Opened in 1862, the Grosvenor Hotel in Victoria is one of the few great London railway hotels remaining. Having undergone an 18-month refurbishment programme that was completed in January, it has now been restored to its former glory. The hotel previously operated under the Thistle brand, but the recent transformation has raised it to four-star status as Guoman’s fifth property in the capital. Rooms are now more spacious, with false walls taken down to give generous proportions and to create the three new suites.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Guoman worked alongside English Heritage to preserve the hotel’s character, and restore features that had been lost over the years. This is particularly visible in the lobby, which provides a grand introduction to the property – 17 layers of paint had concealed the beautiful white marble pillars, and the original gold leaf-finish had long been stripped away (it has now been restored, hand painted as a finishing touch in December).
A grand staircase is straight in front of reception, leading up to the Reunion Bar, which overlooks Victoria station. Look up and you will see intricate mouldings and stunning stained glass windows above the stairs.
WHERE IS IT?
Adjacent to Victoria station (back in the day you could head straight from the bar into the station), with its main entrance located on Buckingham Palace Road. It’s a short walk to tourist sites like Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament, and a 15-minute hop on the tube to the City. The location gives guests easy access to three tube lines, the Gatwick Express and countless mainline train links.
The hotel is deceptively spacious – rooms are spread across different wings, making the hotel feel more intimate than one that has 346 guest rooms. Categories are split between Standard, Deluxe or Executive and there are three suites. I stayed in an Executive King, which overlooked the station roof – some rooms have views of the Royal Mews or the Palace gardens.
The room felt very spacious, with a wide hallway at the entrance featuring a tall, dark wood wardrobe along the length of the wall. The décor is understated, with cream walls, dark wood furniture, red accents and patriotic-looking artwork featuring views of the Queen’s cavalry and other iconic scenes. There was a dark velvet brown sofa at the foot of the bed, with a coffee table in front of the 32-inch wall-mounted plasma TV. A Bose iPod docking station (these are in all executive and deluxe rooms) was on the bedside table (the hairdryer is located in the drawer here) and there was free mineral water, tea- and coffee-making facilities, a DVD player, a laptop safe in the wardrobe and an iron and ironing board.
The bathroom had underfloor heating, Elemis products and a rainshower over the bath (the minimalist design meant I initially sprayed the room with water, since it was set to handheld shower head, rather than overhead). Fresh fruit, wifi and newspapers are also complimentary in the Executive rooms, and a stay in one grants access to the Executive lounge.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS
The Grosvenor has three dining options: the Brasserie, with its dark, wood panelled walls and open hearth serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, the Lounge is ideal for drinks and snacks, and the Grand Imperial is a fine dining Cantonese restaurant with a separate street entrance. I dined at the latter on a Friday evening, and it lived up to its name, with high pillars, intricate mouldings on the ceiling, yellow-gold deep buttoned seating and oriental screens separating the main dining space from the private dining area, which seats 20.
The service was excellent, and we relied heavily on our waiter for recommendations – a very good idea, since the lengthy menu can be daunting and the staff certainly know their stuff. Dishes range from classical Cantonese cooking to excellent dim sum. I began with a selection of the latter and was presented with a plate of delicate dumplings, with rich prawn and vegetable fillings. This was followed by king prawns in a light batter with wasabi mayonnaise – some of the biggest, juiciest prawns I’ve ever tried. Next was a hot and sour lobster soup, a light, hot and sharp broth filled with fungi, greens and generous, meaty chunks of lobster – a delicious and perfectly balanced example of the typical soup. Then came one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, the Peking Duck. This was dramatically shredded in front of me, and served up the same as aromatic crispy duck, but with the skin served in strips, separately from the meat. The restaurant serves up the leftover duck meat minced and spiced, to be wrapped by diners in some crisp iceberg lettuce – the lighter way to enjoy this delicious, fatty meat.
If you’re able to move after this, head to the Reunion bar. The former station first class lounge is already a popular evening haunt and was bustling when I arrived early one Friday evening in February. Plush Alice in Wonderland velvet purple chairs are contrasted with yellow-gold cushions and curtains, and the long, wood-panelled bar is illuminated by rows of light fixtures that look like upside down cocktail glasses. Watch out for the mojito made with Mount Gay Extra rum – more than one and you’ll miss your train.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES There is a business centre and an executive lounge where those staying in executive rooms and suites can have a free breakfast, snacks and drinks. It can also be used for small meetings, and a wall-mounted flat screen TV is broadband-equipped so guests can synch up with laptops to display a presentation. The meeting rooms are all on the first floor of the hotel and are named after famous historical trains such as the Orient, Rovos and the Venetian. Many of the rooms are sumptuous spaces with high ceilings, original Victorian features and chandeliers, while others are intimate, wood panelled boardroom spaces, including the 16-delegate-capacity Rovos. In total there are four boardrooms and five further spaces, the largest of which accommodates 120 people theatre-style.
There is a small air-conditioned gym, open daily from 6am to 10pm with cardiovascular and weight machines.
A dramatic, elegant hotel with tonnes of character provided by the careful restoration project. Combine this with its central location, and the fact that its restaurant and bar could stand alone as impressive venues, and it makes for a great option in the capital.
HOW MANY ROOMS?
There are 346 rooms, including 65 Executive King rooms and three suites. The Standard rooms are divided into single, double and twin categories, and the Deluxe between double and twin.
The comfortable bed and complimentary services, including the high-speed wifi, which performed well, fresh fruit and water.
Internet rates for a flexible midweek stay in March start from £275 for an Executive King without breakfast.
The Grosvenor Hotel, 101 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W 0SJ; tel +44 845 305 8337; guoman.co.uk