Weekend Away: Berkeley Hotel, London
Wow, what a great location! Two minutes' walk from Harvey Nichols and the start of shopping heaven in Knightsbridge. Leafy Hyde Park is also on your doorstep, so it's perfectly positioned for a morning jog or a leisurely walk to Marble Arch and the West End theatres.
The sight of the hotel's legendary Blue Bar is a vision to arouse even the most jaded traveller. The walls are painted a mesmerising shade called Lutyens Blue and the popular bar -- which boasts 50 different brands of whiskey -- was designed by Dublin-born architect David Collins.
Room to book
There are 214 bedrooms in the five-star hotel, which originally started out its life in Mayfair, but the establishment moved to its present location in Wilton Place, Knightsbridge in 1972. Now owned by an Irish investment company, guests are cosseted with care and attention from the moment they arrive and there is twice-daily maid service in rooms.
Our junior suite was tastefully decorated in a mix of modern styling, classic furniture and a contemporary palette of colours. They thought of everything and there were even power points in the walk-in wardrobes for the hair dryer and ghds. The marble bathroom was large and opulent -- just the place to sip a glass of bubby and rest the feet after all those shops.
The afternoon tea -- or Prêt-à-Portea as they call it at the Berkeley -- was a humorous, fashion-fuelled affair with a tempting collection of cakes and fancies inspired by the colours of the catwalk, all served on jazzy, striped Paul Smith service. We admired, photographed and then scoffed miniature versions of our favourite accessories -- the Hermes Kelly bag and Alexander McQueen silver spice boots, all washed down with Earl Grey tea.
If you feel like pushing the boat out, you can add a glass of champagne to the basic £34 (€43) afternoon tea package, bringing your bill to £42 (€53).
Breakfast the next day ticked all the boxes -- a great pile of scrumptious pancakes for my daughter and an omelette, plus a fruit plate and pot of peppermint tea for myself; all wheeled in on a linen-covered table laden with silver service and china.
Lunch the next day at the Caramel Room restaurant was a great success. The black ink lingini with crabmeat was heavenly. At £19 (€24), it might seem a trifle expensive for lunch but when I say it was delicious, that is an understatement. I wanted to lick the plate... not that you would, of course!
Thrilled with our purchases on nearby King's Road and Sloane Street, we headed back, jumped into fluffy towelling robes and went straight to the hotel health club and spa, where we swam under the stars at the rooftop pool until 8pm. What a nice way to let the stresses of the day ebb away as we chilled out on sunbeds and relaxed with fresh fruit, sparkling water and glossy magazines, plotting our shopping strategy for the next day.
What to do
The spa/pool area is a total chill zone and very popular among the social A-listers (think Madonna and the Notting Hill set) and regulars come specially for exclusive Doctor's Dermalogic Formula (DFF) treatments.
The hotel is very family-friendly and you can request a selection of children's books, board games, DVDs or a Gameboy Advance.
If the other half wants to relax while you hit the shops, there is Quadriga Genesis in all bedrooms so you can view all the latest movies before they come out on video, or zap between international TV channels, music on demand, and broadband internet service.
I'm not one for complaining, but if there is one downside to the Berkeley Hotel it's that you will come home with your credit card totally nuked due to its location beside so many tempting shops. In fact, the hotel have drawn up their own fold-out fashion map so you can't fail to discover the gems on West Halkin Street, where Irish designer Louise Kennedy has a very chic store beside Christian Louboutin. You can imagine the credit card bills by this stage.
Weekend promotions include a deluxe room with king-size bed, breakfast and a bottle of champagne on arrival, from £309 (€389). Check out the Sex And The City movie weekends from €415 where you can relax with box sets of the TV series, have Manhattans and other cocktails delivered to your room along with popcorn, cupcakes and pampering beauty products.
The Berkeley, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7RL.
Tel: 0044 207 235 6000, www.the-berkeley.com