Weekend Away: The Goring Victoria, London
A five-minute walk from the bustle of Victoria Station, this elegant hotel on quiet Beeston Place has an off-the-beaten-track feel. German ex-pat Otto Goring opened the hotel in 1910 and it is the only five-star in London, perhaps in Britain, still owned and run by the original family.
This month it celebrates its 100th birthday and, claiming to be the first hotel in the world to offer en suite facilities in every room, it has quite a history.
The command centre for the Chief of Allied Forces during the Great War was based here and it turned into a veritable annexe to nearby Buckingham Palace for visiting royalty during Queen Elizabeth's Coronation in 1953. It was also the Queen Mother's favourite hotel.
Room to book
Aficionados of Edwardian architecture will be captivated, as original fixtures and fittings are lovingly preserved throughout the hotel. Although the 68 bedrooms were thoroughly revamped a couple of years ago, the makeover has been sympathetically done -- so while rooms have a flat-screen TV, for instance, they are hidden in a period cabinet. The bathrooms are unashamedly modern, however, and boast Molton Brown products and "mood" lighting.
Our room had oodles of character, understated opulence and the sort of home-like cosiness most hotels never come close to providing. Our windows faced on to the lovely private garden at the rear so there was no street noise to keep us awake. Bliss.
What to do
With one of the greatest cities on earth at your doorstep, there is never a shortage of things to do here. We took the opportunity to check out one of the longest-running shows in the West End, the nerve-shredding Gothic chiller The Woman in Black, which has been showing at the Fortune Theatre, Covent Garden, for the past 21 years.
With sterling so much cheaper, it was difficult not to be lured to the shops and we went a couple of Tube stops to Knightsbridge and Harrods, to avail of the 10pc discount on all stock that weekend, which The Goring's cheerful doorman told us about.
Later, the missus-to-be stocked up at The Organic Pharmacy on Kensington High Street.
There's no spa but guests can enjoy complimentary access to the LA Fitness Club gym and pool, a three-minute walk away. After gorging on exceptional food I probably should have taken to the treadmill, but instead strolled around the garden and thought about how lovely it would be for a wedding reception. The late Stephen Gately celebrated his marriage here three years ago.
There is a seriously good restaurant here. It's extraordinary, given the intricate French-oriented cooking, superb service and exquisite tableware, that a Michelin star hasn't been awarded. When we visited, game was in season and my fiancée feasted on a creamy lobster omelette followed by the venerable English dish of jugged hare. I couldn't resist the guinea fowl and eschewed dessert in favour of a belt-straining cheese board.
The young French sommelier insisted on recommending wines to accompany each dish and we had no quibbles with his selection. A three-course dinner costs £47.50 (€53) and with food of this quality, it's worth every penny.
The quality didn't suffer at breakfast either, with lamb's liver and herby sausages proving an irresistible combination.
I'm struggling to think of a single thing that irked me during our stay, with the very friendly, helpful staff making us feel most welcome. Earlier this year, Condé Nast Traveller voted the service at The Goring the best in the UK, and it's no surprise really. If I had to pick a downside, it would be its proximity to the tacky souvenir shops near Victoria Station and the hordes of tourists seeking out Buckingham Palace, but that really is nit-picking.
Double rooms start at £215 (€242) per night. The Delicious Goring Experience is from £670 (€755), based on two people sharing a double room for two nights, and it includes a full English breakfast on both mornings and one three-course dinner for two.
The Goring Hotel, 15 Beeston Place, Grosvenor Gardens, Victoria, London. Tel: 0044 207 396 9000; goringhotel.co.uk.