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Weekend in London hotels

This article is published in issue 49 of Vanity Fair on newsstands until 5 December 2023. To celebrate our #20changes with us, read here

They know everything, probably even that you have just arrived, Ms”, says the butler with a half smile as he shifts his gaze outside, to a troop of horses proceeding up Horse Guards (and where else?). The red cloaks of the royal cavalry flutter, and for a moment they seem to be trotting to the beat of the music coming from Trafalgar Square: a street band playing Led Zeppelin, it seems to me Whole Lotta Love. There is also a helicopter in the sky, a lucky day sun illuminates central London and between the red guards, old rock and the helicopter – a minister? Kate Middleton who lives just across the park, in Kensington Palace? – the scene as a whole is like a movie.

The facade of the new Raffles at The OWO hotel. Overlooking Whitehall, it is the building of the former English War Office. The windows on the ground floor, in the room where ministers, ambassadors and spies were received, are now the Drawing Room where an excellent Afternoon Tea is served with scones, sandwhiches and amazing desserts with a view of the royal guards on horseback.

Grain London Ltd

The historic Granville suite’s soaking tub is as impressive as the ballroom. Christine Granville was a spy of origin that Prime Minister Churchill greatly admired: real name Maria Krystyna Janina Skarbek, secret agent, Polish naturalized English, was the first woman to be recruited as a spy by the services.

A spy film, you might say: «I would like to point out that going out on the balconies on this side is not allowed, National Security rules». I’ve only been here a few minutes, but I admit that the atmosphere is already totally James Bond.
I move aside a light curtain looking for clues from a large cathedral-sized window (5 and a half metres) and I realize that we are in the turret. I’ve seen it before, in a movie: 007 Skyfall. Daniel Craig stood on the roof scanning the city.
But here it’s not like in The Crown 6, where each building plays the part of another place, like this You can find Buckingham Palace in Wiltshire, the Ritz hotel in Paris here in London (Dartmouth House, in Mayfair) and the supervilla in Saint-Tropez where Lady Diana meets Dodi al-Fayed in Mallorca. It’s all true here, and it’s a whole different story.
We are in a brand new hotel, with a name as varied as its birthplace: Raffles London at The OWOwhich must remain capitalized because it is the first Raffles in London but it is also the building ofOld War Officethe famous London palace from which Winston Churchill he coordinated the military operations of the Second World War, meeting authorities and receiving spies of all kinds in his 1,100 rooms. After a major restoration that lasted six years (and at least 1 billion pounds, it is said), it has just become the most eagerly awaited of London’s great hotels.

The swimming pool built in the basement, 20 meters long, is part of an “active wellness” area (signed: Pillar
Wellbeing) also open to members who do not stay in the hotel. The spa is also top class: Guerlain.

@John Athimaritis

We were invited to see it first from Italy, and having crossed the threshold, after having counted 37 fireplaces, we explored 8 km of corridors between staircases, living rooms, very contemporary-old velvet curtains Mad Menwinter gardens where a breakfast is served that Churchill himself, a well-known gourmet, would approve of (the buffet also includes oysters and champagne if desired, as you can see below. For us, the English Breakfast is better, complete with baked beans).

the breakfast buffet at the Raffles London hotel at The OWO. From oysters to eggs benedict with smoked trout (excellent: the trout replaces the salmon, which is not very sustainable), everything is worth it.

We opened practically every door we found on the way, even those of the five historic suites called Heritage that you see photographed. One is Churchill’s office (in case you are a head of state or the Pope and want to sleep there, it’s called the Haldane Suite) where you enter and you feel like it’s quiet like in church because it gets you a little emotional.

The windows of the gigantic historic suites are 5 and a half meters high, the fireplaces are original and the wooden decorations on the walls are authentic.

@John Athimaritis

In the lobby, a gigantic vintage map of London stands in front of the concierge desk and this large pinnacle of the contemporary art collection of which the owners, the Anglo-Indian Hinduja family, are collectors.

@John Athimaritis

For the beauty and works of art that the owners, the Anglo-Indian family Hinduja of the economic empire of the same name, have spread everywhere. But also to the thought that many fundamental moments for the events of the twentieth century, and indeed for the whole world, happened here. And it was here that a phrase was said to Europe for the first time, by Churchill in 1945, from the balcony above the staircase: “The war is over”, which these days sounds even sweeter.
Another door, another name on the plaque: «Granville Suite». These rooms worthy of the Favorite they are dedicated to a brilliant and fascinating spy whom Churchill held in high esteem, Christine Granville. It is here that we discover a bathroom as spectacular as ever, with a brass tub in front of a fireplace and showers covered by theatrical curtains.

The entrance on Horse Guards Place, in the heart of the London of power: the Royal family, parliament in Westminster, the government and Downing Street are all there, within walking distance.

Grain London Ltd

My room is dedicated to two other courageous women, Eileen and Jacqueline Nearne, right in the Daniel Craig style turret. They were active members of the SOE, the Special Operation Executive, that is, “good spies” of the secret group that fought Nazism. Arrested twice by the Gestapo, they always managed to escape. Their twenty-year-old faces smile in their well-pressed uniforms from the wall of their office which is now my airy, rounded and inspirational Corner Suite. It’s easy to think of these people and thousands of other heroic people like them, because while inside, in the Drawing Room, tea with scones and clotted cream – first the cream then the jam: we follow the Devon rule – the Remembrance Day parade flows through the windows, remembering the soldiers of every war. Women, men, great-grandchildren, there’s also Princess Anna, very feisty. Like her, they all have a red poppy on their jackets.

The terrace of the penthouse, the panoramic suite on the roof. The Raffles London hotel at The OWO, London. The Old War Office building, 1,100 rooms when it was Winston Churchill’s wartime headquarters, opened for the first time to the public on September 29 as a grand hotel (and 9 restaurants, mega spa, residences) after a billion-dollar restoration lasted six years.

With a London colleague we try to carry out the last mission: find the Spy Bar. Try searching online for a photo of this secret lounge, already the most sought-after in London, you won’t find it: no signs to find it, no sign, and a ban on photos: various influencers have already argued. We find him in a basement: it was the interrogation room.

Daniel Creig in 007 Skyfall, on the roof of The OWO

©Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

Low lights, exposed brick, beautiful music & beautiful people, patient enough to find it. And yes, there is a car hanging above the counter: obviously it is aAston Martin, silver, that of James Bond.
But I can’t say more, otherwise I would then have to eliminate you.

At the Mauro Colagreco restaurant, an Argentinian who has already won three stars in France (at his Mirazur restaurant in Menton), everything is focused on vegetables, nature and local products. with the dishes come beautiful postcards-art prints depicting the ingredients. We brought home carrots, pumpkin, beets, fish and artichokes.

Matteo Carassale

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Source: Vanity Fair

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