Cafe Royal Hotel in London, a legend reborn

The second hotel of THE SET HOTELS, Cafe Royal Hotel London (the first one, Conservatorium in Amsterdam) having been opened for more than a year, opened its doors early this year, aiming for the highest luxury positioning among luxury London hotels. The passionate owners of the SET HOTELS applied for The Cafe Royal London, the same recipe: a world renowned contemporary architect and interior deisgner – David Chipperfield (for the Conservatorium, Piero Lisoni), a heritage building where classic meets contemporary, understated luxury, highest quality of materials and finishes and meticulous renovations and restorations.As for the hotel’s location on Regent Street, steps from Piccadilly Circus, there will be critics who argue that it is not the best location for a luxury property. There are indeed inconveniences for instance the fact that it is almost impossible to stop at the entrance of the hotel on Regent Street, due to the huge traffic, however, there is a lateral entrance, which I am sure, in time, taxi drivers will learn. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the exceptional level of soundproofing of rooms, probably the best in London among all luxury hotels, practically, during my stay, I could not enjoy full serenity in my room.

Unlike the Conservatorium in Amsterdam, the owners have ensured that, despite the contemporary design, which some may find minimalist, rooms are extremely comfortable. Another improvement on the Conservatorium, is that for Cafe Royal, the owners have used the very best of suppliers – all leather furnishing in rooms and public spaces are signed by Poltrona Frau and are hand made, with the finest quality leathers. The lighting system, ease of room controls (light, DND, curtains, blinds) is state of the art, with top quality Italian designer technology. A short video preview of my room, a Junior Suite.

Bathrooms are huge and resemble a SPA, all made entirely of the most luxurious imported Italian Carrara marble, including the bathtub. The overside shower is glass enclosed and is heavely, with a rain shower. Floors are heated and the bathrooms have the highest luxury towels and bathrobes of Italian specialist Frette (rarely seen at other luxury hotels). One important element which the hotel needs to improve is the bathroom amenities – which I could not use during my stay. They are of average quality, full or chemicals, preservatives and artificial fragrance - I find this unacceptable for a luxury hotel which claims such a higher positioning.

All rooms have this contemporary understate luxury design, while the hotel also has a set of historical suites, which are carefully restored to the Renaissance former glory of the hotel. The historical suites, SPA and swimming pool are not yet ready, the hotel estimating Summer as a full opening. The SPA will be one of the most impressive in London, covering over 2.000 sqm , an engineering and architectural achievement, considering it was building on the newly constructed basement. Hopefully, the company will opt for at least natural brand, if not organic for the SPA.

For a new hotel, service is at a fairly good standard, in many departments event better than the Conservatorium after one year. Tim is one of the best Concierges in London. Housekeeping and F&B staff also provide a consistent service, friendly, warm and intuitive. As for the Front Office, porters and engineering, there is still room for improvement. Although only 3 months from opening, I found it unacceptable for the hotel not to sort out the major issue with wi-fi internet, which is complimentary but works at the lowest speed and some areas in the hotel have very poor signal.

Much like the addition of traditional British snacks and drinks (authentic British rose lemonade) in the mini-bar, I believe the hotel could add more English inspired dishes, not just the predictable English Breakfast. The fact that the hotel charges 5 pounds separately for the orange juice at breakfast is unacceptable.

As for the famous Grill of the hotel, once entertaining celebrities such as Mick Jagger, David Bowie etc, the non-smoking restriction but also the entrance, which is not very inviting for this type of celebrities, I believe it will practically impossible to even have a hint of those days, as attempting to replicate would only appear unappropriate and artificial. The drastic restriction on elegant attire (no jeans) could also be a draw back by celebrities that the Grills badly needs to welcome.

The Grill at Cafe Royal Hotel London

The frontage of the hotel on Regent Street is spoiled by the Cafe, which is a cake shop. It is probably the only part of the hotel I could not understand Chipperfield’s philosophy. Also, the selection of cakes and drinks seemed rather off (the rhum savarine had nothing to do with a traditional savarin) and I also found the window uninviting – people would stroll by but would not enter.

Given the fact that the hotel is steps from the Piccadilly Tube Station and is it right on Regent Street, the hotel could appeal to both leisure and corporate travellers. Mayfair, with its most hip shopping streets, Covent Garden, West End and the abundance of new super luxury stores on Regent Street, could make the Cafe Royal Hotel ideal for a long weekend break.

Oliver Petcu in London