A posh Mayfair landmark

121 Rooms / 34 Suites

There’s an air to The Connaught that can only be achieved by a property of this age and grandeur. It oozes the glamour of those who have walked its halls since it opened in 1897, from actors Lauren Bacall, Dirk Bogarde and one-time resident Alec Guinness, to presidents, directors and fashion names that the hotel staff, in its utmost professionalism, refuses to divulge. It has the royal seal of approval, having been visited by various members of the British monarchy over the decades; it’s the only hotel to be granted permission to use the Buckingham Palace “royal red” in its carpets, and the hotel does take its name from Queen Victoria’s seventh child Arthur, Duke of Connaught, after all.

Despite being more than 100 years old, there’s nothing dated about this luxury hotel. A 2007 refurbishment ensured its period features were lovingly restored and technology and amenities brought into the 21st century. The Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel feels more like a private mansion with shining marble floors and grand pillars, original wood panelling and a sweeping mahogany staircase that winds up through five floors — Ralph Lauren was so enamoured with this feature, he replicated it in it flagship Madison Avenue store in New York.

Being located in the heart of Mayfair makes The Connaught a perfect base from which to explore the rest of London, including the theaters of the West End, open spaces of nearby Hyde Park and Green Park, and the designer boutiques, galleries, antique stores and restaurants a stone’s throw away on Mount Street.

Even the grandest hotel in the world is nothing without great service, and The Connaught goes above and beyond to deliver this. With a ratio of three staff to one guest, the top-notch attention you receive from the moment you walk through the revolving doors of this London hotel makes you feel like a VIP. A personal butler is on call to attend to every whim and a well-connected concierge desk (it once arranged for a pair of lion cubs to be brought to the hotel) ensures you are well looked after.

The Rooms

The 121 Guy Oliver- and David Collins-designed guest rooms have instantly relaxing muted tones, bespoke and contemporary furniture, fine Italian linen, marble en suites with 17-inch LCD televisions, intelligent air and heating systems, walk-in showers, organic Bamford toiletries, Bose entertainment systems and Nespresso machines (in the suites as standard, but available complimentary upon request for all other rooms).

The Connaught’s suites are so delicious you’d be forgiven for spending your whole time in London in your room. There’s the Sutherland Suite, complete with grand piano; The Library Suite, with a charming secret bookcase door; and the philanthropic Prince’s Lodge, which is like stepping inside a fairy tale, with hand-carved furniture, stained-glass windows and an oak-beamed, double-height ceiling (3 percent of revenue from this suite is donated to the Turquoise Mountain Foundation, an Afghanistan non-profit regenerating the old city of Kabul). At the top, there’s The Apartment, all 3,068 square feet of it, which offers, in addition to a private staircase, bar and kitchenette, a wrap-around balcony that looks out over the rooftops to London landmarks such as the BT Tower, Westminster and The Shard.

The Art

Before you step into the hotel, Tadao Ando’s bronze tree water feature greets you, omitting a mysterious mist every 20 minutes. Inside, around every corner, stairwell, nook and cranny, there hangs or sits a piece of art: from the black-and-white shots by legendary photographer Horst P. Horst that line the route to the spa; the punchy Richard Serra painting behind reception; the stunning chalk and charcoal Story of the Seas by Cornish artist Sax Impey; the magical Moon Garden by Tom Stuart-Smith, to the two bespoke and striking butterfly Damien Hirsts at Hélène Darroze. The pièce de résistance is Kristjana Williams’ The Clearing, a beautiful and intricate paper collage melding late Victorian motifs with subtle tributes to key elements of The Connaught: the greyhound, Hélène Darroze and her children represented by a tiger with two cubs; a spider with the fifth-floor atrium roof as its body; a mist, a nod to the installation out front; the grandfather clocks with the faces from the Julian Opie portraits that hang in the Coburg Bar, and so on.

The Food

To taste The Connaught’s Victorian roots, there’s the mighty afternoon tea, a truly British affair served up in the bright Espelette restaurant, which looks out onto Carlos Place. For classic French with a touch of modern, don’t miss Hélène Darroze (fast fact: chef Darroze was inspiration for the character Colette in the 2007 Pixar movie Ratatouille). It combines seasonal dishes, top-quality ingredients sourced largely from France and the British Isles, with a sprinkle of fun. Your three-, five-, seven- or nine-course menu is selected with the use of a wooden solitaire board. For a special occasion, the Sommelier’s Table, hidden in the limestone wine cellar below the hotel’s kitchens, offers up to eight diners a unique experience in which the sommelier selects wines to your pre-discussed tastes and chef Darroze creates a bespoke menu around them.

The Bars

This Mayfair hotel houses three fabulous bars, each offering something quite different, but equally inviting. The Coburg is the place to soak up a taste of The Connaught’s history, with an ornate plaster ceiling, art deco lamps and original seating, and modern touches in the black marble India Mahdavi-designed bar and quirky portraits by Julian Opie. This former reading room has a relaxed private-members feel by day, and a buzzy vibe by night. James Bond fans can follow in the footsteps of its creator Ian Fleming, who was a former waiter here, serving the navy intelligence regulars — no doubt inspiration for his work — or French general Charles de Gaulle, who did business with Winston Churchill within these walls. It’s the vast drinks menu that really deserves to be center of attention here: an extensive list of eclectic and rare whiskies, 18 years old and upwards, and the largest selection of champagne vintages in the world, including a 1964 Krug and 1914 Pol Roger. It’s the only place you can order cuvee Winston Churchill by the glass. Cocktail fans will enjoy working their way through the timeline of historical recipes running from the 1860s to the present day.

Over in the Connaught Bar, it’s Gatsby-esque glitz, bespoke etched John Jenkins glassware, leather banquette seating and an impressive variety of ice. It’s the place to head for a late-afternoon martini, where there’s much more to choose from than shaken or stirred. Here, the classic martini is taken up a notch with the addition of one of eight house bitters.

In the new part of the building is the 20-seater Champagne Bar. A former brass humidor has been refashioned into a small bar area, housing a collection of hefty Baccarat crystal champagne flutes. A glass oval ceiling looks up to a life-size bronze diver by sculptor Sophie Dickens, granddaughter of Charles, and the magical photographs of floral bouquets submerged in water, taken by Gilles Bensimon, work together to create the feeling of being immersed in a pool.

The Spa

If the sumptuous surroundings don’t relax you, the Four-Star Aman Spa will surely loosen the knots and clear the head. The only Aman Spa in the U.K. is a breath of fresh air. The emphasis is on reading the needs of the individual and prescribing the perfect treatment through four journeys. The jet-lagged should opt for the energy-restoring China experience; the constantly on the go will find peace in the meditative India experience (popular with top business people and celebrities, apparently); the purifying North American treatment is recommended for new beginnings; and the deep-tissue Thai massage will pummel away the soreness from a long flight.

DETAILS - Insider Information About This Hotel

DETAILS - Insider Information About This Hotel