What character? How classy, classical, and sophisticated. What a combination of the traditional and the chic. It’s buried deep in the heart of London’s Mayfair, one of London’s top luxury districts. On a discreet street, hearteningly free from traffic or noise, is The Chesterfield Hotel.
It’s just along the famous Berkeley Square, the shops of Bond Street, The Royal Academy, Buckingham Palace, and several of the Royal Parks. It comprises three former Georgian townhouses five floors high. The façade sports its signature red flowers in its many window boxes.
Toward the end of the 1800s, the Countess of Carnarvon lived here. She’s the Lady that lived in Highclere Castle, used in the filming of Downton Abbey. In 1943 number 34 Charles Street was opened up by Winston Churchill’s wife Clementine as a club for visiting Americans. Next door at Dartmouth House is the English Speaking Union, the world center for nations adopting the English language.
The Chesterfield is part of the Red Carnation Collection which also comprises Hotel 41, The Milestone, and The Montague on the Gardens. The Red Carnation was worn every day on the lapel of the founder Bea Tollman’s late husband, and all the staff wore a red carnation pin on their lapels to honor him.
In the center of the foyer with its dark wood and elegant marble flooring, and beneath a low-hanging majestic chandelier sits a gorgeous bowl of red carnations. On the walls are large historic portraits to set a traditional, English scene, a certain aristocratic charm with signs to the ‘Gentlemen’s Cloakroom’ and ‘Ladies Powder Room’.
Bea puts her stamp on the hotel’s design with fine fabrics and floral patterns. Upstairs, and past walls embossed with red and green fabrics with matching carpets, are the 94 guest rooms and 14 suites. Each room (with prices starting from $390 a night for a Classic Double) has its very own style and personality. Mine had neutral, earthy colors of cream and taupe. The subtle relaxing hues of yellow blend in an array of patterns and textures in the beautiful fabrics. My divine bowl of fresh flowers sat proudly beneath big chandeliers and were reflected by large mirrors. The windows were framed with abundant swags of opulent fabric. My bed had the plushest of pillows and the crispest of linen sheets and who doesn’t love the range of toiletries on offer by Floris?
A pair of ceramic planters with floral displays led me to dinner at the hotel’s Butlers Restaurant. It’s a spacious room adorned with eclectic antiques and silver bowls and overlooking a lovely romantic courtyard. I sat amongst scattered cushions in front of the signature leopard print carpets. There was even fabric on the ceiling. It’s renowned for being the best Dover sole in London and the prices were reasonable and the helpings were generous. My dinner was paired with a Pinot Noir from the Red Carnation’s South African vineyard called Bouchard Finlayson. My breakfast honey came from the bees kept on the hotel roof.
The restaurant opens out onto The Conservatory, a light-filled room with bottled green and white chairs and plenty of greenery. This is where guests have their themed afternoon teas (including a ‘sweetshop afternoon tea’). It joins the intimate Terrace Bar with similarly dark green furnishing and a grand piano that offers jazz on Wednesday evenings. Like all Red Carnation hotels, there are plenty of innovative experiences on offer. Here there’s a ‘Gin and Tonic Experience’ and a ‘Whisky Nosing and Tasting’. Nearby, in the wood-paneled library, there are prints and paintings of horses and dogs and all the goings on of English country life. Not to mention the eponymous Chesterfield sofas and armchairs.
As the hotel’s promotional video declares “You arrive as a guest, you leave as a friend and you come back as family”. Certainly, the staff is all charming and friendly, polite and attentive and as they also say “No request too large, no detail too small”. How refreshing!