St. James’s Place, London SWIA 1NY
Telephone: 44 (0) 20-7491-4840; Fax: 44 (0) 20-7493-1264; Toll-free reservations: 1-800-381-4702
The Location Tucked away in its own flower-filled courtyard in the heart of London mere steps from Mayfair, St. James’s and Green parks, the theater district and high-end shopping destinations that include Savile Row, Bond and Jermyn streets and the Burlington Arcade.
The Guests Old Money types — Boston Brahmins, Main Liners and the like — feel at home here, as do the low-key businessmen and diplomats who wouldn’t dream of staying anywhere else.
The Draw A discreet oasis for those preferring privacy and essentially English charm without “grand hotel” ostentation. Duke’s is quiet, elegant and comfortable with super-friendly staff who greet you by name from the moment you check in and see to your every need thereafter. Special touches include floral arrangements, votive candles and complimentary bottles of wine in the rooms. The veddy proper room service tea (with luscious sandwiches, cakes and scones with clotted cream) is an absolute must.
The Drawbacks Many rooms are rather wee (Dukes was once called Britain’s “smallest castle”) and have limited views, so ask to see another if you don’t like the first one you are shown. While the excellent breakfast is on a pricey par (about $60) with other first-rate London establishments, it does seem rather outrageous that parking a car costs just over $100 per day.
Accommodations Each room is furnished in the style of a particular English period: Georgian, Regency, Edwardian, etc., and features luxurious furnishings (many antique) and attractive works of art. Cushions and pillows are pleasingly plumped several times a day and the beds are equally soft and comfortable. The marble bathrooms have powerful showers, fluffy towels and robes and top notch Moulton Brown toiletries.
The Bar While the small and smoky bar at Dukes is known as a hideaway for hush-hush business deals and the odd assignation, the “Filthy Dirty Martini” ($28) prepared by longtime Italian barista Tony Micelotta has given it true fame. Said to be the most delicious Martini in the world, it is poured — never shaken or stirred. (Gulp two in a row and the concoction may prove lethal.) Ancient spirits are also a specialty and if you feel like splurging, sample a snifter (about one-sixth full) of the Lucian Foucault 1811 Napoleon Cognac at 200 quid ($390) a pop.
Amenities A small but fully-equipped health spa features cardio-vascular exercise equipment linked to a cardio theater sound system, and a steam room. Beauty treatments and massages are also available.
The Bottom Line Standard room, $500; classic/superior/luxury doubles, $580-$750; suites, $800-$1,850.
111a Westbourne Grove, London;
Rooms from $290 to $445 per night.
Packrats, rejoice! Collectors have a kindred soul in Martin Miller, proprietor of London boutique hotel Miller’s Residence (the name is apt — Miller and his Romanian-born wife, Ioana Beju, live onsite). Located in trendy Notting Hill, the hotel is packed with furniture, art and an eclectic mishmash of bibelots picked up at shops, flea markets and auctions over the years. Miller knows antiques — in 1969 he started Miller’s Antique Price Guide, the first published listing of antiques prices. Coincidentally, the hotel is also close to the Portobello Road antiques district and other funky Notting Hill shopping stops.
Miller’s Residence, opened in 1997, is a home away from home for artists, models, actors and businessmen who like warm and inviting surroundings, a full English breakfast every morning and gratis drinks from the hotel’s well-stocked bar during the daily impromptu cocktail party — or any time of day or night for that matter. (Please note that Miller is also the purveyor of Miller’s Gin, an award-winning spirit he launched in 2003.) The kitchen is open to guests looking for a nocturnal snack as well, and in winter the drawing room fireplace blazes until the wee hours, providing an exceptionally comfy spot to wind down after a long evening on the town.
Rooms and suites continue the mix and match vibe. Each is named for an English Romantic poet with the decor reflecting the writers’ spirit. Blake, Byron, Keats, Coleridge, Shelley, Browning, Tennyson and Wordsworth all get the treatment. All the accommodations are stuffed with antiques, from a four- poster Chippendale bed in the Byron room to the early 18th-century furniture and paintings that give the Blake room the feel of a rooming house of that period.
Described as “an antidote to Minimalism” by a glossy fashion magazine not long ago, Millers remains a well guarded secret kept by guests who stay over and over again.