Luxury Travel: London Hot Spots

The Berkeley's famous Blue Bar

The Berkeley's famous Blue Bar

THE BERKELEY

Wilton PlaceKnightsbridge, London SWIX 7RL

Telephone: 44 (0) 20-7235-6000; Fax: 44 (0) 20-7235-6000; Toll-free reservations: 1-800-637-2869

E-mail: reservations@maybourne.com;   website: www.the-berkeley.co.uk

 
The Location  With an Ideal address in the heart of tony Knightsbridge, The Berkeley is mere steps from Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Sloane Street designer boutiques. Hyde Park is close by and the Knightsbridge tube station only a couple of blocks away (not that many guests are likely to be spotted “Underground”).

The Guests The Berkeley is one of the best hotels in London and takes pride in pampering a posh international clientele that includes royalty, presidents, prime ministers and pop stars. Madonna got a special wooden floor installed in her suite so she could do proper yoga and the hotel didn’t mind redecorating the better part of an entire floor to accommodate an Arab potentate who stayed for three months at stupendous cost. Otherwise, you’ll see lots of international businessmen and well-heeled couples, some with children in tow.

The Draw  Ultra-luxe with superior service meeting the highest expectations of discriminating guests. The hotel is essentially low-key with little in the way of lobby bustle, although there are excellent people-watching opportunities during the chi-chi “Pret-a-Portea” in the Caramel Room each afternoon when fashionistas gather to sip Assam while nibbling on smoked salmon and delicious pastries made over in the style of the world’s top designers: Balenciaga striped chocolate eclairs, Valentino zesty lemon floral crunches and the like.

The Drawbacks Restaurant patrons often compete with residents for taxis, causing a bit of a wait especially when it rains (which in London is almost every day). Guests wishing to imbibe $25 cosmopolitans in the famed Blue Bar need to negotiate with a brusque bouncer who seems more eager to accommodate the trendy crowd of Sloane Ranger, Arab and Russian regulars who smoke and carouse there until the wee hours.

Accommodations Comfort abounds in the 214 rooms (including 65 suites) which are individually decorated by top interior designers in a mixture of modern and English country house styles. Expect plush carpeting and upholstery, exquisite window treatments, superior beds and enormous marble bathrooms along with all the modern conveniences (flat screen TVs, Internet, etc.) one requires in a five-star accommodation. Most views are minimal, so if that’s important ask for a room to the right of the hotel entrance facing the lovely square containing St. Paul’s Church.

Dining Petrus, featuring chef ‘s “theatrical” cuisine, has earned one Michelin star since its opening three years ago and remains one of London’s best and most beautiful restaurants. Try the lobster Arnold Bennett or the sweetbreads with fresh almond veloute for dinner topped off with a pineapple pannacotta with diced watermelon granite and coconut crisps for dessert, but be prepared for the bill, which can easily top $600 for two even with a low-end $100 bottle of wine.  Boxwood Cafe, Gordon Ramsay’s Manhattan-style eatery, is a stylish, more relaxed choice for simpler but high quality fare, especially the salads, lobster rolls, roast suckling pig sandwich and sugared doughnuts with yoghurt ice cream.

Amenities If your idea of hotel nirvana is an indoor swimming pool, the Berkeley”s magnificent rooftop facility (rare for London) is for you. Attached to a gym and spa, it is hardly ever crowded even though non- resident “members” are allowed in. A few leisurely laps are the perfect way to unwind after a long day of sightseeing, shopping or both.

The Bottom Line  Standard room with queen bed, $450-$900; deluxe junior suite, $900- $1,775; one-bedroom suite, $1,460-$2,430; garden pavilion suite, $7,800.

 

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