The Dorchester Hotel, London


The Dorchester Hotel, London

by Carolyn Pearson

Global Living – Issue 9 | Novovember/December 2013

Occupying the most prestigious acre and a half of real estate in the world, the Dorchester Collection’s iconic British hotel, The Dorchester, overlooks the green expanse of London’s Hyde Park.

The lobby is abuzz with smiling guests checking in amid warm friendly greetings as regular guests are welcomed back; a bride poses for photographs and the distinctive green uniform of The Dorchester Bellmen all greet me as I enter through the iconic doors of one of London’s most famous Grande Dames.

Beyond reception I can already detect the scent of two stunning displays of pink blooms. Hydrangeas, cream and pink roses and lilies adorn either side of the famous promenade where one can hear the happy chatter and the soothing chink of ladies taking afternoon tea.

After a warm welcome, I am escorted to my room by James who tells me that I have been upgraded to his own personal favorite, The Dorchester Suite. On stepping into the suite, I felt like I had walked into an elegant apartment. This suite and the 21 other suites at The Dorchester were designed by Alexandra Champalimaud in time for the London 2012 Olympics.

With rich, earthy tones, a beautiful fireplace, and the sun streaming in through the bay window, the spacious sitting room literally took my breath away. Decorated with Versailles panel flooring, comfy sofas, delightful antique pieces and an impressive collection of artwork (including signed prints by His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales), tradition blended seamlessly with the huge, high-tech Bang & Olufsen TV and Bose speakers, and there was an interesting collection of glossy magazines and books and two well-stocked mini-bars. I knew it would be difficult to leave after only 24 hours!

The bright, Italian marbled bathroom has an invitingly deep bath, enormous walk-in shower, his and hers wash basins, and a flat screen TV integrated into the large mirror. Lots of fluffy towels, cozy robes and Dorchester bath products, blended especially by British company Aromatherapy Associates for the Dorchester’s 80th Anniversary, created the feeling of an indulgent, in-room spa.

Still in awe, I entered the bedroom to be met with a commanding four-poster bed adorned with the finest of sheets and the softest of pillows. The room was accessorized with elegant pieces of antique furniture, traditional wall sconces and more windows through which the autumn sunshine shone, together with a charming window seat from where one could sit and take in the view of Hyde Park. More technology, including a television and iPod speakers, and not one, but three, double wardrobes confirmed my suspicion that the Dorchester Suite is a place to linger for longer than just one night.

Built in 1931, The Dorchester quickly gained its reputation as one of the world’s best and most glamorous hotels. During the Second World War, The Dorchester was reputed to be the safest hotel in London due to its modern construction, and several cabinet ministers moved into the hotel on a semi-permanent basis. In 1942, General Dwight D. Eisenhower relocated to The Dorchester and today a suite remains in his name. The hotel closed in 1989 for a major refurbishment (the first since its opening) and has since undergone further renovations, including the introduction of a nearly 7,000-square-foot spa.

The award-winning bar at The Dorchester has been under the expert management of Giuliano Morandin for over 30 years. Guests fortunate enough to find themselves in the bar with Morandin will be entertained by his captivating stories about guests and years gone by. Famous for its cocktails and vintage creations, this glamorous bar, in rich red tones, was created by interior designer Thierry Despont.

Many dream of dinner at The Dorchester, and there are three distinctively different restaurants from which to choose. The famous Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester (3 Michelin Stars) serves French cuisine in discreet, contemporary surroundings. China Tang, conceived by Chef Sir David Tang, is noted for its classical, non-fusion dishes in a 1930s, Shanghai-inspired art deco setting. I look forward to returning to the China Tang Bar, perhaps for a traditional Singapore Sling in the most decadent and exotic surroundings.

The Grill at The Dorchester was our dining destination. Another one of Despont’s designs, dramatic murals adorn the walls, with rich fabrics, tartan, quirky banquettes and the most stunning centerpiece of 100 red roses. We opted for the four-course tasting menu, with paired wines. The amuse-bouche of seared mackerel, avocado mousse, and lime meringue led the way for a delicious journey through interesting little dishes incorporating some of Britain’s finest ingredients, accompanied by an exciting array of champagnes, wines, Madeira and dessert wines. My personal favorite was the monkfish with baked kohlrabi, grelot onions and cider beurre blanc. The new season partridge, served with crunchy parsnip, pears and black rice, was complemented by the most divine Edmeades Zinfandel (2010), and we opted to share the cheese plate which came with English staples such as Stilton, Lincolnshire Poacher Cheddar and the aptly-named Stinking Bishop from Gloucestershire.

In contrast to the more formal dining spaces, the promenade was our choice for a hearty a la carte breakfast. Essentially the centerpiece of the hotel, this is how one might imagine The Dorchester. The promenade is decorated with beautiful fabrics – unashamedly over-the-top opulence in golds, corals and olives – and acres of fresh flowers refreshed every day by the Dorchester’s own in-house florist.

After further lounging in my beautiful suite, it was time to head to the spa. One could easily write an entire feature about the Dorchester Spa – in my opinion one of the most beautiful spaces in the entire hotel. On entering, I couldn’t help but notice the unique chandelier made from, I’m told, 72,000 South Pacific pearls. The opulent, deep blue relaxation area with rich velvets and silk is a perfect place to lounge before or after your treatment.

To prepare for my treatment I spent a few moments in the private steam room to warm my aching muscles. I opted for the classic Swedish massage to relieve many weeks of business-travel-induced shoulder tension. My therapist was warm and friendly, taking time to understand my needs. She selected the perfect oil for me before expertly soothing the stresses and strains.

The Dorchester Spa uses products from Aromatherapy Associates, Carol Joy London and Kirstin Florian. The nine treatment rooms are white and minimalist and have the largest and most comfortable, heated massage beds imaginable. After your treatment you are invited to indulge in a little tasty treat and refreshing beverage, such as coconut water or water infused with rose and cucumber. For something slightly more substantial, the breathtaking Spatisserie in soft creams and pinks is an exquisite space for a light lunch, afternoon tea, bite-sized treats of mini cakes, or just to sip on spa cocktails.

Guests can also enjoy the in-house, traditional barbers shop and hairdressers or, for the more energetic, there is of course the fitness studio.

I love it when a hotel exceeds my expectations, and I was amazed at just how quickly I felt at home at The Dorchester. While The Dorchester has so much to offer, the space is still intimate enough to quickly become familiar. The friendly, unstuffy service and the assurance that whatever your request, the famous, impeccable Dorchester service will always shine through, are just some of the reasons why The Dorchester has made it onto my all-time list of favorite hotels.

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