Named for its former aristocratic clientele, home to a sumptuous Perrier-Jouet lounge and boasting a Michelin-starred chef in the shape of Nigel Mendham, Dukes is my kind of place
Add to that its claim to fame that it was here Ian Fleming cooked up James Bond's favourite martini cocktail (it is still served in the bar – the London No 1 – along with an elaborate menu of drinks, many of which are mixed personally for you at your table), its Moroccan kasbah-inspired cigar and cognac garden and its secluded spot in an exclusive, ivy-clad enclave of Mayfair, and you are sure to leave here stirred but not shaken. It also won the coveted World’s Ultimate Service Award in Hospitality at January’s World Travel Awards, so you know you’ll be treated like royalty.
WINING AND DINING?
The dining experience begins with a glass of bubbly in the PJ Lounge, decorated in pinks and greens, all Belle Epoque styling with Louis chairs, plush velvet drapes and glass-topped coffee tables. Our only disappointment was that PJ does not actually stand for pyjamas (meaning, no, we couldn’t recline in our jim-jams and get slowly sloshed) but rather Perrier-Jouet. An easy mistake to make.
Dinner at Thirty Six featured dishes such as dry-aged beef carpaccio with beetroot and horseradish, followed by Goosnargh duck with savoury granola, foie gras and black cherry, and Highland venison with butternut fondant, ossobucco and bacon spatzle. Dessert was a deconstructed take on old favourites, so you had apple and bramble crumble with crème brûlée and sorbet, and tiny vanilla donuts with raspberry semifreddo. Everything looked beautiful and tasted exquisite.
Even breakfast was a work of art, with a tower of scrambled egg atop a slivered circle of toast, and yoghurt accompanied by artfully arranged slices of banana and a tiny jug of honey. It really is the only way to start the day.
ROOM SERVICE? Decorated in tasteful hues of white, teal, beige and green, dove greys and aubergines, the bedrooms are seriously classy affairs, with plenty storage space within gleaming vintage furniture, but the designers have not forgotten the modern things we all demand. So you have a hi-tech iPod dock, free wi-fi, flat-screen TV and DVD player, plus dinky reading lights in the headboards. The bathroom was all marble and chrome, with a deep bath and powerful shower to wash away the effects of the night before’s martinis.
WORTH GETTING OUT OF BED FOR?
Green Park tube station is a five-minute walk away, but if your budget is more Tory Burch than Topshop, the designer stores of Bond Street are within 15 minutes’ reach. The Wolseley and the Ritz are around the corner, should you wish to partake of their famous breakfasts and afternoon teas respectively. There’s the Royal Academy up the street for a culture fix. And if you want to pop in on Her Maj, Buckingham Palace is a hop, skip and jump away.
BUDGET OR BOUTIQUE?
Boutique, in every sense of the word. Dukes is exclusively small and perfectly formed. Everything about it says understated luxury, yet it is in no way stuffy.
Complimentary bottles of water and shoe-shine service, a Dermalogica spa, 24-hour gym, exceedingly friendly and helpful staff and hand-made chocolate truffles at turn-down. And we loved the old-fashioned lift, complete with concertina door and velvet sofa, that whisked us to our room in style.
Fittingly for a hotel that has Charles and Camilla as neighbours, Dukes is suitably regal without taking itself too seriously.
• Dukes, St James's Place, London (020 7491 4840), click here to visit www.dukeshotel.com B&B from £350.