Hotel Café Royal is set like a jewel right in the heart of London, overlooking Regent’s Street and Piccadilly Circus, and when you first enter its doors, it is reminiscent of stepping back in time to an opulent 19th-century palace.
Transformed into a modern grande dame in 2012, Hotel Café Royal nods to its glitzy past as the high-society melting pot where anyone who was anyone came to eat, drink and be merry. It was here that Oscar Wilde consumed copious amounts of absinthe; where King George VI held lavish luncheons; where David Bowie famously retired his alter ego Ziggy Stardust with a star-studded party; and where everyone from Elizabeth Taylor to Diana, Princess of Wales and Winston Churchill came to dine. The interiors are dramatic, including a resplendent Murano-glass chandelier in the entrance hall. Grade II-listed features, such as the staircase and the cornices to the original gilt lift doors, are set among a plethora of marble pillars and lofty period arches. Practically every shade of gold glistens throughout the grand rooms, along with deep pinks, bold yellows and a mix of contemporary muted and earthy tones.
Bedrooms are generously sized and boast an interesting mix of period glitz and slick modernity. The Westminster Suite was our home for the night, with unrivalled views of Piccadilly Circus (and its iconic neon sign), the Houses of Parliament, St James’s and of course the stunning curves of Regent Street. The huge bathroom was incredible, decked out in swathes of Carrara marble and Diptyque amenities, and there were ultra-soft Frette linens on the bed, a Bang & Olufsen television and speakers, and even a mini television hidden in the bathroom mirror. Breakfast was a real treat, too. Set the table up in front of your window and order a spread of pancakes, avocado on toast, the full English or grand Americana.
There are a number of great drinking and dining options at the hotel. Laurent at Café Royal is the first-floor restaurant overseen by the chef Laurent Tourondel that serves grill dishes and sushi – try the delectable lobster rolls or choose from an impressive selection of steaks, Wagyu included. If you have more of a sweet tooth, then Cake & Bubbles, the extremely popular pastry restaurant masterminded by the former El Bulli chef Albert Adrìà, is the place to be. Order his now-legendary salty-sweet cheesecake made with white chocolate, hazelnut and English brie, in-house or to go. For something a little more lavish, book a table for afternoon tea in the red-and-gold Oscar Wilde lounge.
For those looking to be pampered, make your way to the hotel’s incredible underground spa. Home to a stunning 18-metre lap pool, the Akasha Holistic Wellbeing Centre is the perfect spot to unwind in after a shopping spree in the surrounding boutiques. Relax in the hamman, sauna and hot tub, and try a Valmont facial or an Aromatherapy Associates massage in one of the nine sleek treatment-rooms. There’s also a gym for sporty types and a Watsu pool for aquatic therapies.
Hotel Café Royal, from £375 a room a night. The Westminster Suite, from £1,035 a night. For more information and to book, visit www.hotelcaferoyal.com, where you will receive £30 hotel credit, a guaranteed upgrade, early check-in and a late check-out.