This Iconic London Hotel Has Just Been Renovated—Here’s a Look Inside

The famed Hyde Park–adjacent hotel gets the modern refresh it deserves.

The Dorchester's lobby features chandeliers and gilt-topped black corinthian columns.

The Dorchester’s chandelier-lit lobby

Courtesy of the Dorchester


The Dorchester

The vibe: Low-key opulence reimagined in Hyde Park

Location: 53 Park Lane, London | View on Google Maps

Book now: Website



The AFAR take

Since 1931, the Dorchester has played host to royalty of every stripe: Hollywood (Elizabeth Taylor stayed here 37 times); literary (Somerset Maugham lived here for months at a time, and James Bond author Ian Fleming was a frequent guest); and actual British Crown (Queen Elizabeth II was romanced here by HRH Prince Philip in the 1940s and 50s). The hotel is part of the Dorchester Collection, a global luxury hotel group owned by the sovereign wealth fund of the Sultan of Brunei. It’s a favored resting spot for travelers who arrive by private jet then cruise about town in chauffeured Bentleys, and international titans of industry who like doing business behind the high-backed banquettes that line the Promenade.

But London has changed, and so has the Dorchester. For its recent historic renovation—the first major overhaul since 1989—it’s brought in new talent like Pierre-Yves Rochon to refresh the Promenade and the 241 guest rooms and Martin Brudnizki Design Studio to reimagine the Vesper Bar, formerly known as the Bar at Dorchester. The landmark deco building elegantly walks the line between ornate and unfussy, with a healthy dose of British cheek tossed in—shaken not stirred.

There’s a new nine-room basement spa with its own healthful menu, a front garden for midday spritzes, a rooftop alfresco bar to finish the night at dawn, and a flower shop and patisserie to bring home some of the hotel’s take on fine living. Even the Promenade, true to its name, remains a place to see and be seen. Its latest iteration is imbued with modernity, a sophisticated youthfulness, and optimism in full bloom—note garden-inspired pieces by notable female artists and the Lalique bar that features a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II by Ann Carrington, made mostly of mother-of-pearl buttons.

Who’s it for?

Park lovers who enjoy the polish of Mayfair and regal personal service in an OTT setting that’s somehow still stylish; hotel aficionados on the hunt for a memorable stay in an iconic gem. Families can check in here; littles get their own afternoon tea in the Orchid Room (milkshake and duckling-shaped confection included).

Interior of living room in the large Mayfair Suite, featuring hardwood floors and ornate crown molding

The living room of the Dorchester’s Mayfair Suite

Courtesy of the Dorchester

The location

The ancient city of London is actually a collection of villages, and Mayfair, in which the Dorchester resides, is one of London’s most upscale. The eight-story yellow pile flanks the east side of Hyde Park, and among its other prestigious neighbors are sister hotel 45 Park Lane (to which Dorchester guests receive spa and gym privileges), Buckingham Palace, Fortnum & Mason, and the shops of Bond Street. The parks (Hyde, but also Green and St. James) are a huge perk for runners and walkers. The hotel’s proximity to Soho, Covent Garden, Pimlico, Chelsea, Marylebone, and other coveted neighborhoods with excellent high streets make this West London neighborhood feel quite central.

Once you escape the cacophony of the city and enter the Promenade, one deep inhalation of the boisterous displays by in-house florist Philip Hammond will beckon you to parade down the banquettes to the Artists Bar at the back (note the singer at Liberace’s restored, mirrored piano!) and order a Paloma while eavesdropping on your fellow travelers, dressed in their quiet-luxury finest.

Once you enter the Promenade, one deep inhalation of the boisterous displays by in-house florist Philip Hammond will beckon you to parade down the banquettes to the Artists Bar at the back.

The rooms

Pierre-Yves Rochon lowered the number of rooms from 250 to 241, increasing the suite count. While most of the guest quarters retain the same footprint as when they were last outfitted in 2002, the new rooms appear decidedly modern, and no two are exactly alike. He replaced the heavy, clubby decor upstairs with inspiration from his floral-bedecked Promenade, resulting in private spaces that bring to mind an English garden awash in early-spring greens, heather blues, daisy yellows, and pale roses. The plush beds by Vispring ensure a restful sleep, while the deep bathtubs tempt guests for a soak after a day of meetings or outings. On your way out, the wall-sized mirrors at the end of every hallway scream for a selfie.

The food and drink

Along with the all-day dining menu in the Promenade (renowned for its afternoon tea), the hotel houses at least five beloved dining haunts. Authentic Cantonese has been served at China Tang for more than two decades and continues to sell out. Alain Ducasse’s namesake deserves its three Michelin stars (though a reservation is a hot ticket). And Tom Booton’s innovative British cuisine at the Grill should not be missed. (Whatever he did to that stuffed grilled onion resulted in a festival in the mouth.) There’s also the secret garden on the roof and the healthful options at the subterranean Spatisserie, but an even bigger draw is the Vesper Bar, which you must visit even if you’re not spending the night (more on that later).

The Dorchester's renovated Promenade, lined with sofas and tall, black gilt-topped columns

Designer Pierre-Yves Rochon is behind the Dorchester’s renovated Promenade.

Courtesy of the Dorchester

Staff and service

Dressed in custom-designed uniforms by Studio 104, the staff are available at every turn to deliver prompt and helpful service, without being intrusive. A request for a black towel and a cord adapter was fulfilled in minutes. The bellhop will walk you all the way to the Underground should you feel lost or unsafe. Turndown and housekeeping services happen once daily each, but there’s no pressure to grab-n-go. And the aestheticians at the spa might be the finest at any London hotel, so plan ahead and book a facial.

The Dorchester's Vesper Bar has gilt ceilings and green velvet sofas.

The atmospheric Vesper Bar channels Old-World glamour.

Courtesy of the Dorchester


The hotel has a ramp entrance on Deanery Street and all public areas provide wheelchair-compliant washrooms. There are rooms available near extra-wide elevators that adhere to EU/UK accessibility standards, with such features as roll-in showers and bathtub handles.

Bottoms up

Named in honor of a martini 007 ordered in the 1953 novel Casino Royale, the Vesper Bar’s gilded, jewel-toned nooks make it easily the best watering hole in Mayfair. Every cocktail on the menu comes with a story, and no detail has been left to chance. (Even the stemware is custom designed and mirrors the deco arches seen throughout the space.) Take your chances with the namesake martini, which mixes vodka and gin, or try the Bessie Mae, a rum-based concoction that’s also a nod to Elizabeth Taylor’s nickname.

The gold-leaf ceiling and velvet chairs reflect the soft lighting, making everyone look like they’ve just stepped onto a red carpet (even before that martini kicks in). Guests can enter through the side door on Park Lane or head to the balcony overlooking Hyde Park and order filling snacks like truffle pizza and tempura shrimp, thus allowing them to imbibe well into the night. Book out “The Snug” in a hidden corner of Vesper for a 12-person boozy bonanza and make anyone who wasn’t invited exceedingly jealous.

Heidi Mitchell covers trends, tech, cyber, health, travel, architecture, design, urban planning, and interesting people.
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