The Dorchester is undeniably fabulous all year round. However there’s something special about The Dorch – as this landmark London hotel is affectionately known – during the festive season. Perhaps its the famous Promenade, adorned as it is with beautifully decorated Christmas trees, or maybe it’s the story book sweet shop whose entrance is guarded by giant Nutcracker soldiers but no other hotel in the capital does festive with such panache. Little wonder then that for many who check in over Christmas, it immediately becomes their favourite London hotel.
Built back in 1931, the first thing you’ll notice on arrival at The Dorchester is the glamorous parking area – there’s always a showy car or two (we spied registration plates from Kuwait and Qatar) parked outside this plush property.
Once you’ve finished snapping the supercar parade, push through the revolving doors and prepare to be spoiled on a considerable scale. The Dorchester’s immaculately groomed, all smiling staff sweep across marble floors to lavish you with the sort of attention that makes you feel – if only for 24 hours – that you have entered a different world.
This thrillingly old fashioned service may make The Dorchester sound dated but it’s anything but, as you’ll discover upon being shown to your suite.
The suites and rooms were refurbished in the summer of 2014 and their makeover has added modern glamour of a Hollywood level to the hotel. (Speaking of Hollywood, The Dorchester is a favourite haunt of A-listers. Name your star and they’ll certainly have hung their hats here…)
The marmite floral fabrics and chintzy decor has been replaced with a tasteful palette of grey, beige and taupe that makes for an exercise in measured elegance. All accommodation elates (it’s The Dorchester so there’s no such thing as a ‘bad’ room) but we recommend upgrading to a Park View Suite which, as the name suggests, offers million dollar views along Park Lane and of Hyde Park. The Park Suites also boast majestic wood-panelled sitting rooms, a separate dining area and a spacious guest bathroom (in addition to the ensuite marble bathroom) – great if you’re entertaining.
Nothing prepared Haute Time for the sight of our suite. From the sumptuous bed – the soft kind you could spend all day in – to the marble bathroom you could lose yourself in, no luxury has been left out. But it’s the little details – the carefully curated array of magazines in the living room and the decadent rouge drinks cabinet that could have come straight from the set of Mad Men – that charm.
Leaving the suite was a real wrench but we did eventually manage to drag ourselves downstairs for a drink in the Bar at The Dorchester. We’re not normally one to stick to the safe parameters of a hotel bar but this isn’t your average hotel drinking hole. The Bar at The Dorchester’s mirrored, mahogany interior is the perfect place to enjoy an expertly mixed cocktail, created by world-renowned expert alchemist Giuliano Morandin and his team. (Tip: try The Gingerbread man – Janneau VSOP, Pain d’epices liqueur, pasteurised egg yolk, almond milk, fresh ginger and a sprinkle of nutmeg – aka Christmas in a glass). Meanwhile the glamorous crowd make for great bar company.
After a few drinks you’ll need to eat and happily food is a big part of The Dorchester scene. There are plenty of places to eat – including David Tang’s China Tang and Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester – but the newly revamped Grill at The Dorchester gets our vote. Even if you aren’t staying at The Dorchester (more fool you), do have dinner at this extraordinary restaurant overseen by a chef (Alain Ducasse’s protégé, Christophe Marleix) at the top of his game.
Plates such as the restaurant’s signature Blue lobster chowder and sweet soufflés (a first for London) are more than food: they’re artistry. Food aside, The Grill is a seriously good looking restaurant (we’re still raving about the hand-blown Murano glass chandelier) where you somehow become friends with the waiter.
Dinner at The Dorchester was a hard act to follow but breakfast (served until a civilised 10.30am) the next morning in the pretty Promenade, was equally as impressive. We enjoyed a spread fit for an emperor: think eggs any way you want plus pancakes, waffles and granola that both looked and tasted sublime.
And if you’re worried about any Christmas weight gain, you can always work off the calories in the fitness centre – a true study in technology. Alternatively just jog around Hype Park, which is basically your garden…
Assuming you do decide to leave (I mentioned that it’s hard to leave the suite, but exiting the hotel is also something of a challenge), The Dorchester’s ideal location (slap bang in one of London’s swankiest enclaves) is ideal for getting a sense of the city. It was a revelation to roam, as though on holiday, around W1 rather than that usual London thing or turning up somewhere only to rush off across town.
But the bottom line is this: nothing outside The Dorchester beats what’s on offer inside (I’d run out of column inches if I was to include all the unforgettable moments we enjoyed at this iconic hotel). All told, the weather may be frightful but you can rely on The Dorchester to deliver a heathy dose of festive cheer. I left looking better and feeling calmer and lighter inside: it’s the perfect place to start the new year, without having to jet off.