Travel Spotlight

The Big Smoke Heats Up

Editorial Director Annie Fitzsimmons shares the highlights of what’s new and notable in the British capital this winter.

No other city has the hotel buzz that London has right now. With lavish, splashy openings that go beyond five stars and more big hotel brands moving in to claim their piece of this ever-evolving capital city, it is comforting to know that black cabs, red phone booths, afternoon tea and pomp and circumstance endure. Below are four of the biggest openings—stay the night or pop in for tea or a drink. Plus, the best exhibits, shows and restaurants to know now in London, as Britain still adjusts to life in the new Carolean age with King Charles III’s reign.


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Hotel News

The Peninsula London

Five minutes from Hyde Park, the 190-room Peninsula London is set in Belgravia with a quiet courtyard entrance centered around Japanese maple trees and signature green Rolls-Royces lined up. The brand embarked on a decades-long search before finding its ideal London location, and everything is deeply glamorous. Entry-level rooms are huge; all feel ultra-luxe with futuristic (but easy-to-understand) technology–every room even has a nail dryer and a printer. Book a room with a view of Wellington Arch and settle in at 10:40 a.m. to watch the guards en route to Buckingham Palace. There is a lively patisserie and coffee shop; The Lobby restaurant has Hyde Park murals (more than 40 artists were commissioned from the Royal Drawing School to create original artwork throughout the property) and crave-worthy dishes like a “goodness bowl,” plus the classic afternoon tea the Peninsula is known for. Rooftop restaurant Brooklands is crowned with a model of the Concorde on the ceiling and has a sexy bar with panoramic London views, while Canton Blue transports guests to China with Cantonese cuisine, intimate, colorful seating and an exquisite blue fireplace. Stay tuned: a spa and wellness center will open later this year.

Raffles London at the Old War Office

The opening date was pushed a few times, but Raffles London at the Old War Office (OWO) has finally opened on Whitehall—and it feels like a legend already. The 120-room hotel and urban gathering hub were designed by the late Thierry Despont, who also oversaw the restoration of the Ritz Paris. Historic details abound—from the dazzling grand staircase (where, apparently, Winston Churchill would expound from the balcony) to former executive offices turned Heritage suites and landmarked floors. There are nine restaurants and three bars: book tables at the all-day Saison by chef Mauro Colagreco (the man behind Mirazur on the Côte d’Azur), one of London’s most beautiful new restaurant interiors that also serves afternoon tea, or the outpost of Paris’s Café Lapérouse in the central courtyard to start. If you’re a guest, you’ll have an easier time scoring a reservation at the Spy Bar, located in a former interrogation room with a full-size Aston Martin on display. For one of London’s best wellness experiences, book into the hotel’s 27,000-square-foot Guerlain spa, with an incredible indoor pool with a double-height ceiling.

1 Hotel Mayfair

Known for its commitment to sustainability, 1 Hotels has made its London (and European) debut in Mayfair, across from Green Park and a short walk from The Wolseley and Fortnum & Mason. With 187 rooms, the hotel is also home to the wonderful Dovetale by chef Tom Sellers (who has worked alongside Thomas Keller and Rene Redzepi), cocktail bar Dover Yard, coffee spot Neighbours and a Bamford Wellness Spa. As with the other properties in the portfolio, there is a big investment in plants and greenery—here, with more than 1,300 individual plants across the property. (There is absolutely no sign of the previous hotel on-site, a Holiday Inn.) For a worthy splurge, the one-bedroom Green Park Penthouse Suite is one of Mayfair’s largest, at nearly 3,000 square feet.

The BoTree London

Named for the Bodhi Tree, where Buddha was said to have attained enlightenment while meditating, the entire vibe of this new hotel, part of Preferred Hotels, has an overall calming effect. Elements of nature abound, from the exterior covered in lush vegetation to the coastal Italian restaurant LAVO, where the centerpiece is a wise olive tree; there are citrus trees and tree sculptures on the ceiling. All 199 rooms have Wedgwood espresso and tea cups and an Alessi kettle. The approach here is “purpose-driven” with recycled leather bins and coasters, the hiring of local craftspeople to support the build and a partnership with Jo Loves for sustainable amenities. Located where Marylebone meets Mayfair—and not far from Soho—the location is one of London’s best.

Restaurants To Know Now

Socca is a neighborhood gathering spot from chef Claude Bosi of Bibendum in Chelsea evoking Southern France in décor and food.

Mount St. Restaurant is a great choice for art connoisseurs from Swiss art gallery Hauser & Wirth, which also owns Scotland’s The Fife Arms. The art, including mosaic floors by Rashid Johnson, is bold, but it can be loud at dinner so it isn’t a place for a quiet tête à tête.

The Twenty Two, a new Mayfair hot spot, is part hotel and part member’s club, but the restaurant is open to anyone all day for delicious Mediterranean-meets-classic-British fare.

Lorian in Chelsea, just off Sloane Square and parallel to forever-charming Pavilion Road, serves perfect salads and sandwiches; plus scrambled eggs and pastries all day.

Pavyllon, now at Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane, brings new energy into this hotel’s dining scene, previously reserved for al fresco business lunches. Chef Yannick Alléno holds 15 Michelin stars at his restaurants in France, and this marks his first foray into Britain.

Just opened at the National Theatre is 160-seat Forza Wine, whose Peckham, South London, location, has been a favorite for snacks, drinks and excellent London views for years. The signature soft-serve ice cream is a Forza must.

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