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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

(continued from page 3)

If you've ever wondered what it was like to belong to one of the most exclusive gentlemen's clubs in London's West End in the early 1900s, then book yourself into The Connaught. The miles of wood paneling, formal restaurants, well-tended bars and morning-coated employees are reminiscent of a time when the sun never set on the British Empire. You'll feel like a member of the aristocracy or landed gentry the minute you check into The Connaught.

Established in 1897, the hotel is now getting a makeover, so be sure to ask if your room has been renovated. Some of the rooms are too frayed at the elbows to warrant The Connaught's high prices. Rooms on a whole are small compared to the other top hotels in the West End, although they have a more homey, almost country inn feel to them. Be sure you want the quintessential English experience before you make a reservation.

That said, one might expect staying at The Connaught to be slightly stuffy: men in dusty old Savile Row suits and women in faded Liberty print frocks still fill the common rooms. But it's not at all like that. You are as likely to meet a Parisian couple in sportswear or Italian businessmen in Armani suits in the hotel's two excellent bars as anybody else. The service staff certainly doesn't discriminate; they treat you like royalty no matter who you are -- as long as you are a client. There's even a small, well-equipped gym for the health-conscious crowd, but most guests are happy with the afternoon tea and finger sandwiches.

The Connaught has two outstanding restaurants: the Grill Room and the Connaught. The former is the better of the two. In autumn, there is no better place to dig into plates of roasted pheasant with bread sauce and other traditional game dishes. Moreover, this is one of the best spots to enjoy grilled Dover sole. Whatever you want to eat -- from scrambled eggs with black truffles to smoked salmon -- the chefs are more than happy to provide. However, don't forget your jacket and tie.

The Connaught, like the world's best nanny, is a place that looks after you. It's the same with London's centuries-old men's clubs. The only difference is the membership, which is the price of a room at The Connaught.

The Dorchester

53 Park Lane, Mayfair, W1A 2HJ
Tel.: 44/207-629-8888
Fax: 44/207-409-0114
195 rooms; 55 suites
Rates: singles from about $400 to $425;
doubles from about $450 to 525; suites from about $650 to $2,900

One of the most stylish of London's grand hotels, The Dorchester opened its doors in 1931 and was an immediate hit with old Hollywood and famous dignitaries. There has always been a theatrical quality to the hotel, which is strongly reflected in the inventive decor of some of the private dining rooms and suites by stage designer Oliver Messel.

After the Sultan of Brunei bought the Dorchester in 1989 extensive renovations were undertaken. When the hotel reopened its doors a year later everyone admired the magnificent restoration.

Rooms are sumptuous and individually decorated in an English country house style, and despite the proximity to busy Park Lane, you won't hear traffic. The bathrooms are elegant compositions of Italian marble and chrome. Guests can use the spa's steam rooms and saunas and gym.

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