September 4, 2019
Mayfair. It’s an area that personifies London’s global image as a centre of wealth, history and exclusivity. Walking through the narrow, cobbled streets of Georgian townhouses, everywhere you see the commemorative blue plaques, detailing which famous historical figure lived where and when.
According to a recent survey, Mayfair is the most expensive place in the world to stay, with hotels regularly stretching into the thousands per night. In the heart of St James, however, is a hotel where you can enjoy a slice of five-star luxury without such eye-watering prices – Dukes London.
Travelling to the capital has never been easier, with the new Azuma trains from LNER offering direct routes from Newcastle in little more than two and a half hours. The new fleet was built in the North East at Hitachi Rail’s assembly plant in Newton Aycliffe.
The Azuma train is a serious upgrade from the previous generation, both in terms of comfort and functionality. Journeys are smoother than before with more controlled air conditioning and the new seating layout gives passengers options tailored to the purpose of their trip.
From King’s Cross, it is just a few short stops on the Victoria line to Green Park, where you can continue straight ahead to Buckingham Palace or turn left into Mayfair.
Hidden away in a secluded courtyard, Dukes London offers guests a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of Piccadilly Circus, which is just around the corner. A member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH), Dukes prides itself on the dedication of its staff and the quality of service they provide.
From the moment you enter the historic building, Dukes staff attend to your every need, conveying passion and knowledge for their facilities like the famous Dukes bar, where writer Ian Fleming supposedly took inspiration for the James Bond series.
A martini at Dukes bar is highly sought after and it’s easy to see why. Smart bartenders mix drinks at your table, pouring ice cold spirits into classic glassware. The bar has an intimate layout and is furnished with deep blue velvet upholstery – it’s all very 007.
The hotel’s food offering is a landmark in its own right. As the name suggests, the Great British Restaurant (GBR) serves a thoughtful menu of traditional British dishes with a contemporary twist. In 2018, it was awarded two rosettes for culinary excellence by the AA.
Each dish is available as either a starter or main course portion. We opted for starters of Jerusalem artichoke soup with duck liver parfait (£9) and haggis scotch egg (£8). The latter was garnished with seared Bramley apple and whisky sauce.
The artichoke soup was particularly delicate and combined well with the duck liver parfait. Both were paired with fresh caramelised onion bread and topped with crispy shallots. As good a first course as you could imagine.
Mains were the 57-degree lamb neck fillet (£26) and roasted cauliflower florets with Colman’s mustard and Binham blue cheese (£18). On the side were melt-in-your-mouth hasselback potatoes with a sour cream dressing.
The lamb neck was cut into four precise medallions and bared closer resemblance to fillet steak in both appearance and taste. It was accompanied with pickled sea asparagus, cut into an organic Bagthorpe farm potato jacket.
The tricolour florets were light, crunchy and creatively presented with a mustard seed dressing, making for a filling and aesthetically pleasing main course.
The dessert menu was concise, with five choices to choose from. We opted for lemon meringue pie (£8) and apple and blackberry cheesecake (£8).
The cheesecake arrived deconstructed, with pieces of ginger crumble, fresh blackberries and lemon zest spread about the plate. My travel partner described the lemon meringue pie as ‘the best ever’, which is all that needs to be said really.
At this end of the hospitality market, the service has to be at a certain level because many operators rely on repeat business from customers who are drawn back by memorable previous experiences.
At Dukes London, this is essential to their philosophy and delivered with great care and attention to detail. Whether it was the concierge at check-in or the maître d’hotel in the restaurant, everything was laid out for you to guarantee relaxation.
That relaxation culminates in the classically decorated guest rooms and suites. Each is furnished with a vintage wooden table and chest of drawers and fitted with gold-plated fixtures to elicit a sense of subtle luxury, consistent with the whole building. All period features have also been retained with a full marble en-suite bathroom and decorative coving throughout.
Dukes London knows who its core market is and tailors the whole guest experience to delivering for that market. That’s not to mention the fact that in minutes guests can be at Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace, Regent Street or Hyde Park. It’s a hotel that captures the imagination of visitors as to what classic British hospitality really looks like.