London's competitive, ever-burgeoning hotel scene, which has seen the openings in the last year or so of a Bulgari hotel in Knightsbridge, the Corinthia (with its own Harrods on site) overlooking Trafalgar Square and Thompson Hotels' Belgraves in posh Belgravia.
The newest hospitality entrant boasts one of the city's older pedigrees. Founded as a restaurant and opened to the public in 1865, the Café Royal over the decades lured such guests as Virginia Woolf, Brigitte Bardot, Cary Grant, Elizabeth Taylor, David Bowie and Princess Diana. And Oscar Wilde once hallucinated on absinthe in the hotel’s Grill Room.
Located in the West End, the Cafe Royal closed in 2008 and this month was reopened the The Set group as a luxury hotel, with modern rooms designed by minimalist David Chipperfield Architects, plus the historic Grill Room, Domino Room and six suites, all sensitively restored. (The Set also owns Amsterdam's year-old Conservatorium and is due to open the Hotel Lutetia in Paris.)
The 159-room Café Royal has multiple restaurants, a private member club, meeting rooms and a spa and gym. (Rooms from $450; suites from $1,270, 68 Regent Street.)
The five-star Dorchester Hotel, opened in 1931, has had a refreshing of 22 of its luxury suites. Interior designer Alexandra Champalimaud, who was recently inducted into Interior Design magazine’s Hall of Fame Awards, has infused their traditional British design with a modern edge."
"I wanted to bring my own style, to move forward without destroying the rooms true nature and character. It's a Georgian essence underneath the whole design. We brought in incredible fresh materials such as velvets in sort mauves, rusts and creams," says Champalimaud, whose next project to debut is a redo of New York's Waldorf-Astoria.
Adds the designer: "You also want to bring an edge that's quirky -- that's very English -- into these spaces. We did something called eglomise which is reverse hand-painted glass. I did a huge piece of furniture for each room that's bespoke. And the curtains have these eccentricties, like odd and innovative ways of placing a single tassle as opposed to millions of them."
Overlooking Hyde Park, the suites contain large marble entries, limestone fireplaces, spacious living rooms and views of the London skyline. Also of note: the Dorchester -- which includes the three-Michelin-star Alain Ducasse restaurant -- reopened its spa in 2009 after a multimillion-dollar facelift to offer a better pampering experience. (Rooms from $475 for a superior queen up to $15,078 for the Royal Penthouse, 9 Tilney Street.)
The Park Suite sitting room inside The Dorchester