Once every so often a building steeped in history meets a deep-pocketed owner and a general manager of impeccable pedigree in a coveted location of a global capital.
Situated on Regent Street, straddling Mayfair and Soho, Café Royal checks all the boxes.
Londoners have always had an affection for the place, founded by a near broke French wine merchant in 1865. Café Royal flourished for several generations, claiming a list of patrons from Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw to Noel Coward and in latter years Sir Winston Churchill (he was there when he received the news he was to become British Prime Minister), Mick Jagger (he recently returned to host a private dinner), Muhammad Ali and Diana, Princess of Wales.
It had never been a hotel – only a restaurant and ballrooms – until well-heeled Israeli developer Alrov (who last year opened the Conservatorium in Amsterdam and is also renovating the Lutetia Hotel in Paris) purchased the building, the building next door (formerly a bank) and spent undisclosed tens of millions. 51 of the 159 keys are suites including a number of unique, signature suites, one designed with a Tudor style interior. All tubs and vanities are single carved pieces of Carrara marble, and the project took up so much supply there was a three-month stoppage in shipping to other customers. The bar is a four and a half ton single piece of steel. Ceilings are detailed intricately in a way seldom seen anymore. Sir David Chipperfield who oversaw Berlin’s Neues Museum and the St. Louis Art Museum was clearly given free rein and a bulky budget. Even the elevators with mechanized double doors give guests a feeling of a bygone era, as do most of the public areas by until they slip into the ultra modern guest rooms.
Austrian General Manager Louis Sailer cut his teeth at Ritz-Carlton in the early years, helped Barron Hilton launch the Conrad brand in Asia, held court at Singapore’s legendary Raffles Hotel and helped position the city state’s Fullerton Hotel to award-winning status before taking on Café Royal.
There will be a three level spa, an indoor pool, an expansive gym and of course fancy meeting rooms and a private club. If truly legendary hotels are a mystical combination of history, location and service, elite travelers visiting the British capital will want to check into this new entry. And 2013 will mark a memorable entry into the global hospitality scene.