Tempus puts the Dorchester's definitive five-star experience to the test
Since 1931, London’s Dorchester Hotel has led the luxury travel pack, but does the grand dame still offer the last word in sophisticated grandeur?
Opened in 1931 in the heart of Park Lane, The Dorchester is a storied affair – Prince Philip held his stag do here in 1949, for example – but one that has moved with the times. A look around the lobby reveals a surprisingly young crowd. They’re a wealthy bunch, for sure, but this place is a far cry from God’s waiting room. I’m not saying it’s hip, but neither is it hip replacement.
It’s the flowers you notice first. They are everywhere. Great bursts of colour scattered like wedding confetti – created by legendary florist Philip Hammond – which combine with the verdant palms in the opulent Promenade lobby to create a feeling of luxurious calm. Outside, a doorman in a top hat is gently inching a guest’s purple Lamborghini out of his prominent front-of-hotel parking spot while inside the reception area has the pleasing hubbub that comes from a lot of happy guests. It’s everything you’d expect as a curtain-raiser to one of London’s finest hotels.
Venture upstairs and hushed, thickly carpeted corridors give way to relatively compact rooms, but which are immaculately decorated. Think deep marble bathtubs, gorgeous mirrored cabinets and restful prints and hues. A Bang & Olufsen TV sits high on a wall (don’t you just love the way the screen closes like stage curtains when you turn one of these models off), an incredibly comfortable, vast bed dominates the room and, for those lucky enough to get a west-facing room on one of the higher floors, the whole of Hyde Park spreads out before you like a Capability Brown blueprint. >>
Three restaurants are on offer, all brilliant in their own way. Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester offers three Michelin-star French cuisine – only one of a trio of restaurants in the capital to have earned this most coveted of star levels – served in a quiet ‘temple of gastronomy’ style setting. Elsewhere, the celebrated China Tang offers a sophisticated Cantonese menu – and a great cocktail bar – while the revamped The Grill serves great grilled meats and celebrated soufflé desserts in an elegant dining room.
As you’d expect throughout the hotel, the service is second to none with staff anticipating your every need, almost before you realise you need it. Top marks, too, for the receptionist who, on overhearing that my daughter had forgotten her much-loved cuddly toy, quickly produced a Dorchester teddy bear. I salute you sir, as you saved my partner and I from a potentially sleepless night.
And as we enjoyed a fine full English breakfast in the lobby restaurant the next day – with the bear at pride of place on the table, of course – I gave silent thanks to the hundreds of people back of house that make the Dorchester experience so memorable. From the chef who baked our beautiful morning pastries to the cleaners who toil all night to leave every surface gleaming, it’s easy to see why this hotel remains the last word in luxury living.