Room type: Terrace Suite
Duration: 26th March
Booked with: Directly with hotel
If I die poor then I will have no one to blame but myself. There will be no need for a committee to work out where it all went wrong. Sting’s accountant will not need to be interviewed. Just pop along to The Connaught, to enjoy one of their 3 bars or 2 Michelin star restaurant and then take a moment to thank me for contributing, albeit ever-so-slightly, so their income and facilities.
This review is an overview of The Connaught. Due to having stayed close to 100 times at the time of writing (no really, tis true, I would never, ever, ever exaggerate), I will avoid specifically talking about a room type in this review, as I will cover that at another time. Plus writing is tough, so there’s that.
I send an email. They respond to say it’s booked. I turn up. The room is ready. Points awarded for brevity and execution.
I get on a train to Kings Cross. I call an Uber. I arrive at The Connaught.
Set walking distance from Selfridges on Oxford Street, you would think The Connaught would actually be very crowded and surrounded by teenagers dressed like they are preparing for an armed robbery. Yet you’ll find it’s tucked away, almost hidden, to put itself in the perfect condition: close to everything, yet away from everyone. Providing that you don’t suffer from any mild conditions, such as insanity, you will realise that Mayfair is the best part of London. This means the only better placed hotel could possibly be The Beaumont, which is even closer to Selfridges and still somehow maintains complete isolation. I would still give preference to The Connaught’s location, due to its easy access to get to Knightsbridge along with the huge selection of overpriced restaurants, where you too can eat food and pay 3x it’s actual worth.
If you described The Connaught to me, I would have no interest in visiting it. It sounds far too similar to The Ritz or The Dorchester, both from the aesthetics and old classic English feel to it. The type of place I imagine Freemasons come to chant in their underwear about how high taxes are, which is what I’m pretty sure they do. All my favourite hotels designs offer very modern, minimalist designs; think lots of concrete, nothing on the walls and glass everywhere.
Yet The Connaught has managed to merge both classic and modern English design perfectly. The hotel feels quintessentially English, from the doormen, down to the uniform, the reception area, the beautiful staircase and corridors. They even serve afternoon tea, just to ensure all the boxes are ticked. Most hotels are built as hotels, with their horribly bland corridors removing all sense of life from them. The Connaught seems – by accident or design, I’m unsure – built with the intention of ensuring you don’t feel like you’re in a hotel. With all the natural light coming in and the building and staff so welcoming, you immediately at home.
As part of their refurb back in 2007, they also built a contemporary wing, which has a completely different feel to it. You could easily believe you’re in another hotel at this stage, as the rooms are so different. Plus they have Toto toilets, which means every visit to the toilet is Christmas. I used to prefer this part of the hotel, but once you get to the suites then the old wing wins down in every regard.
Every other year I’ll read an article about some property in London that fits the description of some crack den, with no natural light, cockroaches for roommates, a next door neighbour that thinks they’re in Ibiza and has their own private raves 6 times a week, and only enough room to sleep standing up. The article then mentions that it recently sold for £1m and a KitKat. The basic room at The Connaught, whilst perfectly pleasant, makes me think of these stories, as space is certainly a premium.
Once you get onto the suites, The Connaught really comes into its own. I would certainly not suggest you do not visit if you cannot get a better room than a basic, but you should come fully prepared for it to be smaller than you imagined. Just like with any luxury hotel, you will have people staying who could afford to stay forever, some who stay for weeks at a time and others who will save for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you’re the latter, try every trick in the book to get an upgrade before you arrive.
I’ve already told you they have Toto toilets, yet you want and expect more? Well they have 3 bars, so now you can get completely smashed before you go back to your room and rest your head on your heated toilet and throw up.
The Aman Spa: where I first came to know about Aman. Aman Venice, Amanzoe, Aman Tokyo and Amanruya are just a few of the 17 Aman’s I have visited since learning of Aman at The Connaught Aman spa. The area, whilst small, has one of the best spa facilities within London. The indoor pool area has loungers, allowing you to relax in temperatures between 28° and 30°, and as they limit the times children can visit, it’s very peaceful and often completely empty. There is also a steam room, multiple treatment rooms and rumour has it that there is a gym here, but I have a horrible phobia regarding anything that involves exercise. The spa manager, Rene, is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. If you had to choose between her or Jesus, Jesus would be outta luck.
It’s a city hotel in one of the most famous cities in the world. Ask the damn concierge and/or go visit the Queen.
I consider food one of the most important aspects of a resort hotel, but with a city hotel it’s not quite the same due to the range of other options available; if you want to leave and try somewhere local, you don’t need to book it 3 days in advance and travel for 4 hours on horseback, for a starter. Aman Tokyo offered a very poor selection and it stands out in my mind for this, even though I only ate a few meals there. The Connaught has a great restaurant in the form of The Esplette Room, but it’s still not competing on the same level as it’s sister hotel, The Berkeley. Hélène Darroze is a poor option when you could visit Marcus; The Esplette Room is not on the same level as The Caramel Room and Koffmann’s has no competition anywhere from The Connaught.
There are definitely improvements that can be made in this area, particularly around the limited breakfast selection and huge prices to go with it but it is clear this is a priority for them and the investment is there. Over the last 18 months the prices have started to become more reasonable, there is a set price lunch menu that offers exceptional value for money and the quality of the food has improved considerably, especially when it comes to the quality of their meats.
I first started staying in The Connaught for Valentine’s Day. They offered all the guests personalised towels from The Connaught, which had your initials on. For the first time in history, it was acceptable to steal the towels. Upon leaving we noticed that housekeeping had accidentally taken one of our towels, so we mentioned it to the front-desk. They asked where we were going next so they could courier the towel there. An hour later the towel arrived. 4 years later and I still witness similar levels of service almost every time I visit.
- Part of The Maybourne Group, which also owns The Berkeley and Claridges. There is a large percentage of staff who move between the hotels within the group, especially management.
- Near-perfect location for shopping, restaurants and even walking distance to the West End, providing it’s not raining.
- Beautiful suites, especially at the higher-end
- Prices can be inexplicably high at times. I was once charged £250 for a car service to go around 3 miles and come back, as it counted as 2 journeys even though the driver only waited a few minutes for me to come back. If you can manage to get breakfast under £50, then you may get featured in the Guinness Book of World Records.
- Entry level rooms are very small
- There is a feeling here that the staff truly want to be here. I’ve spoken to enough current and ex-staff who have told me that there’s “something special” about The Connaught that cannot be found elsewhere.
I was in the Maldives a few years ago, where I ended up speaking to a couple. After a few hours the conversation of other hotels came up and they mentioned that they loved The Connaught; I was flying to Miami a few years before that and met someone on the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class bar that loved The Connaught; I have talked to GMs in SE Asia that love The Connaught. There’s a whole lot to love about it.
Without doubt my favourite hotel in England.
So, if you don’t bag a suite is it still your favorite hotel in London? Asking for a friend.
I can’t think of any hotel in London (or most cities) that offer a great base room. It’s everything else that comes with it, such as service, food, location, facilities, spa etc that make it great. So yes, I’d still recommend it even in a lower category. If you can get into a higher category then it’s superb.