What exactly does it take to make a ‘boutique hotel’?
I only ask, because the term seems to dominate the market when it comes to places to stay these days.
They are becoming increasingly popular in tourist hotspots. And the big smoke is no exception.
Google search for a place to stay in London brings up a wealth of such accommodation.
I am sure there are many gems to be discovered among the boutiques, but I have heard many a horror story of glorified bed and breakfasts, inexperienced hosts and poor hygiene.
When it comes to visiting the capital I am not prepared to take such a risk, which is why I opted for a proper hotel.
And they don’t come much more proper than the Marriott Hotel in Grosvenor Square, Mayfair. Overlooking Park Lane and just a few seconds from the swanky shops of Bond Street – is the heart of regal London.
The red-brick facade, littered with white Georgian windows faces the flags of the Canadian and US embassies. It is easy to imagine esteemed writers who have propped up the bar, the important politicians who have shook hands in the lobby in decades gone by.
We are there for a spot of shopping, but we stay in our little pocket of London for as long as possible.
During our visit we sample the Luggage Room, the hotel’s recently-opened cocktail bar. The speakeasy’s fast-growing reputation is rapidly turning it into a tourist attraction all of its own.
Entry is gained through a grand side door at the side of the building.
Stepping inside is like walking into the world of F Scott Fitzgerald. I have never seen such a fitting tribute to the roaring Twenties. It is a dimly-lit art deco palace of marble floors, dark wood and padded leather.
In a world where every bar tries to make a quick buck by mixing vodka with cheap supermarket fruit juices and decorative glazed cherries – this is a breath of fresh air. Here, there are rose syrups and basil, fruit is freshly squeezed – NOT from concentrate, the bar ‘snacks’ are potted Stilton and marinated smoked eel.
The menu is extensive but staff are knowledgeable and enthusiastic without being preachy. Drinks are prepared with all the care of a gourmet meal and you savour every sip.
I sip my drink and imagine I’m a flapper – dripping with sequins and dancing the Charleston.
I am brought back to modern day with the rest of the Grosvenor Square, which has undergone a refurbishment in recent years to fuse contemporary with classic.
Our bedroom, a twin, has a four-poster bed for each of us. Decor is luxurious, sumptuous yet subtle. Breakfast comes courtesy of Gordon Ramsay. He doesn’t nip around every morning dishing out the poached eggs, but he developed the menu and regularly reviews it.
Big chains like Marriott make hospitality a fine art. It’s not a place where you just rest your head.
I’m afraid when it comes to the capital, the only boutiques I’ll be visiting sell expensive handbags.