When The Dorchester announced plans for an all-encompassing revamp, you could be forgiven for feeling a hint of apprehension. The iconic London hotel is, after all, celebrated for its history. This is the place where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton spent their honeymoon, carving their initials into the pink marble in one of the suite’s lavish bathrooms. It’s the hotel famously declared by Alfred Hitchcock as the perfect setting to commit a murder, thanks to its close proximity to Hyde Park (an ideal spot, he believed, for burying a body in the dead of night). And, in 1947, it was the opulent setting chosen by Prince Philip to host his stag do the evening before his wedding.
Since welcoming its first guests 92 years ago, there have been countless anecdotes detailing the pursuits of its star-studded clientele. The Dorchester is, in short, the place to stay in London; a hotel that has become synonymous with the rich and famous. So, yes, it’s fair to say when rumors of a refurbishment started to swirl, everyone was thinking the same thing: tread carefully.
With so much pressure to get the renovations spot on, The Dorchester brought in Pierre-Yves Rochon (the creative talent behind The Savoy) and Martin Brudnizki (responsible for the interiors at Annabel’s private member’s club) to head up the redesign.
In January, the hotel unveiled its gleaming new ground floor, and this summer, welcomed guests to its freshly refurbished rooms (which are being opened one floor at a time). Could the dramatic transformation live up to expectations? The answer is a resounding yes.
As soon as you step through the gilded revolving doors, it’s clear no expense has been spared. Gone is the roaring traffic of the busy London thoroughfare; bowler-hatted doormen whisk you into the white marble lobby and the outside world is left entirely behind.
Even if glitzy décor isn’t your thing, it’s difficult not to pause for a moment to take in the full splendor of The Promenade. The tiled floor of the lobby gives way to a plush floral carpet; black and gold-lacquered Corinthian columns stretch the entire length of the room. This is old-school glamour at its finest.
The Dorchester has 241 rooms which have been beautifully redesigned by Rochon. We stayed in the Belgravia Suite – a sprawling accommodation up on the second floor that looks out over the front entrance of the hotel. Decorated in shades of pale green and crimson in a nod to the colors of the park across the street, Rochon expertly blends classic elegance with contemporary touches.
Every last detail has been thoughtfully chosen from the heavy floral curtains to the antique furnishings and chinoiserie. Above all, it’s exceptionally comfortable: the thick carpet is so soft you’ll want to forego slippers, while the king-size bed is the stuff of dreams. Best of all, it’s completely soundproofed, allowing you to forget you’re directly above the deafening traffic of Park Lane (that is unless you choose to open the Juliet balcony windows).
Spanning over 1,000 sq ft, with a separate living area complete with a mahogany dining table and comfy sofa, the suite feels more akin to a swanky apartment than a hotel room. The glass coffee table is scattered with design tomes while oil paintings adorn the walls. We loved the gleaming marble bathroom with its double vanities and deep soaking tub.
The most glamorous suite of all is the Harlequin Penthouse. Situated up on the top floor with the best views of Hyde Park, this was Elizabeth Taylor’s favored haunt and the place she stayed while filming Cleopatra. Undoubtedly one of the top suites in London, the lavish abode features two spacious bedrooms, a private outdoor terrace, and that pink marble bathroom.
When it comes to dining at The Dorchester you’re spoilt for choice. We opted to eat at The Promenade – an excellent spot for people watching and the perfect place to while away an evening on one of the velvet sofas, a glass of champagne in hand (there was live music when we stayed on a Friday night, too). The staff deserve a mention here: service is impeccable, and the charming waiters go above and beyond to cater to guests’ every whim.
The menu is wide-ranging, spanning everything from whole lobster thermidor to veal viennoise. We opted for a warming bowl of roast chicken consommé before diving into succulent Scottish halibut and Dover sole. You can also stop by at lunch for something a bit more casual (there’s a selection of pizza, sandwiches and light bites), and breakfast is served here in the morning.
If it’s fine dining you’re after, make sure you call in advance to book a table at the three-Michelin-starred Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester. Here, executive head chef Jean-Philippe Blondet has created an ever-changing tasting menu crafted around the finest seasonal ingredients. For a truly memorable evening, you can book the Table Lumière experience and dine at a private table cocooned by a shimmering curtain of lights.
And if you’re looking for a more laid-back meal, you can enjoy British classic comfort dishes at The Grill by Tom Booton. Expect hearty plates of food cooked with a lot of love; you can’t go wrong with ‘All the Chicken’ – an entire roast chicken with BBQ-glazed wings, gravy, and mini shortcrust pies.
There’s also a 1930s Art Deco-inspired Cantonese restaurant, China Tang, two cozy bars, and a wine vault brimming with over 1,000 bottles which can be booked for exclusive tastings with one of the hotel’s sommeliers.
The Dorchester is home to an expansive spa complete with a soothing blush-pink relaxation lounge and restaurant – The Spatisserie – serving smoothies, fresh juices, and salads.
The spa itself features top brands like Swiss cosmetics specialist Valmont and Scottish skincare expert Ishga which crafts its products from organic seaweed and essential oils. Expert therapists are on hand to carry out an array of treatments from personalized facials to detox body wraps.
While it would be easy to spend your entire stay without stepping foot outside, The Dorchester is within walking distance of Mayfair’s many gourmet restaurants and boutiques.
The hotel is also over the road from Hyde Park and a short stroll from Kensington Gardens and Buckingham Palace. And, if it’s arts and culture you’re after, there is plenty to do: the V&A, Royal Albert Hall and Natural History Museum are just across the park.