The Berkeley’s spectacular transformation to establish it among the elite of London luxury hotels
The sister property of the glamorous The Claridge’s, a true London institution, and The Connaught, The Berkeley hotel has always enjoyed the reputation as one of the finest luxury hotels in London, with a unique location bordering Knightsbridge and Mayfair. Hence, the hotel’s deep ‘connections with the fashion world – the Pret-A-Portea (its witty version of the classic Afternoon tea), the luxurious fashion trunk brought to guests on request where they can admire and purchase exquisite vintage pieces from famous Maisons, the Burberry trench-coat service available in all suites, not to mention the fact that the iconic Blue Bar of the hotel is a favourite hot spot for fashionistas.
Like in the case of its sister hotels, innovation has been a key to the long standing success of The Berkeley, the hotel undergoing an extensive renovation and redesign both in its rooms, facilities and public spaces. While the Blue Bar, its two main restaurants, the Michelin starred Marcus Wareing and Koffmann’s and lobby have yet to be included in the renovation plans, many rooms and suites have undergone impressive renovations, which I would even call total transformations.
I stayed in a brand new Balcony Junior Suite, on the 7th floor, designed by Rob Angel, with the utter privilege of a stunning terrace with 180 degree views of the London skyline and beautiful surrounding quarters. Dominated by tones of grey, beige and white, Balcony Suites and Rooms are very much in fine tuning with the brand new Spa on the hotel which is on the same floor. The quality of the furnishing is outstanding – rarely have I seen such impeccably executed furniture with many comfort and durability features. The accent is on a plush, warm and cozy feel.
I was also impressed with the very sensible use of space – especially given that accommodations on the 7th floor are smaller in size and have lower ceilings than the rest of the accommodations in the hotel. Bathrooms are perfectly sized for a couple, abundant in grey / white striped marble, with a free-standing bath-tub, Toto automatic vanity and a surprisingly large walk-in rain shower. The bathroom experience is clearly enhanced by the amenities, entirely organic, which reflect the long term vision of the hotel in respect to future must-have’s in luxury hospitality. Beds and extremely comfortable, with the finest 400 thread linen by Italian specialist Pratesi. As they are on the same level with the Spa, these accommodations are ideal for Spa breaks.
I stayed at the hotel less than a month after the re-opening of its already famous Spa, The Berkeley being the only luxury downtown London hotel with a roof-top swimming pool, which, thanks to its retractable roof, can be used all year round. The swimming pool provides truly spectacular views of both Knightsbridge and Hyde Park, and through the renovation touches such as grey marble pillars, cream color marble floors and new furnishings have been added. The swimming pool is probably one of the most unique of its kind worldwide, especially considering the hotel was built in the 60′s. Adjacent to the pool, a fully equipped Technogym fitness room with direct views of Hyde Park and a winter garden complete the pool side offering of the Spa. It is no wonder, the Spa has always had more than half of its patrons from London, especially central London.
As for countryside concept of the new Spa, excessively branded Bamford Haybarn (Bamford is also the amenities brand in all rooms and suites), I found that, while the concept would fit the organic philosophy of the brand, in terms of facilities, the renovations were quite modest and in many parts, including treatment rooms, they felt soul-less and cold. While indeed, the concept would work perfectly in a countryside location, the approach for a city like London, could have been slightly different, with many possibilities of instilling the countryside feel, rather than the overt way which was chosen. Lockers, waiting area and showers feel like they don’t belong to a luxury Spa hotel.
The food & beverage offerings are truly worth the standard of a luxury hotel, with the exception of breakfast, when, at times of high occupancy, service would tend to be somewhat impersonal and rushed. The fact that staff of other nationalities would speak between themselves in their native language was also quite odd.
Like with the Claridge’s, probably due to the fact that the hotels do not belong to a larger luxury chain, name recognition is scarce, guests being asked their room number throughout the hotel. For the level and positioning that The Berkeley aims for, this is a must, especially that does not have a such a high room inventory and is well staffed to respond with a personalized service. The fact that a guest like me would be new, and only staying for 2 nights is not an acceptable excuse. On the other side, I found impeccable service at the Front Office, Concierge, the Spa and Housekeeping (immaculate and very fast).
All in all, I strongly believe that The Berkeley is on a good path of re-positioning and enhancing its product with the aim of establishing itself among the London luxury hotels elite.
A comprehensive dedicated photo gallery of the hotel can be found on our Facebook page.
Oliver Petcu in London