Housed in an 1820s building designed by William Wilkins (behind London’s National Gallery), the former St George’s Hospital was converted into a Rosewood hotel in 1991, then managed by Starwood under its St Regis brand from 2002. It closed for refurbishment in December 2013 and reopened last July as part of the Oetker Collection, which includes Le Bristol Paris and Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc on the Côte d’Azur in its five-star portfolio.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
The exterior – a mix of classical and Greek-revival styles that marked the Regency period – gives a clue to the interior, as does the Rolls-Royce outside and the smart doorman. The lobby isn’t large, more like the long corridor of a country house, albeit one with Joshua Reynolds portraits.
The owner, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, has spared no expense on its restoration (and it wasn’t too shabby before). There are 54 UK-made crystal chandeliers, the largest in Céleste restaurant, two metres wide and weighing 200kg. British embroiderers, cabinet makers, bronzers, lacquerers, gilders, and makers of decorative trimmings were employed to furnish the interiors, with more than 300 people involved in guestroom renovations alone.
The ceilings have roses, coffering, cornicing, frescoes, as well as trompe l’oeil murals. Some 2,100 books of 23-carat gold leaf were used throughout, and 2,000 hours of stencilling on the wood panelling has lightened the look, including in the Library Bar. There is Italian marble in the bathrooms, with each slab placed to ensure grains are matched. For all this, it’s not formal – while most guests were smartly dressed, some wore casual attire.
There are 12 categories, from the 25 sqm Deluxe Queen to the 445 sqm Royal suite (there are 43 suites in total). Rooms come in five designs, each of which have “three rich jewel colourways”. These vibrant hues differ in each corridor, and rooms are decorated in yellows and blues, some with pale wood stencilling.
There are various views, although considering its position on Hyde Park Corner these aren’t stunning; many are internal. All rooms have 24-hour butler service, free wifi, unlimited films and music, and a Sony tablet to work the lights, curtains and access the internet. The device was fairly instinctive, although I found it difficult to use the lights. Bathrooms have tubs (except Deluxe Queens), showers and Roja toiletries.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS
The Library Bar is still recognisable, but now features decorative panels hand-painted in Italy. There is a pianist in the evenings and a DJ after 9.45pm, Tuesday to Saturday. French restaurant Céleste is under three-Michelin-starred chef patron Eric Frechon, with Florian Favario as executive chef. Food and drink is also served in the Withdrawing Room, and you can enjoy cigars and cognacs in the superb Garden Bar, a heated, covered outdoor area to the rear of the hotel.
Seven spaces are available, the largest seating 90 for dinner.
There is a small spa with a couple of treatment rooms and a tiny gym, although a larger one will be opening later this year.
The Lanesborough is known as the capital’s most expensive hotel, but when tens of millions have been spent on the interior, it sits on Hyde Park, and there’s a butler for every room, value is probably assessed by guests differently. It’s a beautiful property, and feels intimate without being claustrophobic or too club-like. I’m not convinced by the tablet technology but maybe regular guests get the hang of it.
PRICE Internet rates for a flexible midweek stay in March started from £490 for a Deluxe Queen room.