A lot has changed since The Carlton Tower hotel opened in Knightsbridge in 1961. As London’s first tower hotel and the tallest hotel in London, it became an immediate landmark. It felt glamorous too. Also responsible for the look and feel of the Plaza Hotel in New York, the designer Henry End was commissioned to sort out the interiors. Celebrities stayed, and Chelsea’s wealthy convened there.
Sixty years later, things are very different. For some time now rebranded to reflect its incorporation into the Dubai-based hotel group’s portfolio, The Carlton Tower Jumeirah is encircled by a number of illustrious competitors that have emerged in its wake (The Lanesborough, Bulgari Hotel London, The Berkeley, Belmond’s Cadogan Hotel and the soon-to-open Peninsula). It’s fair to say the Carlton Tower lost some of its prestige in recent years but as the capital reopens, the property is once again aiming to claim a place as one of London’s best luxury hotels. Planned long before the pandemic would in any case have curtailed its operations, on June 1 the hotel will reopen following an 18-month refurbishment that has cost over £100 million.
Jumeirah’s European flagship, the 17-storey renewed property has been reconceived from top to tail. There are fewer bedrooms now – 186 now instead of 216, with almost half of them suites; 87 rooms will have balconies, a real rarity among London’s luxury hotels. As described by the team at Jumeirah, interiors will combine “a modernist aesthetic with minimal style” (I expect “minimalist” is what was meant here). Amid all the soft creams and ivories, there will also be flourishes of colour “influenced by British heritage hues in deep blue, greens and maroon”. From floor to ceiling, bathrooms will be covered in marble; toiletries will be by Australian skincare specialists Grown Alchemist, a premium brand I haven’t encountered in any other hotel.
As yet, just a handful of renderings and very few details are available about the hotel’s new three-bedroom Royal Suite, but given Jumeirah’s standing in the Middle East and how much money London luxury hotels’ best suites generate from that market in any normal summer, it’s safe to assume they’ll be offering something very special. (I’ve reviewed a number of London’s best hotel suites, pretty much all costing in excess of £10,000 a night, and am invariably told each is booked out for weeks or months on end by key Middle East clients when the heat gets a bit too much back home…)
More broadly, public areas will be significantly reimagined and a fresh emphasis will be placed on making the hotel again a place to see and be seen. Interiors this time round are by 1508 London, a Westminster-based design studio whose other projects include the likes of the forthcoming OWO Residences at Raffles London, The Lanesborough Club spa, Four Seasons Suzhou and Njord, the world’s largest private residence yacht.
Again according to Jumeirah, the design practice has created “a modern classic with a timeless, refined interior and sense of grandeur… [It] has layered the eclectic mix of the architecture of the surrounding mansion blocks and homes, adding soft curved edges, pops of bright colour and organic-inspired forms throughout.”
The first guests to enter the hotel in June will see a restored sculpture by the late Dame Elisabeth Frink at the entrance (the work was commissioned for the hotel’s 1961 opening, when the artist was relatively unknown). In the lobby, with its double-height ceiling, a bespoke fluted chandelier incorporates an abstract interpretation of a chrysanthemum, inspired by neighbouring Cadogan Place Gardens’ history as a botanical garden. Adjacent, The Chinoiserie will be the hotel’s all-day dining area with a ‘cake-o’ clock’ concept serving patisserie all day; a lobby bar will serve cocktails. Italian seafood restaurant Al Mare will feature an open kitchen, private dining and al fresco dining, with that latter feature even more valuable now than it must have seemed when plans were being drawn up in the Before Times. The head chef will be Italian Marco Calenzo, previously of Zuma and The Lanesborough.
Most interesting to me, though, is The Peak Fitness Club & Spa, which will extend across three floors of the building and incorporate the largest naturally lit hotel pool in the city. (Most others are underground, and while the Shangri-La’s is significantly higher, towards the top of the Shard skyscraper, it’s dinky.) Here swimmers will be able to take in the rooftops of Knighbridge through a double-height glass ceiling or can relax post-dip in cabanas while enjoying something refreshing from The Peak café; spruced-up treatment rooms and an expanded treatment menu will await on the second-level Talise Spa. Club memberships will be available to locals and guests will be able to join the studio classes scheduled for them. I’m so up for this becoming a new norm in luxury hotels: as someone who always wants to exercise on holiday but finds solo gym visits deathly dull, this is absolutely something that would steer me towards booking a stay at The Carlton Tower Jumeirah over a competitor without that offering.
Also appealing to me is the possibility of tennis games in Cadogan Place Gardens, generally accessible only to guests of the surrounding residential blocks and hotels. I think most other guests, however, will be more excited about the property’s proximity to Harvey Nichols and Sloane Street, both immediate neighbours, and Harrods, just five minutes down the road.
Rooms at The Carlton Tower Jumeirah will cost from £540 per night.