The Dorchester is having a moment. Not only has Alain Ducasse just celebrated ten years and three Michelin stars at this Park Lane palace, but the hotel has just finished its five-year suite renovation project by Alexandra Champalimaud – the New York-based design studio responsible for jazzing up The Stafford in St James’s and the Waldorf Astoria in New York.
Some of The Dorchester suites, notably the Park suites and penthouses, have been modernised quite dramatically. Others such as the Mayfair and Belgravia suites – a nod to the hotel’s proximity to these West End locations – exude a traditional glamour befitting the rest of the building’s Art Deco style.
My guest and I stay in one of the Belgravia suites. The bedroom has a palette of soft, shimmering pinks and golds; while the living room is a spectrum of blues and finished with pieces of dark, Eastern-style furnishings. Both the bathroom and shower rooms are lined with light Italian Carrara marble.
The views over Hyde Park and the city are spectacular: we are lucky to have chosen a bright, crisp and clear autumn day to check in. Just ten minutes after we begin to settle in, our two royal household-standard butlers introduce themselves and present us with one of the hotel’s signature cocktails – Her Majesty’s Cup. Created for the Queen on her Diamond Jubilee, this special blend contains Earl Grey-infused berries, rhubarb, Hendrick’s gin and champagne. It is poured from a floral china teapot into cups perched peculiarly on stems, like champagne coupes.
Our butlers are on hand throughout our stay as part of the newly launched Essence of Belgravia experience, which also includes a private tour of the workshop of Belgravia-based chandler Rachel Vosper, followed by a masterclass in candle-making.
We manage to fit in a visit to the aromatic steam room and relaxation room in the basement spa for some downtime before dinner at The Grill. The restaurant was opened when the hotel was established in 1931, and the dramatic décor – rejuvenated by Bruno Moinard in 2014 – reflects this period, as well as many of its theatrical guests including Elizabeth Taylor, Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick. A commanding Murano glass chandelier takes centre stage, and rotating panels on the windowless walls alter the ambience depending on whether it’s day or night. Grand, gilded and dimly lit (since it is the evening), it reminds me of the gold room in Kubrick’s 1980 film The Shining – perhaps it served as inspiration.
It would be silly not to choose a soufflé when dining at The Grill, which boasts the first dedicated sweet soufflé menu in London. I opt for the savoury Westcombe cheddar version to start, while my guest waits until dessert to select the Sicilian pistachio and salted caramel (after much deliberation). For the main course, we both decide to dine from the grill menu: my guest has a juicy Black Angus beef fillet and I am served two succulent slices of pork belly. The lemon tart serves as the perfect palate cleanser and is presented simply yet beautifully – encased in a meringue shell.
Back upstairs, the bed is even more marshmallow-like than I expected, which makes rising for breakfast particularly hard. The restaurant’s atmospheric panels have been turned, and it feels as vibrant as the jugs of fruit juice that frame the buffet. My guest opts for a failsafe eggs Benedict, while I – as indecisive as ever – build my own, adding more components as our waiter suggests what seem like all my favourite things.
The suites have been refurbished but the hotel’s mystery, romance and inimitable character is still discernible. Yes, the Essence of Belgravia experience might include butlers that will cater for your every need (within reason, of course), but as far as I’m concerned The Dorchester already has it covered.
Belgravia suites from £1,258, or with Essence of Belgravia experience, until 31 December, from £1,458, 53 Park Lane, Mayfair, W1K 1QA, www.dorchestercollection.com.