Located smack dab on Regent Street in the middle of London’s West End, Hotel Café Royal is both grand and modern in a way that befits its location and history. I have to admit that I hadn’t heard of the place until it popped up on our research radar but I was intrigued. Even better was that it was just a hop, skip, and jump to our lunch at Quaglino’s.
The hotel is owned by The Set, a hotel group run by father-and-son business duo Alfred and Georgi Akirov. Along with Hotel Café Royal in London, Conservatorium Hotel in Amsterdam and Hotel Lutetia in Paris (which is set to re-open very soon this spring!) are the founding properties that make up the collection. The two savvy businessmen remain very involved, especially when it comes to most of the important decision-making processes, and have the benefit of having years of experience in the high-end real estate business that can be applied to the hospitality field.
Hotel Café Royal is housed in a classic old building with a history that goes back to the 1860s. It was carefully restored by David Chipperfield Architects, in collaboration with historic building architects Donald Insall Associates, balancing a contemporary style with the grandness of the public rooms of its heyday.
That’s The Set’s signature – combining traditional grand hotels and new design hotels and offering their guests heritage and exquisite service alongside the needs of a modern lifestyle with technology and wellness centres that have all the trimmings.
The design style is incredibly interesting. I have to admit, it took me a minute to wrap my head around it because you expect one thing and get something absolutely different. From the exterior, you’re seeing something very grand and old world but when you step inside the rooms, you’re greeted with leather couches with clean, modern lines, slick metal lighting fixtures, and cool marble everywhere.
At the time of my visit, it was peak holiday season and the lobby was delightfully decorated with twinkling white branches and crackling fireplaces. The highlight for many was probably the enormous stuffed bears seen throughout, also known as Ziggy the Polar Bear, the mascot of the hotel’s charity partner Born Free Foundation. There’s a sweeping staircase and the original lifts add to the visual grandeur, capped off with the staff dressed to the nines.
But then you get off the lift and you’re suddenly transported from old-style England to Japan. As I walked down the corridors of the hotel and looked around my room, I thought I picked up a sense of Japanese aesthetic influence. The doors, with their grid-like pattern, seemed inspired by the sliding doors you often see in Japan, and there was plenty of open space and minimalistic touches. It turns out this design choice is actually Sir David’s interpretation of the stained glass in the historical lobby of the hotel. This is a style he has described as “classical elegance in terms of its symmetries and simple grids and order”.
Now, as for the service, the staff were absolutely spot-on. It wasn’t special treatment; it was truly flawless service from ever person encountered. This is most likely due in no small part to the guidance of the general manager Guillaume Marly, a seasoned hospitality veteran.
He has two decades’ worth of experience in the industry, having worked as Hotel Manager at The Ritz and The Connaught, as well as other senior positions at The Jumeirah Carlton Tower and Claridge’s. More recently, Guillaume was the General Manager at ME London and prior to that, Managing Director at André Balazs’ hotels. He knows what he’s doing when it comes to keeping everything running smoothly at Hotel Café Royal and apparently also has a bit of a personal bond to it as Cafe Royal was where he started his career over 20 years ago!
Pra was spoilt with a stay in the Regent Suite, a spacious setup which features a king size bed, a separate dining and lounge area, a generously sized marble bathroom, and a walk-in closet complete with ample drawer space (and a Culti diffuser discreetly placed on a shelf).
This room was absolutely luxurious and only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the variations and sizes of suites offered at Hotel Café Royal.
Before we continue, with all of the Japanese minimalist vibes, I would just like to put in a polite request for a sign that shows how to open the front door! Used to the standard “insert your key card here” system, the pared-down style left us scratching our heads for a few minutes!
Upon entering the Regent Suite, I let out an inner child squeal of delight when I saw how much space there was. This wasn’t a “couldn’t even swing a cat in this room” situation; you could easily swing a few cats and dogs! There is a mini foyer of sorts, with the bathroom to the left, the bedroom immediately to the right, and the living room to the back. There’s parquet flooring throughout, with the exception of the bathroom which is practically head-to-toe Carrara marble!
The bathroom is opulent in terms of size. Not only is there a marble tub in the middle of the floor, which would be ideal for a long, well-deserved soak whilst sipping on some champagne, but there’s also a massive rainfall shower. It’s all about space, space, space. Fluffy white Frette towels hang just so along the wall on brushed metal rails and there’s plenty of counter space alongside the double sinks so ladies, feel free to spread out your makeup kit, indulge in the provided Floris amenities, and make yourself at home!
The big bedroom is uncluttered and comfy, with a very welcoming king size bed that will feel absolutely divine to spread out in after a long night out on the town. Showcasing the modern side of the hotel’s design, there’s no headboard because the walls are actually done up in what look like massive padded panels, and the curtains are controlled by remote.
The living area, with a sofa, armchairs, and a 6-seater dining table, has room to spare! The hotel very sweetly left a few treats on the table for some late night indulgences, including a slab of chocolate and a bottle of Laurent-Perrier. In the corner is a separate little pantry nook stocked with everything you might need, from snacks to wines to whiskeys to the very important (and very much needed!) Nespresso machine.
One of the best features of this room, though, is the expansive view it affords you of Regent Street. You can look right out onto the flurry of activity below, which was made all the more special for me because I could see the holiday decorations strung up over the streets. The rooms are equipped with blackout curtains (which can be controlled from a panel on the wall) so don’t worry about the lights and billboards that look like they’re just a stone’s throw from the windows! You feel like you’re in the thick of it all whilst at the same time being cocooned in a lovely, quiet sanctuary.
The signature suites (there are seven) are decked out in different styles, each inspired by a part of Cafe Royal’s rich past and representing a unique character.
One of them is the Dome Penthouse, a sprawling three bedroom residence covering 292 sqm of space. If you splash out on this penthouse, you’ll have a master suite which shares the main circular space with a living area, divided by a massive emerald green partition. There are two terraces, both generous in size, where you can lounge as you drink up the incredible views of London. This is a hotspot for models and photoshoots and we can see why! Hotel Café Royal describes this as the “ultimate rock ’n’ roll residence” and they aren’t wrong! You will, without a doubt, be spoilt from the beginning to the end of your stay.
My back-to-back scheduling didn’t allow for time to explore Hotel Café Royal’s restaurant Ten Room but it has an excellent reputation for its British informal dining. They are open all day and offer seasonal lunch and pre-theatre menus, catering to both the business and leisure crowd that frequents the West End area.
There is also Papillon, an elegant cafe that is also open all day and serves a menu with British and French influences. The stunning little pâtisserie here is perfect for sating those mid-afternoon cravings for crêpes or a Paris brest.
What would a day in London be without taking time out for tea? The Oscar Wilde Lounge at Hotel Café Royal serves their award-winning afternoon tea in an opulently gilded room with mirrors, richly decorated ceilings, and red leather chairs. It was a surprisingly cosy space and I can’t wait to go back for their high tea.
There’s plenty of history to be found in this lounge. This is where Oscar Wilde fell in love with Lord Alfred Douglas and where everyone from David Bowie (who famously “retired” Ziggy Stardust here) to Elizabeth Taylor have danced and been entertained. This is where the grand and traditional part of the hotel comes in!
Should you be in the mood for a late afternoon cocktail or a nightcap, you can sidle up to the bar at The Green Room, a luxury cocktail bar specialising in G&Ts or, as they refer to it, Botanicals and Tonics. They offer a full menu with wines and an extensive selection of spirits but in a sumptuous bar setting like this, it only seems right to indulge in one of their signature cocktails or even some absinthe!
Called the Akasha Holistic Wellbeing Centre, Hotel Café Royal’s wellness club is rich with treatments, fitness classes, and more. It’s run under the watchful eye of Spa Director Robin Mauras-Cartier who joined The Set after time spent in Hong Kong with Accor Hotels where he was Asia’s Regional Director of Spa.
There are nine treatment rooms and 15 therapists, with various treatments that will leave you feeling refreshed, relaxed, and rejuvenated. The centre is equipped with a private Hammam (the 23 Carat Gold Signature treatment sounds properly indulgent!), a Vichy shower, and even a Watsu pool (London’s first) where you can take part in hydro-treatments and meditation.
Their signature treatment is The Four Elements, a 90-minute full body journey inspired by the four elements in nature. First is a therapeutic water treatment, followed by a foot massage using warm towels (earth). Then you’ll experience a hot oil and hot stone massage (fire) before finishing up with a scalp massage (air).
As for the products that are used here, you’ll be scrubbed, polished, and scented with goods from Valmont, Sodashi, and Sultane du Saba.
Hotel Café Royal has plans to unveil a new restaurant, as well as a new lobby, this year.
All in all, you have to keep an open mind to the design when at Hotel Café Royal. They took a risk and bravely went to town, investing in going against the grain of design in such an old and classic building. The Japanese theme (as we call it) makes it all about space and simplicity, which is great if you don’t like clutter.
I can say that I would most definitely return, not only for the location, but because the staff were spot-on, warm, and fun, plus we really want to embrace that high tea in the Oscar Wilde Lounge!
The Set Group, we are with you all the way. Now to try your other ones!
Disclaimer: The Caviar Spoon was hosted by Hotel Café Royal but all opinions expressed are our own.
68 Regent Street
London, W1B 4DY, UK