As London’s hotel scene preps for the Summer Olympics, a new but old contender, Café Royal, has what it takes to win. Our Daniel Szelényi takes the Royal tour and sizes up the Olympic competition.
London is a city of all sorts of fabulous events all year round, however, the big event everyone is talking about this year is the 2012 Summer Olympic Games from July 27 to August 12, 2012. It’s the big one with athletes from 148 nations competing for one of over 750 medals in 26 sports and 39 disciplines. With Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle as artistic director, a spectacular opening ceremony is pretty much guaranteed.
On the hotel side there are several hundred hotels in London competing. Kiwi Collection recommends 41 hotels as London’s best. A number of heavyweight champs enhanced their infrastructure. The Lanesborough recently revealed it’s Alberto Pinto-designed, 380 sq. meter, £14,000 per night Lanesborough Suite. The Berkeley unveiled new Robert Angel-designed rooms. The Four Seasons on Park Lane and The Savoy both reopened after a complete renovation.
Some new players are also entering the ring. Corinthia opened their flagship property last year. A Waldorf Astoria opened in scenic Syon Park (pictured below). Thompson Hotels entered the scene with Belgraves in February this year. Bvlgari’s London hotel is about to open in fashionable Knightsbridge. While ME London is scheduled to open in July.
Yet there is one contender who has spent the last three years quietly preparing for his debut in time for the Olympics, to take first place among London’s hotel scene, it’s Regent Street’s 150-year-old Café Royal.
The reopening of the Café Royal this summer as a member of The Set, Alfred and Georgi Akirov’s visionary new contemporary hotel collection, marks the return of a London institution. Under the hands of the award-winning David Chipperfield, the historic Café Royal is currently undergoing its third architectural reincarnation. Its interiors, from the 1860s and 1930s, are in the final phase of a sensitive restoration and are cunningly blended with contemporary decor that is referential to the hotel’s illustrious past. The result, a stunning 159 room luxury hotel and spa, is guaranteed to fetch gold medals in most categories.
Overlooking both Regent Street and Piccadilly Circus, one of London’s most iconic squares, the Café Royal is at at the center point between Mayfair’s cosmopolitan glamour to the west and Soho’s creative diversity to the east.
Since its original opening in 1865 by Daniel Thevenon, a French wine merchant who left his home country to try his hand in London, the Café Royal has been geographically, socially and intellectually pivotal to London life. It was frequented by Edward VIII and George VI in the early part of the 20th century. An old entry in the waiter’s notebook reads: “Prince of Wales, Duke of York lunch frequently. Always plain food and no fuss. Call head waiter and notify the manager.”
In keeping with this role, the new Café Royal will offer a diverse selection of restaurants, cafés and bars, including the exquisitely restored Grill Room (where Oscar Wilde, Winston Churchill and Princess Diana were regulars) and Domino Room, once called the “haunt of intellect and daring” by Max Beerbohm.
On top of that, a superb spa with an immense indoor pool completes what promises to be the most exciting opening of the year and the welcome return of one of the capital’s best-loved legacies.
Look for gold-hopeful Café Royal in the collection come June.