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London: Hotels

Fresh From Million-Dollar Make Overs, London's Top Hotels Are Enjoying A Renaissance
Stephen Brook
From the Print Edition:
Jeff Bridges, Sep/Oct 01

It's tempting for great hotels to rest on their laurels. But fortunately, London's premier hotels understand that a lot of competition is out there, and that guests, who pay hundreds of dollars per night for a room, have a right to expect the best. If rooms become shabby or service deteriorates, word soon gets around. Thankfully, London's best hotels have worked hard to maintain their position at the top of the heap.

The Ritz has been completely revamped and is now among the very best of London luxury hotels, which was not the case in the early 1990s. Claridge's has never looked so good. Public areas, bars and rooms have been renovated and the hotel plans a multimillion dollar upgrade of its restaurant this autumn. The Berkeley, too, has improved its public rooms beyond recognition while The Connaught has upgraded to museum quality.

At the same time the frequent traveler to London wants consistency, and top hotels such as The Dorchester and Four Seasons have maintained not just their high standards but also their style. Personal preference plays an enormous part in choosing a hotel. Classics such as Claridge's or The Dorchester are popular with celebrities and are places to see and be seen. Hotels such as The Connaught and The Berkeley are more discreet and intimate. Almost every top London hotel caters to the business traveler, providing fax machines and modems as standard features; The Four Seasons, The Lanesborough and The Ritz are particularly well equipped.

Location can be a factor in one's choice of hotel. For those who come to London to shop, The Berkeley and Mandarin Hyde Park are ideally situated in Knightsbridge. Hotels on Piccadilly such as The Ritz and Meridien are in the heart of the West End and thus centrally located, while The Savoy or the modern One Aldwych are in the heart of London's theater district.

In addition to the hotels reviewed here, there are quality chains, such as Hilton and Meridien, which have well-situated hotels in London. They offer consistency but can lack personality. There are also small luxury hotels with reputations established mostly by word of mouth. These include the chic, minimalist Halkin in Knightsbridge; the quirky, funky Portobello in Notting Hill; the Milestone in Kensington and the almost frighteningly minimalist Hempel in Bayswater.

One particularly attractive option is the Capital in Knightsbridge which offers very comfortable rooms, one of the top concierges in London and a deservedly acclaimed restaurant. Another is the Italianate Halkin, which will soon boast a trendy Austral-Asian restaurant headed by Australian chef David Thompson.

However, the seven hotels listed below are classic places to stay in London. They are centrally located in the heart of the West End and offer the best. All prices quoted below exclude Value Added Tax, which is presently 17.5 percent.

The Berkeley

Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, SW1X 7RL
Tel.: 44/207-235-6000
Fax: 44/207-235-4330

139 rooms; 29 suites
Rates: singles about $400; doubles about $500 to $550; suites from about $675 to $4,300

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