One would expect a 117-year-old building to be looking a little faded around the edges with the passage of time. Thankfully, London’s grand dame of hotels, the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park belies her years.
Her red-brick turreted exterior stands proudly overlooking Hyde Park and Harvey Nichols like a monument against Knightsbridge’s panorama of characterless glass-and-concrete monoliths.
Admittedly, she’s just had an extensive two-year restoration, overseen by designer Joyce Wang but her Edwardian roots remain strong. Wall-to-wall marble sourced from around the world, columns crowned in gold and elaborate Art Deco-inspired lighting epitomises regal elegance.
Tables adorned with seasonal flowers in graduated tones and height soften the scene. It’s the hotel’s fine pedigree that really resonates. Follow in the footsteps of endless celebrities including Robbie Williams, who was staying when fire nearly destroyed all the hard work in 2018.
The Queen hosted a dinner on the eve ofWilliam and Kate’s nuptials and Princess Margaret has danced in the ballroom.
From the minute you’re greeted by doormen in red tails and top hats, you know this is not going to be any ordinary hotel. Mere mortals have to sweep up the stairs and into an explosion of light and colour in the Rosebery Lounge. But if you’re the Queen, you can enter via the Hyde Park gates, the permission to open these needs to be sought from Buckingham Palace.
Wang’s makeover is all about instilling the feeling of the Golden Age of travel, while drawing inspiration from the park. She spent two years gathering feathers, leaves and closely observing the changing seasons.
The 181 rooms (and a suite and penthouses) encapsulate just that. All look onto Knightsbridge or Hyde Park. Wallpaper panels look like bark but feel like silk.
Swan feathers have been used to decorate mirrors while others, dyed in bright pigments, sit in little pots on the bookshelves. Patterned carpets on pale wooden floors resemble autumn leaves and Art Deco light fittings in the bathroom and curved pale wood wardrobes are faithful to the movement.
Deep velvet chairs and headboards evoke luxury and decadence as do the enormous beds. Bathrooms are wall-to-wall marble with wet-room, walk-in showers and baths.
Special touches (if you need any) are curated libraries celebrating the best of the British Isles – from Turner and Windsor Castle to famed writers, WBYeats and PG Wodehouse.
Downstairs, the uplifting Rosebery cafe, flooded with light, features calming pale grey walls punctuated with splashes of bright modern artworks.
The pops of colour continue through to the club chairs with hot pink and bright citrus silk cushions and the oversized, circular “chandeliers” suspended from the white corniced ceiling cast a hazy, warming glow.
FOOD & DRINK
Don’t miss afternoon tea with a twist at The Rosebery, where the tiers of delicacies are hung from copper trees beside the tables.
The big hitter here is Heston Blumenthal’s Michelin-star Dinner. He’s been in residence since 2011, making food science the norm. This sprawling restaurant, in a somewhat dated chocolate brown and cream, is positively minimalistic compared to the rest of the hotel.
Undoubtedly intentional, so as to not distract from the food and the buzzy ambience.
Experiment with lamb and cucumber, meat fruit (Mandarin, chicken liver parfait and grilled bread), powdered duck breast and Iberico pork chop.
Around £180 for two.
A safer, more predictable bet is the superb Bar Boulud headed by French chef, Daniel Boulud.
Half-curtained windows, high wooden tables and booths offer an admirable interpretation of an authentic French bistro. Let the sommelier marry wine with exceptional dishes: poulpe grillé (grilled octopus with orange) was like Greece on a plate, and the moules à la crème, straight from the Parisian boulevards. Most start with a charcuterie board (patés, terrines, meats and mustards). Around £80 for two.
You could easily spend half a day in the Mandarin Oriental’s elegant spa with 14 treatment rooms offering everything from a gentle massage to a complete body pampering extravaganza.
Each treatment starts with a foot bath ritual based around the Chinese concept of yin and yang and a discussion with your therapist who doesn’t just talk about the outside but inside too. Here it’s all about balance and channelling your energy to where it’s needed most.
There are little rooms to calm the soul such as the Amethyst Crystal steam room, sauna and vitality pool with invigorating bubbles. My Oriental Qi treatment, featuring a powerful full body massage was so deeply relaxing that I almost fell asleep but the stainless steel lap pool quickly revived me before I was relaxing again on the poolside sun loungers.
Treatments from £60.
Knightsbridge usually means one thing to most people; shopping. Right opposite is Harvey Nichols, where designers hand pick their best bits. The fifth floor is perfect for people-watching with a YO! Sushi bar and 109 bar.
Down the street is Harrods and nearby Beauchamp Place, a favourite hangout of the late Princess Diana who often dined at San Lorenzo.
Opposite the hotel is of course the sprawling Hyde Park. Stop by the Serpentine Gallery with its fantastic slate-roofed, open pavilion (until Oct). Visit the ornate Albert Memorial and listen to those with an opinion at Speakers’ Corner each Saturday and Sunday morning.
Enjoy the park from the back of a horse courtesy of Ross Nye Stables (020 7262 3791; rossnyestables.co.uk) – there’s nothing like a brisk trot up Rotten Row past Knightsbridge Barracks on a sturdy steed.
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park (0207 235 2000/ mandarinoriental.com/London/hyde-park) offers doubles from £670.
London tourism: visitlondon.com
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