Thursday, 16 August 2018

A right royal welcome

Classic double room at the Rubens
In the year of a Royal Wedding, I decided to pay a visit to a London hotel that prides itself on its regal pedigree…

With its proud address on Buckingham Palace Road, the Rubensat the Palace can feel justified in boasting just a bit of a swagger.

But it achieves in central London a level of guest intimacy and sense of belonging that are usually the preserve of a country house.

This is more than worth valuing, for nowhere in the UK is it easier to pay a lot of money for a lousy hotel room than in London.

At the Rubens, the good things began at the moment of my arrival – or rather even before it – as the bright and friendly receptionist demonstrated an uncanny knowledge of my likes and dislikes, including my taste in cocktails and my preferred newspaper. “It’s all the guest preference form you completed, Mr Abbott,” she reminded me, detecting my look of incredulity. I had quite forgotten about that special little touch.

Outside, the hotel reflects its regal nomination – it’s proud of being the closest hotel to Buckingham Palace – while inside it oozes both the best of modern design and tradition: I think there was one staff member on perpetual duty polishing the brass lift doors.

My room, however, was ultra-contemporary, though not in the annoying minimalist sense – and the d├ęcor echoed my favourite colour, as per the aforementioned preference form.  The bed was sumptuous, the free Wi-Fi efficient, the iPod station ready and waiting beside a hand-written welcome from the manager.

Unusually for a large hotel, each room is individually decorated, with hand-picked works of art and antiques.

This corner of London is handy for museums and galleries (including the fascinating Churchill War Rooms), not to mention trendy bars and restaurants. But why would you, given that the Rubens has recast its dining to offer a choice of the two-Rosette English Grill and the Curry Room, offering dishes from Durban’s Curry Box in the intimate downstairs space that used to be the Library Restaurant? Meanwhile, afternoon tea in the Palace Lounge remains an institution, while the Cavalry Bar has morphed into the New York Bar, complementing the brand new Leopard Bar, with its 200 whiskies and 30 champagnes.

To underscore the rich vein of pedigree, all meats are supplied by Royal Warrant holders, Aubrey Allen – so diners can boast that they ate like the monarch, too.

Although the wine list is extensive, the hotel’s pride is its close association with the Bouchard Finlayson estate, in South Africa, and I noted that the Rubens charity arm supports the Amy Biehl Foundation, which is involved in programmes aimed at empowering young people from impoverished townships in that country.

Corporate social responsibility extends outdoors, where the towering end wall was both a pioneer of the “living wall” concept, and, at 350 square metres, remains one of the largest in the capital.
  •  I was a guest of Red Carnation Hotels during my stay at the Rubens

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