The Capital Hotel
22 Basil Street, Knightsbridge, London
(020 7589 5171, www.capitalhotel.co.uk)
YOU HAVE planned a weekend jaunt to London for some shopping and shows. You could stay in one of the big, faceless chain hotels, but wouldn't you rather treat yourself to a little luxury? In a discreet but decadent establishment close to the shops and the West End? Wouldn't you love it if there was a Michelin-starred restaurant in-house, so you need only stumble up to bed after over-indulging? And if the bar manager mixes the perfect Manhattan, so much the better.
The Capital was created by David Levin, a Scotsman, more than 30 years ago, and it remains a family-run hotel where the rooms are decorated with hand-picked antiques and artworks. Royals, statesmen and celebrities have all rested their heads on its squishy pillows, swathed in Egyptian cotton. So, if it's good enough for them...
Fly from Scotland to Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton, Stansted or City, and then take the express train to central London. Alternatively, take the train south straight to Kings Cross. The hotel is just a couple of minutes' walk from Knightsbridge tube station (Piccadilly line).
The Capital's restaurant is the proud recipient of two Michelin stars, and head chef Eric Chavot's innovative style has been praised by even the most censorious of critics. "This is as good as you can eat in London," opined AA Gill.
We started with an appetiser of celeriac velout and ham hock tortellini, which was followed by seared scallops ceviche and cucumber jelly, then pot-roasted lobster with foie gras. A palate-cleanser of Earl Grey jelly and orange sorbet paved the way for a wonderful pudding of roasted figs in mulled wine, homemade yoghurt and churros. Divine.
The hotel even has its own winery in the Loire valley. So if you know what's good for you, you'll order the French.
Do the names Ralph Lauren, Nina Campbell and David Linley mean anything to you? The Capital's exquisite interiors have used the cream of design talent to create an intimate haven away from the hustle and bustle of London, while the magnificent marble bathrooms boast soft cotton robes and Molton Brown goodies.
There is no gym on site, but guests can use a nearby health club to burn off the effects of their decadent dining.
Clive Smith, the head concierge, is a man worth getting to know: he can organise tickets to shows you thought had sold out and let you in on all the top-secret spots to shop and eat. If you need to hire a limousine or change your flight arrangements, he's your man.
Cesar da Silva, the bar manager, mixes the best whisky sours in the world. Service is impeccable and nothing is too much trouble, yet the staff have achieved that tricky juggling act that enables them to be friendly, not fawning.
There are no tea and coffee facilities in the rooms. Of course, you can order from room service, but sometimes it's nice to be able to make your own.
Location, location, location
Slap-bang in the middle of Knightsbridge, a handbag's throw from Harrods and Harvey Nichols - it doesn't get any better than this.
What's the damage?
The weekend rate for an executive double/twin room is 215 per night.