Asking the bartender at the Dorchester if he might regale you with a story or two is an ill-advised idea if you have any other plans in London that afternoon.
From those that have been at the institution since the 1970s – including head barkeep Giuliano, who has even created his own gin – tales of celebrity encounters, war-time scandals and secret tips are aplenty should you visit this 1931 establishment, sat on the eastern tip of Hyde Park.
Myth still wields a near-magical role at the property, starting at the entrance – where huge urns with flowers spilling over their tops are said to be changed in the dead of night by the florist Philip Hammond.
Walking into the long lounge, one might catch a glimpse of the Foyle’s Literary Luncheon. The gathering of literati at the hotel began in 1930, still continues today and was the event at which John Lennon famously delivered a curt speech taken as a snub (he later said he was “scared stiff” at the intelligence of the other guests there).
Take a sharp right before the lounge and head into the bowels of the hotel, where war ministers fled to underground Turkish baths during WWII air raids. Now, an in-house spa offers Manuka rose honey facials.
It is these traditions and quirks that epitomise the hotel, with rooms also living up to a storied heritage. Opt for The Stanhope Suite to see pieces by prominent British artists, the theatrical Oliver Messel Suite should you require a butler, or the Deluxe Queen rooms for a (slightly) more modest experience. All have gleaming white marble bathrooms, with tubs that fill to the brim in seconds – a perfect way to unwind after a long walk in Hyde Park.
From the concierge
On The Dorchester’s theatre desk, staff typically visit the theatre once a week, giving validity to their recommendations. A recent tip is the unique staging of Agatha Christie’s ‘Witness for the Prosecution’, which plays out in the historic council chamber of London’s County Hall.
With a secret entrance inside the hotel, the pre-war romance of Shanghai is on display in this authentic, upmarket Cantonese eatery. Try the dim sum, served all day at the bar or the Peking duck, served over three imaginative courses.
45 Park Lane
Nip across the road for after-dinner cocktails at 45 Park Lane, The Dorchester’s contemporary sister. Bar 45 celebrates the Negroni – first made in Florence’s Caffè Casoni in 1919 – with a dedicated drinks trolley.