Finding Paradise In London

From Editor-In-Chief Laura Kosann. 

While visiting The Connaught Hotel in London is not necessarily the same thing as arriving in BBC’s Downton Abbey in the early 1900’s, I can honestly say that the greeting I received, and feeling I got, can only be compared to that of the Earl of Grantham’s when he arrived horse and carriage at his home. Thanks again Mr. and Mrs. Smith Hotels, yet another travel-booking-triumph.

This has not just something, but everything to do with the staff at The Connaught, who can only be described as playful, darling, and utterly delightful. I know it sounds precious, but each and every person – from the ladies at Guest Services, to the Concierge, to our personal butler Martin (yes, we had a personal butler) – was part of a team that we were wholly sadder to say goodbye to than friends or family members we leave behind after a long trip.

Greeted first by an incredible array of champagne and canapés in our Deluxe King Room, we entered upon the magical, bespoke experience that is staying at The Connaught. As we moved from the sitting room to the bedroom, we noticed that the pillowcases on either side were monogrammed with our personal initials; a gift that was later wrapped and sent home with us, to our utter delight (we spent the whole trip pontificating if we could ask about keeping them). And after debating ways to convince Martin to let us establish a permanent residence in that very room, we moved into the bathroom. I’m not sure what was better: the heated floors, standalone tub, or Bamford Geranium Collection bath products that were honestly my favorite scent I’ve ever smelled (seriously, I’ve spent 100 euros just on shipping, getting this product sent to me from London for the past month).

Before we went for drinks at The Connaught Bar (possibly my favorite bar ever, its up there with Bemelmans Bar which, as anyone who knows me can attest, is a big deal), we were taken on a tour of the Aman Spa. The spa is befit with a stunning 60-square-meter pool that includes a waterfall wall, and holistic massages and healing therapies that are, of course, as customized as the hotel experience itself.

Then came the tour of the restaurants; one being the two-Michelin-starred Helene Darroze restaurant whose reputation precedes it. Not only are there two bespoke pieces from Damien Hirst hanging on the walls (that’s enough to make me beyond obsessed), appetizers were sent across the hotel to us while we sat at the Coburg Bar, and just provided a teaser for how incredible this restaurant is. This culinary tour did not even yet include Jean-Georges at The Connaught, which opens this summer, and will be sure to be the perfect destination for brasserie-style classics.

So to get back to The Connaught Bar (aka my happy place) there was a very special Italian mixologist named Giorgio, a martini trolley that evoked only the most perfect flavor of nostalgia, and the promise of the perfect Martini (which, again, for anyone who knows me, knows this is an experience with my name on it).

Giorgio first begins with a story about a martini; it’s not as important to know exactly what the story was (though one began with “a martini is like a beautiful woman” in sultry Italian), but more the fact that by the end of it, you’ve never wanted a martini more in your life. Giorgio brings storytelling to the art of the cocktail, which in and of itself made The Connaught Bar a truly special experience (that and platinum silver leafs, plus unique art deco touches). Giorgio lets you choose amongst flavors like Lavender, Licorice, Ginger and Cardamom, one of which he gingerly pinches from a stopper into your empty martini glass like an apothecary. After shaking only the best vodka or gin, he brings his hand up sky high, and pours the liquid from many feet up down into the martini glass, so that the formula looks like a long, beautiful, clear string. He then tops it with either a shaving of a lemon from Amalfi, or a castelvetrano olive. Voila.

Then it was time for dinner. The Connaught is nestled in the very best part of London’s Mayfair district, making outings and eating-out a cinch. We had the best concierge experience, as they suggested a dinner reservation at the newly opened Jamavar down the street, which was hands down the best Indian food I’ve ever had. Not to mention the scene and aesthetic were perfect. As food obsessives, it’s hard to find a concierge we can trust in terms of dinner reservations, and The Connaught’s hit it out of the park.

Let’s not forget the English Breakfast brought up each morning, gorgeously plated and never lacking in classics like pork sausages, free range eggs and grilled vine tomatoes. That, and the newspaper of your choosing hand-delivered, kicks off the day seamlessly.

I’m not sure this has been so much a review as it’s been a love letter, but as an avid traveler, I guess they’re one in the same. When you leave most hotels you have pictures and memories: we left with two monogrammed pillowcases and a gorgeous Connaught deck of cards they sent home with us. These mementos won’t change the fact that The Connaught is at the top of my list to return to, and should be top of yours if you want to find paradise on your next vacation.

*Photos in slideshow supplied by Mr. and Mrs. Smith Hotels, The Connaught and Laura Kosann.