Near+Far The Berkeley hotel rating: 10/10
Why book The Berkeley
The spirit of London‘s The Berkeley hotel is best summed up at breakfast. The pretty pale blue and white dining room is bustling, as always. A group of business people in suits enjoy coffee and full English breakfasts; at the table next door, a man lounges in silk pyjama bottoms with a bowl of foul madames, and on our table, this casually dressed reviewer is enjoying matcha and an acai bowl. It’s either this, or at 11pm in the Blue Bar, where silver trays of French fries circulate and a vinyl DJ spins cool beats – (so cool, this reviewer booked her for her upcoming nuptials). This dichotomy is what makes this hotel so special: elevated and grand, but contemporary and cool – the epitome of quiet and modern luxury.
Part of Maybourne – the group behind Claridge’s, The Connaught and The Maybourne Riviera (all World’s 50 Best Hotels) – The Berkeley is a stylish hideaway in one of London’s chicest shopping and dining district. Recent years have seen the property undergo a refreshing transformation – the addition of a new pastel-pink bar, a lobby expansion and the residency from perhaps the world’s coolest pastry chef – an addition to its already internet-breaking afternoon tea: Prêt-à-Portea. All this, plus a rare rooftop swimming pool, loyal Arab following, the friendliest staff in London and a location in the heart of Knightsbridge, yet with the feeling of a charming English country village (cue a church and gardens across the street), make this hotel a worthy home-away-from-home in the UK capital.
The location: 9/10
The Berkeley, miraculously, manages to feel like the chicest of city hotels, but also a countryside retreat – and that’s all down to its superlative location. The hotel sits on Wilton Place – just off the busy thoroughfare of Knishgbridge and its own peaceful enclave. Turn right out of the hotel, and you’re moments away from Hyde Park, Brompton Road, Harrods and Harvey Nics, but turn left, and you’re led into the cobbled lanes of Belgravia – London’s affluent village within a city. Nothing sums this up more than the charming adjacent parkland and garden and the old stone St Paul’s Knightsbridge Church – whose clergy officially turn the hotel’s festive lights on each year, cementing its neighbourhood status.
Rooms and suites: 10/10
The Berkeley’s 190 rooms and suites are a dreamy haze of sumptuous shades and plush ‘touch me’ fabrics – with the exciting addition of curated artwork. Embodying the style Maybourne 2.0 – a new dawn for the group following its openings in the French Riviera and Beverly Hills – rooms are designed by designers like Andre Fu, Joyce Wang and John Heah and offer everything from a grand penthouse or garden-view pied-à-terres. Checking in, you’re too sure what awaits: a chic New York City Loft or mid-century modern space with terrace and church views. Whatever room it is utterly splendid with Italian marble bathrooms.
Our Andre Fu-designed Grand Pavilion Penthouse Suite was arguably one of the best hotel offerings this reviewer had ever experienced – an enfilade of living and dining spaces, two outdoor terraces, two walk-in dressing areas and a bathroom stocked with scrumptious Bamford geranium toiletries – plus silky pillowcases branded with our initials. A full-sized coffee machine means you don’t ever need to call down or venture out, and a fridge turns the traditional hotel mini bar on its head – stocked with bottled treats from Lockdown Liquor Company and 111Skin de-puffing eye masks (plus all the usuals – of which soft drinks are complimentary. A true delight is the complete collection of Dyson hair appliances – hair dryer, Air Wrap and straighteners – so you have immaculate hair to match your surroundings (It’s a lifestyle, after all). We pop into a friend’s room down the hall – pastel pink and creamy with boucle furnishings, a fireplace and screen bathroom doors – impossibly inviting and stylish.
Food and drink: 10/10
When it comes to drinking and dining, The Berekely has everything to take you from day to night – and everything in between, twice over. Breakfast is served in the sun-drenched Collins Rooms on intimate tables with brilliantly smiling staff. The breakfast menu is all-encompassing – English breakfasts, eggs, acai and granola bowls, and Middle Eastern dishes – plus green juices and matcha. Lunch is also in the Collins Room, alongside the hotel’s famous Prêt-à-Portea afternoon tea – running since 2005 yet changing with the seasons. The hotel’s Head Pastry Chef is known to sketch new ideas from the front row…
While Pret a Portea has long reigned supreme, a new kid has landed on the block – Cedric Grolet. The world-famous chef has taken up residency in the hotel’s newly expanded wing (home of a shiny new lobby and the prettiest pink bathrooms), dazzlingly white test kitchen-type space and elegant lounge. Colourful cakes and glossy pastries adorn the countertops, and staff dressed in the chicest Cedric-inspired uniform hand out tiers of his new set tasting experience – a must when visiting the property.
Pre-dinner drinks are had at The Berkeley Bar – a soft, warm, cocooning space with pink and rich wooden accents and lots of cosy corners, plus a terrace, and specialising in rate wines, vintage champagnes and dark spirits. The piece de resistance is the pink snug – an intimate spot complete with a blush sofa, coral pouffes and marble tables, plus a mural of enigmatic female faces by New York-based artist TM Davy. A partition door and a ‘call for service’ button make this an exclusive and secluded hideaway. The Berkeley Bar juxtaposes the hotel’s iconic Blue Bar – swathed in a purply ‘Lutyens Blue’ (an ode to Sir Edwin Lutyens) and serving creative cocktails. A vinyl DJ regularly performs, and, come 11pm, silver trays of French fries are passed around – making this a true sybaritic hideaway. It’s yet to be disclosed what fine dining restaurant will take over from Marcus Wareing’s 20-year residency, but we’re sure it will be utterly fantastic.
Spa and facilities: 10/10
The Berkeley has what the smallest percentage of hotels in London offer – a swimming pool. Better yet, a heated outdoor swimming pool and pool terrace with bar – offering panoramic views stretching across the rooftops to Hyde Park and beyond. The two-level space has outdoor seating and lounges with stylish blue-striped towels – so when the sunshine comes, there really are few more sublime places in the capital. Guests can use a fully-equipped fitness centre and book treatments at The Bamford Wellness Spa at The Berkeley – an uplifting wellness haven with spa treatments by Bamford and Oskia London. Maybourne’s newest property, The Emory, is currently being constructed next door, with a subterranean wellness space being a key pull. It’s expected that guests will also benefit from these facilities when the property opens in 2024. The Berkeley has also opened a sophisticated new retail outlet by Eleventy Milano, embodying the hotel’s quiet luxury with timeless cashmere coats, softened knits in muted tones and limited-edition denim.
The vibe: 10/10
There’s nothing like spinning through The Berkeley’s revolving door after a long day in London. The family of door staff all personally greet you, the lobby is smiles all around, and the fragrance instantly sets your mind at ease. This is a hotel that’s both grand and traditional yet cool and contemporary, from the bowler-hatted doormen to the laid-back lobby staff now operating on iPads from a mid-century modern snug. Cédric Grolet has a cool Instagram-loving crowd, popular with those visiting from the Middle East, as does Prêt-à-Portea – a hive for celebrations. The hotel is always abuzz with guests – a testament to its enduring appeal and ability to capture the zeitgeist.