Hotel Café Royal, London
When it comes to choosing a luxury hotel, weight doesn’t usually come into it. But, explains the butler – who comes with my 90-square-metre Regent Suite at the Hotel Café Royal, which occupies a prime position at Piccadilly Circus – this hotel is indeed the heaviest in London. That’ll be all the specially quarried marble. It clads and panels the walls and floor of the rooms, along with leather, wood and other natural materials, thanks to the work of designer and architect David Chipperfield.
As part of the John Nash designed arch of Regent Street, this hotel was built in 1865, and its history includes an endless roster of stellar guests, such as Oscar Wilde (who used the downstairs Café Royal as his salon), Aubrey Beardsley, Winston Churchill and Muhammad Ali.
Apparently, in 1972, David Bowie retired his alter ego Ziggy Stardust with a party at the hotel that featured guests including Mick Jagger and Lou Reed. These days, its guests are more likely to be wearing Savile Row two-pieces than striped jumpsuits, though I’m sure the lovely staff wouldn’t bat an eyelid if you really wanted to wear platforms.
It seems especially popular for afternoon tea, which can be taken in the beautiful gilded and ornate-mirrored Oscar Wilde Bar, with its ancient splash of claret on the ceiling (probably one of Oscar’s raucous buddies).
Budget or boutique?
The latter. As part of a hotel tour, I’m shown round their largest suite, the Royal Wing – a palatial warehouse of a space. I think they said it’s £11k a night, but maybe I need to get my ears cleaned out.
This place is also one of the few central London hotels to have its own swimming pool, as part of their Akasha spa. As well as loads of other treatments, and fitness classes in their gym, they offer watsu (a type of shiatsu performed in the water) in another dedicated pool. I had the best 90 minutes of my life enjoying their 23 Carat Golden Hammam treatment (£180), which involved a rub down in the steamy hammam with rhassoul clay, then a rinse, before we moved through into a treatment room for a dreamy massage, all of which left me feeling as floppy as a newborn lamb.
My suite was ridiculously huge and felt rather wasted on a solo traveller. There was a massive bed with a Bang & Olufsen telly at the end of it, and another goggle box in the living room, which featured leather chairs, a sofa and a dining table (marble, natch). The bathroom is incredible, but do lower the blinds or the floor-to-ceiling windows will ensure that the office workers directly opposite get a peep show when you clamber into the freestanding marble bath.
There’s a Blade Runner feel in the living room, which looks right out on to the advertising screens at Piccadilly Circus. The sound-proofing is great, so it’s surreal to look out on to the red buses and crowds, and hear… nothing.
Wining and dining
London’s first dessert restaurant, The Café, is just downstairs, so you could skip the savouries and go straight for an amaretto brûlée tart.
Or, have a liquid lunch at the Green Bar, where they specialise in absinthe and serve cocktails including the blossom martini (£14, with Tanqueray Ten gin, Cocchi Americano, rose liqueur, orange blossom water, lavender, white chocolate pearls and rose petals). Sounds fluffy, but it sent me cross-eyed.
Not ready for that? Try Ten Room brasserie, where they serve dishes such as Challans duck (£32) with Seville oranges, duck pastilla and caramelised endive.
Breakfast is also served in this smart room, where buffet pastries and smoothies are available, as well as the menu of hot stuff.
Worth getting out of bed for
There are the shopping delights of Regent Street and Oxford Street, Soho eateries, theatre-land, The National Portrait Gallery, The National Gallery, Buckingham Palace and Green Park. Want to go further afield? There’s a tube stop (Piccadilly) right outside the hotel.
In the butler’s pantry, you’ll find a Dolce Gusto machine with pods, an e-shisha (for hookah vaping) and all manner of nibbly goodies. The toiletries in the bathroom are from Floris and there was a Jo Loves candle in Gardenia. I was welcomed with a bottle of chilled Perrier-Jouet and a giant macaron.
“The staff at the Hotel Café Royal were beyond amazing.”
Rooms start from £450.
Hotel Café Royal, 68 Regent Street, London W1B 4DY (020 7406 3333, www.hotelcaferoyal.com)