If you fancy a change from the Ritz, check out these new London hotels at the luxury end of the travel scale.
1. Best for Foodies - Belgraves Hotel, Belgravia
If east London is all about the experimental, west is all about guaranteed luxury. Enter the boho-chic Belgraves, the first British hotel from US-based Thompson, tucked away in a discreet corner of SW1. Despite having the Brit stamp – Tara Bernerd designed it, works by artists Miranda Donovon and Mat Collishaw hang on its walls – there’s also a Manhattan air with leather, wool and marble textures, a fitness centre and bijou rooms that make it ideal for a weekend getaway (but possibly too cramped for longer).
But Belgraves is really all about Mark Hix’s new outpost, Hix Belgravia, so on arriving early evening, we head straight there. In a booth, we were perfectly positioned for people watching (Middleton-alikes and tourists). Unlike Hix’s usual Brit-with-a-twist, this menu’s inspiration is global – I started with deliciously garlicky mushrooms on toast, followed by a burger so big even I had trouble finishing it. My husband went with a retro prawn cocktail followed by 300g of perfect medium-rare steak. A demi-carafe of wine was a civilised option, as we were still recovering from pre-dinner cocktails in the intimate library room upstairs.
Quick tip for drivers – the hotel can park your car for £45 a day, but weekend parking is free on nearby Belgrave Square.
Belgraves, 20 Chesham Place, London, SW1X 8HQ; doubles from £336 per night; thompsonhotels.com
12 mins walk: The challenging, eclectic exhibition Out Of Focus: Photography is on at the Saatchi Gallery until 22 July (saatchi-gallery.com) and is just a short stroll from the hotel down Sloane Street.
2. Best for theatrical types - St Ermin's Hotel, St James's Park
As a hub for MI6 in the Thirties and Forties, St Ermin’s was full of secrets and spies. It recently had a flamboyant £30m makeover and the lobby is a new masterclass in theatricality – rococo plaster-work, blinding white balconies, twinkling chandeliers and an incredible Gone With The Wind-style staircase.
But if the front of house is OTT, backstage is more calming. My room featured framed origami clothes made from local maps, hung on Vivienne Westwood wallpaper, The White Company toiletries waited on my claw-footed bath and mother of pearl-inlaid furniture, crisp linens and leatherembossed wardrobes ramped up the luxury factor.
With a cool cocktail bar and ‘field-to-fork’ menus in the Caxton Grill restaurant, St Ermin’s has a real buzz – and not just from the 200,000 bees housed on the roof.
Doubles from £160 per night; St Ermin’s Hotel, 2 Caxton St, St James’s Park, Westminster SW1H; sterminshotel.co.uk
7 mins walk: The bar at understated eaterie Roux At The Pembury (rouxatparliamentsquare.com) is luxurious but louche.
3. Best for Group Breaks - The Townhouse, Flemings, Mayfair
I’m not keen on self-catering – it brings back memories of Seventies holidays involving damp cottages, limp sarnies and board games. So it was with trepidation that I took a group of girlfriends to The Townhouse, a new private house addition to Flemings, one of London’s oldest hotels. My spirits soared when we arrived, though – this is the house I’d buy if I won EuroMillions.
It’s got seven bedrooms across two apartments and two suites (which you can hire separately or take the whole house), plus a grand dining room, hi-tech kitchens, a bar and a barbecue terrace. We cooed over silver-fern wallpaper, lounged on jewelcoloured velvet sofas and gawped at Wedgwood blue ceilings. Best of all, we found we didn’t have to self-cater. We popped next door – where you can take advantage of the hotel’s bars and restaurant, Flemings Grill – and sampled the Chocaholics Afternoon Tea, followed by a movie at ‘home’ on one of the many 3D TVs. If that sounds like too much effort, you can order private dining from your armchair too.
This is definitely a place you’d stay if you had a mini dog in your handbag, so it’s no surprise there’s a special dog menu, doggy spa services and little blankets on tap.
The Townhouse, flemings, 7-12 Half moon St, London W1J; exclusive use from £3,500 per night, apartments from £1,300; flemings-mayfair.co.uk
2 mins walk: Head to Burger & Lobster burgerandlobster.com for simple, great food – there’s no booking, bare tables and the choice is either burger or lobster, for £20.
4. Best for Fashion Lovers - Bulgari Hotel & Residences, Knightsbridge
Silver is the theme for Italian brand Bulgari’s new outpost – you pass handmade silver silk drapes, sit on dove-grey upholstery and gaze at solid silver chandeliers, all echoing the brand’s origins as a silversmith.
Italian flair is all about doing something once, perfectly so there’s one bar, one restaurant and one spa. I sampled an amazing cocktail in Il Bar (Au The Vert, a fragrant gin and jasmine tea based on the Bulgari fragrance of the same name) and a great supper of Sicilian red prawns served with clams and squid. But nothing tops the extravagant mini bar – shaped like a luxury travel trunk, the mahogany doors open to reveal five-star nibbles and drinks.
Bulgari Hotel & residences, 171 knightsbridge, London SW7; doubles from £500 per night; bulgarihotels.com
4 mins walk: From 16 July to 31 August, Harvey Nichols’ Fifth Floor Terrace hosts Penhaligon’s Peoneve terrace (harveynichols.com), a multi-sensory garden serving cocktails and desserts.
5. Best for Shoppers - Dorset Square Hotel, Marylebone
Firmdale Hotels are some of the coolest in the capital (the Charlotte Street Hotel and Covent Garden Hotel are both under their umbrella), and their latest opening in Marylebone is no different. Known for their English eccentric take on trad country style, the decor in my room is a surprisingly cheery grey (very Farrow & Ball Elephant’s Breath), livened up by a violet flower-print fabric, specially designed for the hotel by owner Kit Kemp and textile designer Christopher Farr, on cushions, day chairs and a huge headboard. There are also bubblegum-pink peonies by the bed, original art and deep-piled Argentinean carpets.
The best thing about staying in a hotel is the amount of pottering around you can do. I spent hours in my oak and marble bathroom sampling the Miller Harris bounty and hanging out in the countryhouse style drawing room downstairs. Dining here is also relaxed in the Potting Shed restaurant, which serves British classics such as sausage and mash and a delicious fish pie.
Dorset Square is an intimate little bolthole, with just 38 rooms, but it fits perfectly with the ‘upscale village’ vibe of the Marylebone area. Firmdale believes hotels should not be ‘stuffy institutions’ and it has made its point beautifully here.
Dorset Square Hotel, 39-40 Dorset Square, London nW1; doubles from £199 per night; firmdalehotels.com
12 mins walk: Le Labo, just off Marylebone High Street is a tiny little perfumery which custombottles scent right in front of you (lelabofragrances.com).