peninsula london

The Peninsula London: Inside the new motor-themed hotel that’s racing ahead

29 Apr 2024 | |By Anna Prendergast

Has London’s new, motor racing-enthused super-hotel taken the capital’s hospitality scene up a gear, or has it stalled at the starting line?

Like the birth of any star, The Peninsula’s inception hinged first on the collapse of material: the demolition of a concrete 1970s office block at Hyde Park Corner. Then, a stellar crew of architects, designers and feng shui masters were enrolled to deliver what promised to be London’s first five-star newbuild hotel since 2012, when the Bulgari opened in Knightsbridge.

Four months after the grand opening, I travelled from Brixton to Belgravia in a custom built, ‘Peninsula Green’ BMW i7 to find out how the hotel was getting on now that the stardust had settled. Its fleet of green machines are signature ‘Pen’ – the hotel group first ordered a record breaking seven Silver Shadows for the Hong Kong outpost in 1970; just four years later, The Man with the Golden Gun was released in cinemas, in which Mary Goodnight, played by Britt Ekland, tells Roger Moore’s James Bond: “Everyone knows all the green Rolls-Royces belong to the Peninsula.”

Behind the wheel is Laszlo, a softly-spoken Hungarian who trained as a SWAT officer before moving to the UK and becoming a chauffeur. He deposits me in a cobbled courtyard inspired by Palazzo Farnese in Rome, in front of the hotel’s Portland stone façade.

Peninsula London

Inside, check-in is fast and painless, and I’m whisked up to my Peter Marino-designed bedroom. The architect’s clients include Dior, Chanel and Ermenegildo Zegna, and his expertise in ‘quiet luxury’ is evident. The room is elegant and polished, but it’s the thoughtful details that impress the most: a drawer in the walk-in wardrobe reveals nail-drying technology – supposedly, the wife of Peninsula owner and Hong Kong billionaire Sir Michael Kadoorie was so often late due to wet nail varnish that he had them installed in all the rooms.

The hidden valet cupboard that staff can access from the corridor allows for contactless room service. Meanwhile, a bureau houses the usual mini fridge and refreshments, as well as a stationery cupboard and printer that’s fully operational. Later, when I switch the bathroom to ‘spa mode’ and I’m gazing up at the honey-onyx tiles, I notice that the veining has been meticulously matched to create a continuous flow of amber lines. I also realise that, despite my proximity to one of the busiest roundabouts in the city, I can’t hear a peep.

Kadoorie’s grandfather founded The Peninsula in Kowloon, Hong Kong, in 1928, and the dynasty’s Asian roots are apparent throughout the London hotel. During construction, seventh-generation feng shui master Lui Chun was flown to the capital to advise on the energy flow of the building, and again to bless the property upon opening. Elsewhere, landscape architect Enzo Enea placed two 120-year-old Japanese maple trees in the courtyard to signify longevity. Everything here has been built to last 150 years, which also happens to be the length of the hotel’s leasehold from the Grosvenor Estate.

It took 35 years for Kadoorie to settle on the right location for his first London property, and a further seven to develop it. He told Tatler Asia: “I test everything, and believe you me, nine times out of 10 it doesn’t work for me.” I wonder how he’d feel about the fact that the thermostat doesn’t work in my room, rendering it hotter than a July day in Hong Kong. Reception sends an engineer at 1am, but I wonder if Chun’s mastery of energy might be more effective.

The Peninsula owner is, apparently, as obsessed with motoring and aviation as he is with guest experience: he has a pilot’s licence, plus a private collection of classic cars, which includes a 1932 Rolls-Royce Phantom II and a Talbot T150 CSS Pourtout coupé previously owned by racing driver Pierre Boncompagni.

Kadoorie’s passion is part of what makes The Peninsula so much fun – a word not often associated with the stuffiness and snobbery of five-star institutions. Where else can you arrive for drinks in a wicker-lined lift that looks and sounds like a hot air balloon? Or recline in your chair – upholstered in white leather, just like a Rolls Royce – and pull a lever to signal to the bartender that drinks are running low?

In 1935, English racing driver John Cobb broke the lap record at Brooklands Race Course in a Napier Railton – he later compared driving the car to “seeing how far you could lean out of a ninth-storey window without falling out”. Now, the very same silver bullet of a vehicle is parked in the lobby of The Peninsula. The hotel’s restaurant and bar, Brooklands, is named after the Surrey racecourse, and the restaurant is designed to celebrate Concorde.

In the bar, the motoring theme feels light-hearted and original, but in the eighth floor restaurant, the aircraft-inspired interiors seem rather clinical and cold. But, with chef Claude Bosi at the helm, dining is an elevated experience (both literally and figuratively). Emphasis is on championing British ingredients, exemplified in a delicate dessert that riffs on all things apple and manages to be cidersweet, comforting like crumble, crisp as the first bite of a Pink Lady and cinnamon-laced like the strudels of my childhood. Simultaneously new and nostalgic.

Peninsula London

Downstairs, chef Dicky To heads up the kitchen at Canton Blue, a reverential homage to Chinese cuisine: both the menu and Henry Leung’s interiors were inspired by the spice routes taken by 19th-century trading ship, Keying. While the hotel as a whole feels like a fusion of Asian and British hospitality, style and craftsmanship, the restaurants stick to their relative geographical spheres; one a transportative experience of Chinese cuisine and culture, and the other quintessentially British in its eccentricity.

The restaurants came to represent my experience of The Peninsula: a meal at Brooklands is a little like taking The Pen for a test drive – a thrilling experience that leaves you wanting to stay inside much longer. If you can’t justify the cost of an overnight stay, visit for the food, which is where this hotel races ahead.

From £1,100 per night, visit

Read more: The Londoner: The luxury hotel breathing new life into Leicester Square