, the new PJ champagne lounge, located on the lower ground floor and a partnership with Perrier Jouet, is a much more feminine affair, with splashes of fuchsia pink and lime green and chill-out music playing.
Next to it is Thirty Six restaurant, open since September last year. It’s a smart 36-seat space in which award-winning chef Nigel Mendham creates beautifully prepared and presented gourmet dishes for lunch and dinner. An à la carte breakfast is also served here. Afternoon tea is available in the ground-floor drawing room, and there is also a canopied cigar and cognac garden open year-round, which was added in 2010.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES There are three meeting rooms across the ground and lower ground floors. The largest, the Marlborough, holds up to 120 people reception-style, the Montrose (off the bar and used as an extension of it in the evenings) accommodates up to 30 delegates in a meeting set-up, and the Sheridan holds up to 15 for meetings or private dining.
The drawing room, PJ lounge and Penthouse are also available for private hire, and there is a small business room with a PC and printer.
LEISURE FACILITIES On the lower ground is a health club with one treatment room, an Italian marble steam room and a 24-hour gym with Technogym equipment.
VERDICT This high-end hotel has retained its very British traditional feel yet continues to evolve with inventive new food and drink offerings. The refurbished suites don’t come cheap but if you can stretch to one, they provide a spacious and elegant base for working and playing in the capital. Make sure you find time for a martini in the bar.
PRICE Internet rates for a flexible midweek stay in September started from £312 for a Dukes room, and £1,248 for a Deluxe suite.
CONTACT Dukes, St James’s Place; tel +44 (0) 20 7491 4840; dukeshotel.com