In our ongoing General Manager series, we catch up with heads of hotels for some unique insight and perspective. Daniel Szelényi sat down with Louis Sailer of Café Royal before it opened this week.
What’s one thing about your hotel that you haven’t told anyone else?
One little secret is that the copper light used in the atrium, lifts and doors that divide the bedroom, bathroom and dressing rooms are handmade by Gilbert & McCarthy, the only man who is regularly commissioned to restore Big Ben.
What is the most unusual thing about your hotel?
I think the most unusual thing about the hotel is the seamless combination of the old and the new; taking a building with historic significance and infusing it with contemporary design. We closely collaborated with David Chipperfield Architects who designed serene and sophisticated new bedrooms and suites while Donald Insall Associates sensitively restored the historic spaces to their original splendor. Another interesting fact is that 46,000 sheets of gold leaf were used in the Grill Room alone.
What is your hotel’s unique selling point?
I think the hotel has four. First is the design, which marries historical detail with contemporary architecture. Second, our location is unrivaled, as we sit in the heart of the West End at the intersection of three significant London neighborhoods, St. James, Mayfair and Soho. Guests will find that all of London’s major attractions are within walking distance—looking out of the window you can almost touch Big Ben. Third, would be our purpose-built 1,200 square meter holistic wellbeing center, which spans two floors and features a beautiful 19 meter lap pool, public and private hammam, and watsu pool. Last, but by no means least, is our food and beverage offering. We hope to continue Café Royal’s rich culinary legacy and will have a variety of choices from the casual elegance of The Ten Room to the fine dining in the Domino room.
Why should a guest stay at your hotel rather than another?
If you want to experience London, Café Royal embodies the capital from design to service. You don’t need taxis, everything is within reach and just a few steps away.
Who is your hotel’s ideal guest?
We are not after a particular demographic, but hope to attract a particular mindset of people who are curious about London and Café Royal. If you are here for a short corporate visit, Café Royal is ideal, because you are right near Mayfair and St. James. If you enjoy shopping, Jermyn Street, Bond Street and Regent Street are right on our doorstep. Or if you simply want to absorb London and some of the treasures it has to offer then you have Westminster, Big Ben, St. James Park and Buckingham Palace nearby.
What elements will let guests realize they’re in a SET hotel?
The SET hotels each have their own individual character particular to the city in which they are situated. Location, lifestyle and the luxury element are important factors you find in each. In Amsterdam, the Conservatorium is in the center of the museum district. In London, Café Royal is in the heart of the West End. While in Paris, the Lutetia is in the creative quarters.
What area in the hotel is your personal favorite?
It really depends on the time of the day, I have something for every hour of the day. In the morning, I think standing on the Members’ Club balcony and looking down into the lobby is fantastic, with the energy level of the entrance when you see the life coming through the revolving door. I also like our Regent Street entrance—the original entrance of 1865—with its gorgeous glass panels; here you are pretty much sent back in time because of the way we restored it. Or if you want the rich, eclectic feel of gastronomy from the past then definitely the Grill Room, it’s simply unmatched. And at night, the terrace of our Dome Suite is where you can see all of London.
Do you have a favorite spot nearby?
I am very fond of the Royal Academy just around the corner, as they always have fantastic exhibitions. Bocca di Lupo in Soho is a great place to eat, but as you can imagine I haven’t been out much lately.
What’s an absolute must-do in town?
I would recommend you see one of the latest shows or exhibitions. Should you want to dine outside the hotel, we’ll make sure to get you a reservation at one of London’s best restaurants and then complete your evening with VIP passes in one of London’s latest clubs.
Which hotel—apart from your own—do you particularly admire?
I think when it comes to fine service, the smaller the hotel with more staff, the easier it is. Just look at the list of the best hotels in the world and you will probably find them there. From the larger ones who have succeeded at continuously being on the top for decades, there are the likes of the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok, where you simply know what you get when you walk in. There are certain hotels which manage to not just have good service once, but continually deliver good service. At the end of the day, it will be your guests who give you the stamp of approval.