Hotel review

The Dorchester Hotel Review: A Celebration of London’s Past and Present

For obvious reasons, the hospitality industry hasn’t had much to smile about in the past 17 months or so. But this summer, as guests gradually return to the Dorchester, there’s almost a party vibe in the air as one of the world’s most iconic hotels turns 90 since it opened.

I always felt there was something special about walking up to “The Dorch”. Maybe it’s the forecourt filled with classic cars, the doormen in their crisp green coats and top hats, or maybe it’s just the magnificent facade of the building? Whatever something special, you just know you are arriving at one of London’s legendary establishments.

With royals such as the Queen and Prince Philip, rock stars like David Bowie and Hollywood legends Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and Rita Hayworth just a few names on the guest list since 1931, history is ubiquitous at the Dorchester. But once inside, guests will quickly discover that the legacy of the past is fused with a modern take on British hospitality.

The hotel: discover the secrets of the Dorch

As the flagship of the Dorchester Collection, the five-star luxury hotel on Park Lane in Mayfair offers more quintessential English flair compared to its sister property, the contemporary and arty 45 Park Lane, which is just a minute away walk across the street.

For dining options, the three Michelin star Alain Ducasse restaurant at The Dorchester is a major draw, while first-class dining is also offered at China Tang and China Tang Bar, The Promenade and The Grill. If you are more in the mood for a drink than a meal, the bar is the place to go for a cocktail.

At Dorchester Spa, you can relax with facials, massages and a new exclusive treatment offered by Adeela Crown, a leading resident facialist. Special guest experiences include Secrets of the Dorchester – a 60-minute walking tour of the hotel with four themes: a general overview, WWII, the 1930s and the work of Oliver Messel at the Dorchester.

The sequel: worthy of a rocker or a royal

Many hotels around the world aim to create that “home away from home” feeling. Well the Dorchester suite I stayed in felt like living in a dream property. Described as ‘lavish luxury’ the design and decor was certainly it and the four poster king bed was as comfortable as any I had slept in. However, lavish as it is, there is an understated class to the suite.

In the living room there was a dining table and seating that could easily accommodate a few rock stars, Hollywood stars and maybe a royal or two. You must be wondering what stories these walls could tell about previous guests from the hotel’s heyday…

Dorchester's afternoon tea is a popular choice for patrons
F&B formulas: cocktails or afternoon tea?

Hotels and restaurants across the country have had to adapt to restrictions and security measures because of Covid – and The Dorchester is no exception. April saw the opening of the first rooftop restaurant and bar, while chefs from other hotel outlets – Grill chef Tom Booton and Alain Ducasse Dorchester executive chef Jean Philippe Blondet – have organized pop-ups. The Polo Lounge at Dorchester Rooftop was also in the spotlight this summer.

While the rooftop restaurant and bar are definitely worth a visit, the iconic former devotees – The Bar and The Promenade – remain two of The Dorch’s must-see spots.

As the hotel celebrates a historic anniversary, Bar Manager Giuliano Morandin is celebrating his 40th birthday at the Dorchester. He leads a team of world-class mixologists who help maintain The Bar’s status as one of London’s most iconic bars.

Besides drinking, the Dorchester is the perfect place to indulge in another (slightly classier) British tradition: classic afternoon tea, served in The Promenade Lounge.

The Dorchester Grill
The Grill: modern British cuisine

The night I stayed at the hotel, the British ‘summer’ weather meant the roof was closed and the DJ booked for the evening ended up moving downstairs to shoot a few tracks at the Grill. The staff informed me that this is the first time that The Grill has featured a DJ and it has only improved the atmosphere of what is a good restaurant.

Chef Booton, 27, has a modern British menu offering a three- or four-course option. Deciding not to be greedy – I left room for a few glasses of Veuve Clicquot – I chose the three courses, starting with the Colchester crab pie, zucchini and lemon verbena. Along with the main course – a sirloin steak with mayonnaise of chives, chanterelles, hasselback and scrumpet – I added an extra side of The Grill chips. To quote another British icon: it’s not just crisps … in fact, this is possibly the best potato dish I have ever tasted. Finally, I went for the gourmet option – banana and chocolate cheesecake with caramel and pecans – which was unreal, especially when paired with the bubbles.

Hotel restaurants were once dark and dingy places where you would be lucky to have a good club sandwich. A visit to the Grill proves that those days are long gone.

The Dorchester may be known for its heritage and history, but with Booton’s modern menu, use of British produce, and chic, relaxed service, this restaurant should be considered the gold standard for other hotels.

The Dorchester opened in 1931
The Neighborhood: Shop Until You Drop

Located just across 45 Park Lane, the Dorchester also benefits from proximity to Hyde Park, where you can walk, run or cycle. If shopping therapy is more your thing then it’s just a short stroll into the heart of London’s upscale shopping districts. Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges, Liberty London and Browns are just a few of the outlets where you can increase your collection of designer clothes.

The verdict

With 90 years of history behind it, the Dorchester is certainly an iconic hotel that ranks among the best in the world. It can be lavish and opulent, but it fits the legacy it holds. While the stories of the past are forever told at The Dorchester, for me the modern service, standards and facilities will be what will maintain its status for the next 90 years. The 2021 version of The Dorch is definitely worth talking about.

The Dorchester, Park Lane, London W1K 1QA. Room rates start from £ 620;

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