Open since 1931, the magnificent art deco Dorchester is one of the world’s great hotels, and pretty much deserves every superlative you care to chuck its way.
Located slap-bang opposite Hyde Park, it is not the biggest or brashest place you’ll ever stay in; the suites are relatively compact, and there’s no pool. But it’s hard to imagine anybody with any sort of romantic notion of Britain’s pre-war past not having to scrape their jaw off the floor of a hotel in which every room is more or less a work of art, from the deep marble bathtubs to the gorgeous mirrored cabinets.
Over the years there have been dabblings with various vogueish refits – some of which sound faintly alarming – but in 2016 the Dorchester is as close to the original as possible, albeit with a few discreet upgrades added throughout the twenty-first century like drench showerheads, sophisticated thermostats and touch phones.
You could cheerily spend your entire stay drinking in the details – the opulent carpets, a different colour for each floor, the gorgeous art deco clocks by the lifts – but you should probably also have a drink in its various nightspots, notably the imperiously named The Bar, the Promenade (a cosy extension of the foyer, with five sittings of afternoon tea, a champagne bar and a pianist in the evenings), and happening West End hangout China Tang at the Dorchester (the Dorchester’s Cantonese restaurant, opened in 2005 by Hong Kong restaurateur Sir David Tang and done up in a ’30s Shanghai style). The China Tang is just one of three restaurants here, the others being Alain Ducasse (the UK’s only three Michelin-star hotel restaurant), and the grand old The Grill, where I enjoyed some rich, meaty modern British dishes and a fine pistachio soufflé. The love of definite articles continues with The Dorchester Spa, where one of the agreeably involved Carol Joy signature facials knocked a few years off me, and in 2009 it acquired its own light-dining restaurant, The Spatisserie, a predictable picture of elegance. It goes without saying that throughout the building the staff are friendly, knowledgeable, helpful and prompt.