I’ve stayed at the Mayfair Biltmore Hotel in London before. Our home away from home on Grosvenor Square is quiet but conveniently located close to Hyde Park, all the tourist attractions and fabulous shopping.
Grosvenor Square has had a rich and colourful history since the early 1700s. It is the second largest square garden in London, and an address on Grosvenor Square is one of the most prestigious in the city, at times home to aristocrats, politicians and socialites.
Until recently, Canadians and Americans have had a prominent presence on the square. No. 1 Grosvenor Square was once the American Embassy and later became known as Macdonald House, the Canadian Embassy. (Canada’s Embassy has moved to Trafalgar Square.) No. 20 was the U.S. military headquarters during WW11…there is a statue of President Eisenhower in the gardens of Grosvenor Square.
Oscar Wilde lived on Grosvenor Square in the late 1800s and has fondly mentioned it in four of his fictional stories.
“The Bentley Boys” were motorists (race car drivers) who in the 1920s contributed to the success of Bentley by helping the automobile company win four consecutive races at Le Mans, at a time when it was close to declaring bankruptcy. With their green sports cars parked outside their flats along the square, the celebrated drivers held legendary all-night parties. London cabbies called this “Bentley Corner”.
***All of you who watched (and loved) the popular fictional Netflix hit, “Bridgerton”, may not have known that the Bridgertons and Featheringtons lived on Grosvenor Square in 1813!
The Mayfair Biltmore Hotel
44 Grosvenor Square, London
This photo is the view of The Mayfair Biltmore from one of the entrances into Grosvenor Square. Just a quick dash from the hotel’s front door to the gardens…we spent an afternoon reading and relaxing in a shady corner of the park. Within the grounds was a food truck serving light meals and snacks and a busy ice cream vendor…oh, and the jazz standards playing in the background just added to the perfection. It appeared that the locals agreed this was the spot to escape their daily stresses.
This hall table laden with spectacular floral arrangements is what greets you as you enter the hotel lobby. Recently rebranded to the Mayfair Biltmore from the Millenium Mayfair, the hotel has seen a massive renovation. It’s completely different from how I had remembered it (it was beautiful before) but so much grander now. The decorating is exquisite, with gold ironworks, marble tables, sumptuous velvets and soft leather upholstery on the banquettes and chairs in soft colours of pinks, corals, and shades of green.
The draped doorway (photo above) is the entrance to The Pine Bar. It’s small, intimate, cozy and probably most important when we were there, comfortably airconditioned. We spent some time here almost every evening…we were the hotel regulars! On several evenings we were entertained by a talented singer/pianist.
The Pine Bar is also known for the tragic poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian KGB officer who received political asylum in the UK while working with British Intelligence. On November 1, 2006, Litvinenko met two former Russian colleagues in The Pine Bar. Little did he know that the tea he was drinking had been laced with polonium before he arrived. Soon after, he became ill and was hospitalized. The medical team could not figure out what was wrong with him. Litvinenko began to suspect that he may have been poisoned by his so-called friends, and after numerous tests, his worst fears were confirmed. He died a horrible, painful death 23 days later. Police found traces of Polonium-210 on teacups, teapots and surfaces in The Pine Bar and in the guest room of one of his colleagues. Luckily, no other staff or guests suffered the effects of radiation.
I know what table this crime took place at, and we visualised the crime scene as it would have unfolded. One night I chose to sit there…my daughter was not thrilled about it!
Afternoon tea has been a tradition in Britain since the 1840s. When Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, became hungry in the late afternoon (dinner was served at 8:00 pm), she requested a tray of tea and bread. The Earl of Sandwich added a filling between the slices of bread and small cakes when he brought her tea in the late afternoon. Soon the Duchess began inviting her friends to join her, and a new social event was born.
We had afternoon tea twice while in London.
Sketch: 9 Conduit Street, London
The unassuming entrance to Sketch certainly does not prepare you for what greets you beyond! There are five eateries at Sketch, each with a unique design and menu, although the food is considered “new French”.
Our afternoon tea was served in The Gallery. Everything in the room is a soft pink; the walls, ceiling and seating cast the warmest glow…even the champagne.
To start, we were served caviar with an egg and cheese mixture and mini toasts. This seemed an unusual starter, but in truth, the whole experience was quirky in the most fun and enjoyable way. Everything was delightful and delicious.
Photos (below) are of our afternoon tea in The Gallery at Sketch.
The Lecture and Library Room (left) recently received a 3 Star Michelin rating.
*All the rooms at Sketch are uniquely decorated, which is the ultimate understatement! Any room in Sketch would provide a fitting setting for the cast of Bridgerton.
The entry hall leading to The Gallery Room, where we had afternoon tea, is dark and dramatic. The hologram dancing overhead hypnotised me!
Across this hallway is The Glade, another dining room, the entrance draped in soft, aqua blue velvet.
*The photos are dark, but the lighting in this area is dim to add to the drama…and to allow the hologram to be visible.
The Orchid Room at the Dorchester Hotel: 53 Park Lane, London
The table with the high-backed sofa against the wall was our table for afternoon tea at The Dorchester. The walls are painted a chalky powder blue with white trim…it’s like sitting in a Wedgewood teacup!
Afternoon tea was elegant and traditional, served to perfection. Again the champagne, finger sandwiches, scones and cakes were divine.
This is a quote from the Dorchester website:
“Taking tea at The Dorchester, surrounded by luxury, tradition and delicious cakes, is the true definition of a day in London spent well.”
I couldn’t agree more!
Shopping in London is as you would expect…fabulous. Along with the luxury of Harrods and Selfridges (just a couple of blocks from Grosvenor Square), there are charming boutiques and markets galore…in every neighbourhood. Unfortunately, we didn’t do as much walking on this trip because of the weather; however, I maintain that it’s the best way to discover what a city offers. Stumbling into the unexpected is a holiday’s most fun and memorable part.
Leaving knowing there is so much more to discover ensures that you will be back soon…