Tried & Tested

Hotel check: The Connaught

26 Jan 2011 by Tom Otley

WHAT’S IT LIKE? Dating back to 1897, this five-star boutique Mayfair property has just finished a three-year, £70 million refurbishment and successfully combines the best of historical British elegance with modern design features. From the moment you pull up outside in a newly created off-street area on the corner of Mount Street and Carlos Place, to the almost overpowering signature scent in the wood-panelled reception area – decked out with modern art by Damien Hirst and Sax Impey – it’s clear this is the real deal, right down to being a member of Relais & Chateaux.

As well as the beautiful restoration of the hotel’s interior features, such as gilt work on the stucco ceilings and original fireplaces in the public areas and suites, the Connaught has used designers such as Guy Oliver, David Collins and India Mahdavi to create an atmosphere of understated but profound luxury. The new wing to the hotel has a striking bronze horse’s head by Nic Fiddian Green on the ground floor, 28 paintings by Graham Sutherland, who lived in the Connaught for eight years, and works by Barbara Hepworth and John Piper, together with pieces from contemporary artists including Rachael Nee, Simon Allen, Simon Averill and Judy Buxton.

WHERE IS IT? Just south of Grosvenor Square, two minutes’ walk from Park Lane and five minutes from Oxford Street. Mount Street is an excellent shopping and dining destination, with Lanvin, Goyard, Sautter Cigars, Marc Jacobs and Scott’s restaurant on the doorstep.

ROOM FACILITIES All the 121 rooms come with freshly cut flowers, seasonal fruit, iPod docks, air conditioning, magazines, flatscreen TVs, free wired and wifi internet access, and mineral water at turndown. They feature bespoke and “inherited” furniture and are painted in a range of period colours, such as peppermint green with silver leaf and “Edwardian slate”. You can have two garments pressed on arrival free of charge, there is twice-daily laundry and dry cleaning (for a fee), and free shoe shine on request.

The white Thassos marble bathrooms have 17-inch LCD TVs, CD/DVD players, nickel-framed art deco vanity units and nickel-plated taps. Most entry-level Superior Queen rooms (singles) have a shower installed over the bath, while most other bedrooms have separate showers. The 12 Superior Queens are about 20 sqm and have a workdesk and 26-inch TV. The 31 Superior Kings (doubles) are about 29 sqm and have the same amenities except for a 32-inch TV. Damask silk curtains frame the larger Mayfair-style bay windows of the 44 Deluxe Kings, which overlook the side street (Adams Row). They are about 33 sqm and have a more contemporary feel, with cutting-edge modern art, walnut parquet flooring and spa bathrooms. The 31 suites are all individually designed, with some featuring free-standing baths and Japanese electronic water-jet Toto toilets.

RESTAURANTS AND BARS The hotel has the Michelin-starred Hélène Darroze at the Connaught (she also holds a star for her self-named restaurant on the Left Bank in Paris), and the slightly less formal Espelette in the gallery, overlooking Mount Street, for bistro-style food. The Connaught bar is David Collins’ “21st-century interpretation of the original architecture, inspired by English Cubist and 1920s Irish art, with walls of platinum silver leaf overlaid with linen panels of dusty pink, pistachio and lilac”. The Coburg bar is a welcoming place for a high-class cocktail, and also offers a good selection of spirits and champagnes.

BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES The Connaught has six meeting spaces including the ballroom, which holds 120 guests seated or 200 for a reception. There is also a series of mid-size rooms accommodating up to 50 delegates theatre-style in the largest. The business centre is open 24 hours and has touchscreen PCs, fax, printing and scanning facilities, free local calls, and mobiles for hire.

LEISURE FACILITIES The Aman spa is accessed by descending to the lower level of the new wing (past the dramatic Japanese Moon Garden in an interior courtyard). Here you’ll find a lovely pool with a waterfall at one end, a steam room, a decent-sized fitness centre with Technogym equipment, and five candle-lit treatment rooms.

VERDICT You expect luxury in Mayfair, but the Connaught has emerged from its extensive renovation as something very special. The service is superb, the art and design touches well thought-out, and the location perfect either for work or a luxurious break with your partner.

FACT FILE

  • How many rooms? There are 87 bedrooms (Superior Queen, Superior King and Deluxe King), plus 33 suites across ten categories and one apartment.
  • Room highlights The free wifi internet access, original art and heated bathroom floors in the suites.
  • Price Internet rates for a midweek stay in March started from £299 for a Superior Queen room. (At this price, push the boat out and try one of the suites.)
  • Contact The Connaught, Carlos Place, Mayfair; tel +44 (0)20 7499 7070; the-connaught.co.ukhttp://www.relaischateaux.com

Tom Otley

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