Tried & Tested

Hotel review: The Peninsula London

30 Jan 2024 by Hannah Brandler
The Peninsula London Lobby

Background

Peninsula Hotels opened its long-awaited hotel in London in September 2023, fulfilling its decade-long plans to debut in Britain. The group had been waiting for an exceptional location to arise, and landed on this site in the affluent Belgravia district.

The space was previously occupied by a 1960s office block, which was demolished to make way for the new-build hotel. Designed by Hopkins Architects at a cost of over £1 billion, the property features five storeys underground and eight above ground. The expansive property comprises 190 rooms and suites, several restaurants and bars, a spa and wellness centre, multiple meeting and event spaces, nine retail shops and 25 residences – with the latter’s main entrance on Halkin Street.

The hotel joins the Peninsula’s 11 other properties, located in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, New York, Chicago, Beverly Hills, Paris, Bangkok (see our review here), Manila and Istanbul.

The opening coincided with several other luxury hotels joining the London market, including Raffles London at The OWO which we reviewed earlier this month.

Peninsula London exterior (provided by Peninsula Hotels)

Where is it?

On Grosvenor Place, overlooking Wellington Arch and Hyde Park Corner, with Knightsbridge, Buckingham Palace and the Royal Parks on its doorstep.

The proximity to notable attractions and leafy surroundings are a pro, though the hotel’s location on a six-lane busy roundabout is a slight drawback in my eyes.

Far more appealing is the quieter off-street cobbled courtyard, a leafy space designed by Enzo Enea, complete with climbing jasmine and wisteria vines that will gradually creep up the building over the next few years, and two 120-year-old Japanese maples. The property centres around this courtyard and this is the main entrance for cars, while the facade entrance with the signature marble Peninsula Lions flanking the glass doors is for pedestrians.

Part of the Peninsula’s winning charm is its outstanding fleet of cars, which can be booked for transfers or complimentary journeys within a two-mile radius, and make for a picturesque sight as you enter the courtyard with Rolls-Royce Phantom IIs, an electrified 1960 vintage Austin taxi and a restored Rolls-Royce Phantom Sedanca de Ville – all in the custom-made Peninsula green colouring.

I was whisked from Elephant and Castle, south of the river, to the hotel in a custom-made hybrid Bentley Bentayga. While the glossy leather interiors are undoubtedly lavish, the highlight was rather the personal interaction with my warm and knowledgeable chauffeur, Ashok, who acted as a great ambassador for the hotel and its personal service.

We spent the speedy 30-minute journey chatting about the weather (it was the week with -5 degree frost), the hotel landscape in the capital and the changing nature of London’s neighbourhoods over the past 20 years. The cars also feature Peninsula magazines and TV screens which can stream content from your device (there’s a wifi hotspot), though I advise ignoring both and getting insight into the hotel from your driver.

Bentley x Peninsula (provided by Peninsula Hotels)

What's it like?

The benefit with a new-build is the capacity for the hotel to breathe its vision into the space. In The Peninsula London’s case, Peter Marino’s design is all about natural light, greenery and airy, open-plan spaces with grand features. It’s not show-stopping, but the classic style feels timeless, understated and appropriate with the surroundings. Creativity instead thrives at the various restaurants (more on this later).

Guests begin their experience in the soaring triple-height Lobby, with its bold red furnishings, hand-painted Hyde Park-inspired de Gournay landscape murals and crystal chandeliers.

Throughout the property there are design elements from acclaimed British artists and creators, including depictions of British landscapes from 40 artists at The Royal Drawing School – fitting for a location beside some of London’s best parks.

The Lobby doubles as an all-day dining destination and also has concierge and guest services desks, but there’s a separate reception for check-in/out. My experience was speedy, with warm and friendly service from the staff throughout the hotel.

The Peninsula allows guests to check-in and check-out at any time, provided they inform the hotel beforehand. This is a great concept and something that is sorely missing from many big brand names.

It’s worth noting that this is not the kind of hotel where you can work in the public spaces, but rooms have ample space for getting calls done.

Peninsula London Grand Premier Park Room (provided by Peninsula Hotels)

Rooms

The Peninsula boasts 190 rooms and suites, with the former starting at a spacious 51 sqm and increasing to 59 sqm. All rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows but differ on their views, with my Grand Premier Park Room’s angled vitrines providing views of the Wellington Arch at the centre, flanked by Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace Gardens on either side.

The one drawback with these rooms is the continuous traffic on the roundabout, but the windows are well-soundproofed and, as a Londoner, I’m partial to a bit of city noise. Alternatively, there are rooms which overlook the courtyard.

Rates at The Peninsula are quite staggering, with entry-level rooms starting from £1,300 per night, but it must be taken into account that the rooms are huge and, in fairness, equate to the size of suites in other hotels.

Guests can book a specific category, but the view cannot be guaranteed owing to the hotel’s flexible check-in and check-out times. The hotel’s top suites were not yet open during my visit, but are set to launch in mid-February.

The light-filled spaces are fairly reminiscent of the lobby, with features such as a rich mahogany-panelled dressing room, which can double as an office, and a far brighter symmetrical bathroom in honey onyx stoneware – complete with a sumptuous bathtub, a Toto toilet and a shower stall, plus bath products by Timothy Han and bathrobes.

Peninsula London Premier Room Bathroom (provided by Peninsula Hotels)

Guests can transform the bathroom into their very own late-night spa thanks to a specific setting which initiates mood lighting and calming music. I soaked in the bubble bath and reclined in complete comfort thanks to a great head pillow – an excellent touch which I haven’t had the luxury of experiencing in other hotels.

On the business travel side, the room is well-equipped with a window-side dining table/desk, featuring built-in USB and plug sockets, plus an all-in-one printer/scanner/photocopier/fax and a drawer filled with stationery.

If you find yourself distracted by the views, you can choose to work instead at the dressing room table, preferably in a plush bathrobe and slippers (provided you’ve not got a Zoom scheduled). There are wireless phones dotted around the room, with complimentary long-distance calls should you need to contact clients or colleagues abroad.

The Peninsula London Dressing Room (provided by Peninsula Hotels)

Rather than have bedside wall sockets, the plugs and USB sockets are located in drawers within the bedside table, along with a wireless charger. Further tech features include a large TV with Chromecast, digital bedside panels stocked with all the hotel info and facilities, simple-to-use LED touchscreen wall panels which operate the lights, temperature, curtains and ‘do not disturb’ options.

Minibars feature an array of locally sourced treats, as well as The Peninsula’s own Champagne and English sparkling wine from Coates and Seely. There’s also a Nespresso machine, with a tablet to describe how it works, and lovely tea-making facilities.

Further luxuries include a nail-dryer, a valet box and a huge bed, three quarters of which remained untouched when I woke up in the morning to sunny blue skies.

London Brooklands Dining Room (provided by Peninsula Hotels)

Food and drink

The Peninsula has a plethora of dining options, starting with breakfast, all-day dining and afternoon tea at The Lobby. This space lacked atmosphere during my visit, but bear in mind that this was a Monday lunchtime in mid-January, and it had more life on Tuesday at breakfast, where I was well looked after by the warm and smiley Anne, who plied with me a basket of freshly baked pastries and a fruit platter.

The all-day menu features light salads and soups, along with sandwiches and burgers, grilled meats and fish, plus a section dedicated to vegetarians with plant-based options signposted. The Lobby’s location beside the busy roundabout wouldn’t be my top choice for a meal to entertain clients, but there are several other options for such a visit.

For fine dining, there’s Brooklands restaurant on the eighth floor, led by chef director Claude Bosi and inspired by the namesake Surrey racetrack, which is considered the birthplace of British racing sport and flight innovation. The restaurant offers modern British cuisine, with diners sat beneath a scale model of Concorde. An adjoining terrace has enviable views over London and more of a Mediterranean feel.

The Peninsula London (image from https://www.peninsula.com/en/newsroom/)

We instead dined at the far moodier, but equally fine dining hotspot, Canton Blue. The Cantonese restaurant is located on the ground floor and features impeccable interiors by Henry Leung of CAP Atelier. Dimly lit spaces shimmer with silk and porcelain, abiding by a design which draws inspiration from the Keying junk – a trade ship which sailed between China and Britain in the mid 19th century.

The restaurant features various spaces – from a magnificent private dining room featuring a dark blue lazy Susan to a traditional Chinese tea lounge with a backlit ceiling panel depicting a celestial map, and beautiful booths with a backdrop of colour-coordinated plate and teacup configurations.

We began our evening at the Little Blue Bar, descending down the ceramic-walled staircase to an intimate space with a bar characterised by apothecary-style spice cabinets. Cocktails here have been inspired by locations of the Keying travels – from Hong Kong to St Helena, New York and London.

We enjoyed xiao long bao dumplings (Shanghai-style pork soup dumplings, £16), soft steamed scallop dumplings (£16) and crispy prawn wontons with the ever-so-moreish chilli bean sauce (£12) at a high-top table, where our chopsticks rested on Keying holders, while other guests nestled into the leather sofas at the back.

I loved the smokey Terra cocktail (£20), a Mezcal-based number with woody almonds, saffron, agave and pipettes of Habañero pepper. Note that there are no reservations available here, but it’s worth a visit.

We later dined in one of the booths upstairs, which married privacy with the buzz of the main space. The restaurant’s signature dish is the Silver Hill Peking Duck (£135) which is a two-course speciality. Staff present the duck in all its glazed glory, before returning to the table with the carvery for steamed pancakes.

Dining at Canton Blue at The Peninsula (Image: Hannah Brandler)

Up next is the deep-fried remains in sticky barbecue sauce with black sesame, which we struggled to finish, but enjoyed alongside egg-fried rice (£9) and a side of pak choi and seasonal vegetables (£12). The menu is expensive, but this is a venue for a special occasion, with hours-long meals to indulge and treat yourself.

The restaurant has an expansive wine menu, featuring Chinese Rice Wine, sake and baijiu spirit and wines from across the world – plus The Peninsula’s Deutz Cuvée Champagne and The Peninsula Cuvée English sparkling wine by Coates & Seely. There’s also a wonderful tea menu to conclude the evening and help with digestion. Note that the restaurant is closed on Tuesdays.

On the far more casual and grab-and-go side, the hotel has The Peninsula Café and Boutique on Grosvenor Place, which replaced the highest grossing Pret à Manger. It continues to be a hit with passers-by, though with a more expensive price tag. I’m told that the footfall is particularly high during events at Hyde Park corner such as last year’s Winter Wonderland – and provides excellent pastries, coffee and light lunch options.

Meetings

The hotel can cater for a wide range of events on its lower ground levels – plus the private dining areas at the various restaurants.

The 696 sqm St George Ballroom is the hotel’s largest space. This pillarless room can host up to 450 banquets and features six-metre ceilings, an adjoining pre-function area and two lifts large enough to fit cars.

There’s also the 115 sqm Wellington Room for private dining or meetings for up to 60 people, four conference rooms configurable as separate or conjoined spaces, a boardroom for 12 guests, and a 15-seater plush private cinema, complete with a pre-entertainment space with a popcorn stand and vintage movie posters.

Peninsula London Wellness pool (provided by Peninsula Hotels)

Leisure

The serene Peninsula Spa and Wellness Centre opened in December 2023 and features seven treatment rooms, a hair atelier, a small boutique and, most importantly, a calming 25-metre heated pool. The pool is located within a double-heighted underground chamber, surrounded by mosaic walls and overhead light panels which mimic daylight so you don’t necessarily feel four levels below ground.

I had the space to myself during the visit, and enjoyed a refreshing swim and dip into the plunge pool, followed by further pampering in the steam room and sauna within the changing rooms. There are also loungers surrounding the pool, and a minibar of healthy snacks plus mint-infused water – and the option to order food poolside. I’m also told that music is piped through speakers underwater, so you feel like you’re swimming with mythical sirens – but I can’t vouch for this as I kept my head above water.

Overlooking the pool on the Lower Level 3 is the large 24-hour fitness centre, furnished with Technogym equipment, while guests can also access wellness workouts via the in-room TV.

For those more interested in retail therapy, the hotel’s ground-floor retail arcade features nine shops from the likes of Asprey London and Moussaieff Diamonds. While this colonnade isn’t a regular feature at UK hotels, the concept has been successful in Asia and the team envisage that this will perform well in London too.

Verdict

The Peninsula has made its mark on London with this impressive and evidently expensive property, where each space has its own distinct character. Rooms are well-equipped for business and leisure, while the hotel’s fine dining restaurants are worth visiting even if you’re not staying the night.

FACT BOX

  • Best for Splashing out in London – from the Bentley drive to a bubble bath
  • Don’t miss An indulgent meal at Canton Blue
  • Price Rates start from £1,300 per night
  • Contact 1 Grosvenor Place, London SW1X 7HJ; 020 3959 2888; peninsula.com
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