Review, photos, design and history of
the luxury hotel in London
Article added on February 25, 2012
A long history
It is impossible for people not familiar with The Lanesborough to recognize
it is a hotel because, as a heritage building, the façade bears no exterior
In 1719, when today's Hyde Park Corner area was still in the countryside, just
on the edge of London town, the second Viscount Lanesborough, James Lane, built
Lanesborough House as a country retreat.
The Viscount had no children. In 1733, a group of governors from Westminster
Hospital rented Lanesborough House to use it as a hospital. In 1827, architect
William Wilkins, who also designed the National Gallery, built a new, larger
hospital on the same site in his trademark Greek Regency style. Until the 1980s, the building remained St George's
Hospital, where Florence Nightingale had once worked as governor.
A clause of the 19th century deal stated that the estate could be bought back by
the owner family at the original price if it was no longer used as a hospital.
When the health service decided to shut the hospital down, the sixth Duke of
Westminister - aka Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor - bought it back at the
original sale price of £6000!
Today's London tourists are grateful to the Duke of Westminister's clever
lawyers. After a £100 million transformation, The Lanesborough, situated on Hyde
Park Corner, opened on December 31, 1990 as The Lanesborough luxury hotel.
The rooms feature inlaid parquet borders, handmade rugs, silk wall coverings,
polished Mahogany joinery and Carrara marble bathrooms. Triple-glazed rooms
ensure that you can sleep peacefully.
The building was restored under the supervision of the Royal Fine Arts
Commission, the Georgian Society, the Victorian Society and English Heritage.
Furniture, chandeliers, draperies and fabrics were copied from 1820s and 1830s
original museum pieces as well as from prints and information from historic archives.
No two rooms are exactly the same. Italian lime stone was used in the lobby. The Lanesborough
has become an excellent example of neo-classical design and décor.
The culinary experience at The Lanesborough
re-launch in 2009, Massimiliano Blasone is the Executive Chef at
Apsleys, a Heinz Beck restaurant. Blasone has worked under Heinz
Beck since 1999 at the German chef's Roman restaurant La Pergola, holder of 3
Michelin stars. I have tested Beck's brilliant cuisine a few years ago and can
warmly recommend it. [Added on March 21, 2012: now I have had the chance to taste
Massimiliano Blasone's “light cuisine of
Mediterranean flavors”. Excellent!].
Massimiliano Blasone has managed to secure a
Michelin star for Apsleys within five months, the quickest ever for a London restaurant
to be awarded a first Michelin star. Paul Gayler is the Chef de Cuisine. In
the 1980s, at London's Inigo Jones, he once pioneered “Vegetarian Haute Cuisine”. Incidentally, meals are served on
Royal Worcester porcelain exclusively made for The Lanesborough.
The Lanesborough won the Tea Council's Afternoon Tea Award in 2009, 2010
and 2001. In January 2009, I tested the afternoon tea in my executive
junior suite (300). At that period, it normally came with tuna, chicken and salmon sandwiches. As a vegetarian, I tasted
instead cheese and mango chutney,
tomato and basil, cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches with rocket
salad, roasted vegetables, eggplants and courgettes. The Afternoon Tea was presented on a classical
three-tear stand. It comprised sandwiches, scones,
pastries, jam. As a tea, I chose a
Yin Zhen, more of a summer beverage,
but the perfect cure for my cold, together with the tension
releasing neck and head massage with jojoba oil (a Comfort Zone product)
by Rachel, the hotel's head masseuse. Back to the afternoon: Scones with lemon curd,
clotted cream and strawberry jam, a tea cake with cinnamon butter, an orange chocolate
cake, a carrot cake, a raspberry cake,
a delicious macaron, an orange mousse, a pistachio and raspberry praline as well
as a caramel tower were part of the Afternoon Tea.
In addition, I fondly remember my vegetarian breakfast with grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, mashed
potatoes, beans and round lentil cakes. Luckily, the hotel has a gym and Hyde
Park for jogging is just around the corner.
Last but not least, let's not forget The Library Bar with its “Liquid History”,
where you can taste some of the world's oldest and rarest Grande Champagne
Cognacs such as a 1800 Bignon, which commemorates the year the United States
moved from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. and a 1804 JBE de Massougues, which
is the year Napoleon became Emperor of France.
At The Library Bar, you can enjoy Cuban cigars, unavailable in the United
States. Some of them are pre-Castro made such as a 1918 Pre-Embargo 42 gauge.
Vintage whiskies and armagnacs are other highlights of the bar.
Apsleys restaurant with a chandelier. Photos © The Lanesborough.
Details make the difference
Details make the difference. The Lanesborough is famous for its
complimentary services and amenities, offering true value for money. Let's just
mention some of them.
I stayed in room 300, an Executive Junior Suite. It came, as all rooms, with a 24-hour
butler service, free Wifi high speed internet with a Sony VAIO Laptop (our your
own computer, as I did), unlimited movies and music on demand in an interactive
TV system [Update of March 9, 2012: no more free landline telephone calls].
Tea or coffee is served complimentary in the rooms with the daily wake-up calls.
Mineral water and a bowl of fresh fruit with assorted sweets is replenished
Upon my arrival, as I welcome, I was served excellent pralinés, Reynier Brut and Taittinger
Brut Reserve Champagnes. At The Lanesborough, they know how to receive people.
In the spa, they mainly used
products. In the premium grade Carrara marble bathrooms, the amenities were from Lady Primrose
(based in Dallas and London).
Let's not forget another detail, the outstanding ventilation in the bathroom,
probably the best I have ever seen. I produced as much steam in the bathtub as I possible
could, but the bathroom mirror remained completely damp-free.
You can ask for exercise equipment to be placed in the larger rooms such as my
Executive Junior Suite 300. I opted for the gym downstairs.
Last but not least, unique are the personal business cards and
stationary printed on arrival. You get your complimentary personal business
cards with your Lanesborough address and room phone number!
Located on the borders of Knightsbridge and Belgravia, The Lanesborough is
one of the best addresses in London. The result are some 60% of return guests.
As a last anecdote, let's mention Bernie Madoff, who was a regular guest at The
Lanesborough. In better times, he appreciated the services of the five-star
luxury hotel. I guess in the Federal Correctional Institution in Otisville,
there is no complimentary butler service for him.
[New photo added on March 9, 2012]
The Garden Room, one of the rare public areas in London where you can
smoke in a five-star luxury, only possible because it is in a covered area outside
the hotel. Photos © The Lanesborough, Starwood Hotels.
The exterior of The Lanesborough, a St. Regis Hotel.
Architect William Wilkins' neo-classical design with coupled windows,
columns, friezes and architraves derived from the ancient Choragic Monument
Photos © The Lanesborough, Starwood Hotels.
View of a mural in Apsleys restaurant. Photos © The Lanesborough.
The Library Bar. It was voted Best Hotel Bar in the World by Hardens
Guide in 2004. Photos © The Lanesborough, Starwood Hotels.
The Library Bar with furniture such as a sideboard based on a design by P &
M.A. Nicholson from 1826, a display table based on a design by Thomas King
from 1835, a sofa based on a design by Whitaker from 1825, etc. Photos © The Lanesborough.
The Royal Suite bedroom. Photos © The Lanesborough, Starwood Hotels.
A guest room. Photos © The Lanesborough.
The spa lobby. Photos © The Lanesborough, Starwood Hotels.