Wining, dining and reclining at The Biltmore Mayfair

By Gabriel Power | 30 Nov 2021 | Travel

Located on one of London's most iconic squares, this gorgeous hotel is the perfect getaway location for those seeking prestige and luxury

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As a dual UK/US citizen, the words “Grosvenor Square” have, until this year, struck a sense of fear into my heart. The home of the US embassy until 2017, it is a place synonymous with outrageously long passport renewal queues, waiting rooms doused in harsh white strip lighting and security guards with the collective zeal and tact of a clan of frenzied hyenas. It is where any figurative bonfires lit by the idea of visiting my friends and relatives in Pennsylvania were firmly and thoroughly urinated upon.

Thankfully for all Americans living in London, the world’s most miserable embassy has been banished to the wilderness of Nine Elms and the cloud hanging over Grosvenor Square has been lifted, and quite a gorgeous scene lies underneath. The skyline of this corner of Mayfair is resplendent with monumental oak trees, beyond which one can see the facades of historic Georgian townhouses and mansions. The perfectly manicured grass is punctuated by art pieces and deck chairs, while a tidy - if somewhat unusual - looping traffic system keeps congestion to an absolute minimum. It is a cosy safe harbour of peace in a 13-million-strong sea of urban uproar.

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This, it should probably go without saying, makes it perhaps the most fitting location for a luxury hotel one could hope to find in central London, and I had the good fortune to experience a stay at one of the establishments that secured this prime spot; The Biltmore Mayfair. The newest UK offering from LXR Resorts, the luxury arm of Hilton Hotels, The Biltmore sits on the site of the old Millennium Hotel (and the famed Britannia Hotel before that), but has taken on entirely new identity following a gargantuan £50m refurbishment ending in late 2019. 

To stay at The Biltmore is to be surprised at every turn. Before even stepping into the lobby, I was stunned to discover - through a quick pre-entry Google - that the glorious neoclassical building which houses the hotel was completed not in the Victorian Era as its beautiful red brick facade and pearly white columns would suggest, but in 1969 by architectural genius Richard Seifert, usually known for more modernist projects such as Tower 42. The lobby itself is something of a welcome shock too, with a unique circular light taking up most of the ceiling, the centrepiece of which is a magnificent chandelier, refracting beams of light across the Art Deco interior. 

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The staff are diligent and attentive, rushing to greet us and help with our luggage before checking us in and informing us that a no-show had allowed my partner, baby and I to be upgraded from a Deluxe Room to one of the hotel’s magnificent suites overlooking Grosvenor Square. After our warm welcome we shuffled into the ornate lifts and headed up to our floor, the lift doors opening to reveal a remarkable - and contemporary - change of scenery. Here, dim lighting and jet black walls dominate the aesthetic while a thick carpet deadens all sound; it’s a serene space complete with tastefully muted artwork and pleasant communal seating areas. 

The scene behind the door to our suite - one of 250 rooms and 57 suites the hotel offers - was a sight to behold. Immediately we were greeted by a cosy - though not necessarily small - living room space featuring an enormous flatscreen TV, plush sofas bedecked in classy velvet and a rather fetching wooden cot for our little one; it was a level of luxury our functional IKEA-brand crib at home could never hope to offer him. We slid open the door to our bedroom to reveal an even more striking sight - a bright, airy, white room with towering windows peering out over the square below. But in the middle was a fairly lofty bed, the head of which was pushed against one wall that featured a distinctly East Asian aesthetic, featuring gold and black silhouettes of what looked like cherry blossoms. It was a calming space to which my family and I quickly adjusted, cuddling up in bed with a coffee from the machine and cracking the TV on for a few rounds of whatever multicoloured nonsense would keep my son from playing with the plug sockets.

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With the baby sedated, I slithered off for a bath in the hefty free-standing tub that served as the centrepiece of our sizeable bathroom. The room emulated a spa of sorts, with a heated slate floor and cool white marble walls exuding luxury alongside the large waterfall shower on the opposite wall. Having checked in at 2pm, we ended up spending hours lounging around in our dressing gowns before suiting up for a trip to Cafe Biltmore, the on-site restaurant, for the sort of depressingly early 5pm dinner that we had become accustomed to since our son was born.

But even if our self-imposed time slot was a bit of a downer, the food was anything but. Of the many hotel restaurant experiences I have had during my time in this line of work, Cafe Biltmore was right up there with the best of them, offering unpretentious, filling, high-quality fare, washed down with superb wines recommended by one of the most knowledgeable sommeliers I have had the pleasure of conversing with. We took a seat in the cavernous outdoor area, awash with heaters to combat the October chill. Quite remarkably, the bread with cultured butter was actually a highlight; the superb sourdough was fresh out of the oven, its spongy, warm interior allowing the butter to melt into it like a sponge. I had to tell my partner to put it on the opposite side of the table from me so I didn’t ruin my appetite. When the waiter came, we started with dorset crab on more delectable sourdough toast with confit lemon, natural yoghurt and sea herbs, along with an unusually out-of-this-world crispy calamari with lime, Thai dressing and sweet chilli dip.

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I opted for a main course of handmade rigatoni with nduja, mascarpone, basil, Parmesan, and confit tomatoes, which perfectly adhered to the Italian mantra “less is more”, allowing the ingredients to speak for themselves without cluttering the dish with excessive flavours. My partner went for the saddleback pork belly served with a white bean cassoulet, savoy cabbage and pearl onions - it was a classically hearty dish that left us both feeling completely satiated, especially when mixed with the Les Grimaudes 2017, a stunning Red from the Rhone Valley which was brimming with spicy dark red fruit, with a savoury finish. After a genuinely delightful meal we finished up and were - predictably - in bed by 8pm, baby in tow, though at least with this layout we could put his cot in the living room and have the bedroom to ourselves; a rare luxury when travelling with an infant. 

The Biltmore Mayfair is an example of how to renovate successfully. Many recently revamped hotels have - inadvertently or not - gutted the features, flourishes and embellishment that once made the building special. Here, LXR has wrangled the classic timelessness of a stunning mansion overlooking one of London’s most picturesque squares and injected a serious dose of elegance and modernity, making it the ideal hideaway for those looking to experience the white hot heat of the centre of London head-on while still holding onto their sanity. It is a hotel wallowing in serenity, class and luxury while still retaining a sense of fun and levity. It is, simply put, the ultimate Mayfair destination.

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