In London’s feverishly competitive world of luxury 5-star hospitality, if you’re not working with innovative, international architects and designers on a building project, you’re almost certainly going backwards. (The same applies with chefs.) As 2017 gathers steam, so is a five-storey iceberg basement-dig at Claridge’s and a major 18-month renovation at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park. The Berkeley in Knightsbridge was a few months ahead of them, with 2016 proving to be the start of a game-changing period. If you haven’t visited the hotel for a while, prepare for some architectural surprises.
During the first half of the year, The Berkeley literally made an entrance. A honeycomb glass and carbon fibre canopy was constructed at the front, masterminded by architects Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners. The lobby was reshaped to be more obviously welcoming, and spruced up with white Italian marble, warm timber panelling and bespoke furnishings.
As the new entrance was taking shape, the famous Blue Bar to one side of it and the Collins Room restaurant (formerly the Caramel Room) to the other were extended into matching glass pavilions. With natural light now able to flood both spaces in a way it hadn’t before, the Collins Room was redesigned by Robert Angell using mirrors and handmade wallpaper to make it feel like a silvery glade.
The Collins Room does delicious all-day dining, including The Berkeley’s original fashionista afternoon tea – Prêt-à-Portea – which has now been served every day for 10 years. The Blue Bar reopened with a colourful Friday-night vibe and a new menu of chic cocktails.
Upstairs, a collection of contemporary, ultra-spacious rooms and suites has gradually been revealed on the first floor. International designer John Heah has brought his calm touch to bear on the new Grand Terrace Suites. They have private garden terraces, overlooking St Paul’s Church next door, where you could hold a small party. In summer, surrounded by leafy trees, it’s hard to believe you’re in Knightsbridge.
We also can’t wait to see some of the top floor suites which, as part of some incredible makeovers this year, will be getting roof gardens and plunge pools.
One of the things which gives The Berkeley its star power is the gutsy way in which it has always embraced innovation, since the days when it was the first hotel to install air-conditioning, double-glazing and a rooftop pool. The newly designed spaces throughout the hotel are a typically ‘Berkeley’ surprise, and quite an exciting addition to the London hotel scene.