For obvious reasons, the hospitality industry has not 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 feel in the air as one of the world’s most iconic hotels celebrates 90 years since opening.
I always felt there was something special about walking up to “The Dorch”. Maybe it’s the forecourt packed with classic cars, the doormen in their immaculate green coats and top hats, or perhaps it’s just the building’s wonderful façade? Whatever that special something is, you just know that you’re 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 guestlist since 1931, history is everywhere at The Dorchester. But once inside, guests will quickly find out that the heritage of the past is fused with a modern-day take on British hospitality.
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
The hotel: discover The Dorch’s secrets
As the flagship of the Dorchester Collection, the five-star luxury hotel on Park Lane in Mayfair offers a more quintessential English style compared to its sister property, the contemporary and arty 45 Park Lane, which is just a minute’s walk across the street.
For food options the three Michelin star restaurant Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester is a major attraction, while there’s also top-class dining on offer at China Tang and China Tang Bar, The Promenade and The Grill. If you’re more in the mood for a drink than food, The Bar is where to go for cocktail hour.
At The Dorchester Spa you can unwind with facials, massages and a newly launched exclusive treatment from resident A-list facialist, Adeela Crown. Special guest experiences include The Secrets of The Dorchester – a 60-minute walking tour of the hotel with four themes: a general overview, World War II, the 1930s, and Oliver Messel’s work at The Dorchester.
The suite: fit for a rocker or a royal
Many hotels around the world are aiming to achieve that “home-from-home” feel. Well, the Dorchester Suite I was staying in felt like living in a dream property. Described as “lavish luxury”, the design and decor were certainly that and the king-size four-poster bed was as comfy as any I’d ever slept in. However, as lavish as it is, there is an understated class about the suite.
In the living area there was a dining table and seating that could easily fit a couple of rock stars, Hollywood A-listers and maybe a royal or two. You have to wonder what stories these walls could tell about previous guests from the hotel’s heyday…
The F&B options: cocktails or afternoon tea?
Hotels and restaurants across the country have had to adapt to restrictions and safety measures because of Covid - and The Dorchester is no exception. April saw the opening of the first rooftop restaurant and bar, while chefs from the hotel’s other outlets - The Grill head chef Tom Booton and Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester executive chef Jean Philippe Blondet - hosted pop-ups. The Polo Lounge at The Dorchester Rooftop has also been a feature this summer.
While the rooftop restaurant and bar are definitely worth checking out, the landmark old faithfuls - The Bar and The Promenade - remain two of the must-visit places within The Dorch.
While the hotel celebrates a landmark anniversary, The Bar’s manager, Giuliano Morandin, is marking his 40th year 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 drinking dens.
Alongside drinking, The Dorchester is the perfect spot to indulge in another (slightly classier) British tradition: the classic afternoon tea, served in The Promenade lounge.
The Grill: modern British cuisine
On the night I stayed at the hotel, the British “summer” weather meant that the rooftop was closed and the DJ booked for the evening ended up moving to the ground floor to spin some tracks at The Grill. The staff informed me that this was the first time The Grill had featured a DJ and she only enhanced the atmosphere of what is a fine restaurant.
The modern British menu by 27-year-old head chef Booton features a three- or four-course option. Deciding not to be greedy - I was leaving room for a few glasses of Veuve Clicquot - I chose the three courses, kicking off with Colchester crab tart, courgette and lemon verbena. With the main - a ribeye steak with chive mayonnaise, girolles, hasselback and scrumpet - I added an extra side of The Grill’s chips. To quote another British icon: these aren’t just any chips... in fact, they may just be the finest potato dish I had ever tasted. To finish, I went for the sweet tooth option - banana and chocolate cheesecake with caramel and pecans - which was unreal, especially when paired with the bubbles.
Hotel restaurants used to be dark and dingy places where you’d be lucky to get a decent club sandwich. A visit to The Grill proves those days are long gone.
The Dorchester may be known for its heritage and history, but with Booton’s modern menu, the use of British produce and the classy yet relaxed service, this restaurant should be considered the gold standard for other hotels to aim for.
The area: shop ’til you drop
Located just across the street from 45 Park Lane, The Dorchester also enjoys close proximity to Hyde Park, where you can take a walk, go for a run or ride a bike. If retail therapy is more your thing, then it’s just a short walk into the heart of London’s high-end shopping districts. Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges, Liberty London and Browns are just a few of the outlets where you can boost your collection of designer clothing.
With 90 years of history behind it, The Dorchester is certainly an iconic hotel which ranks among the world’s best. It may be lavish and opulent, but this fits the heritage that it holds. Although the stories of the past will forever be told at The Dorchester, for me the modern service, standards and facilities will be what maintains 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; dorchestercollection.com
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.