The vibe: A legendary hotel brand makes a dazzling London debut in an iconic location.
Location: 1 Grosvenor Pl, London | View on Google Maps
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The AFAR take
Culminating a search that began 30 years ago for the ultimate retreat in London, the Hong Kong–based hotel group Peninsula finally opened its British flagship (its 12th hotel overall) in September 2023 at a landmark location by Wellington Arch and Hyde Park Corner in Belgravia. Designed by British firm of Hopkins Architects to suggest a sleek, understated version of a Renaissance palazzo, the nearly $1.4 billion, nine-story building centers discreetly around an interior courtyard embellished by Swiss landscape architect Enzo Enea with two 120-year-old Japanese maples and climbing jasmine and wisteria vines.
Typically of Peninsula properties, the lobby is the heart of the place. Here, celebrity U.S. interior designer Peter Marino (making his U.K. hotel debut) dramatically carries the torch in The Lobby restaurant. The light-filled, all-day oasis inspired by the Apsley House (the former grand home of the Duke of Wellington) features a triple-height coffered ceiling, ribbed white Portuguese stone pillars rising from a patterned marble floor, and hand-painted de Gournay wallpaper murals depicting the leafy greenery of the nearby Royal Parks. On arriving I felt that I’d stepped into an instant classic—an indoor Arcadia. In my room awaited a bucolic amenity—a juicy Kissabel apple, golden yellow on the outside, rosy-red within.
Marino also designed the two-story below-ground Fitness and Wellness Spa, which showcases an 82-foot heated swimming pool and wood-paneled rooms for treatments like Blissful Marma Massage with Subtle Energies aromatherapy products, plus other diverse mind-body therapies and an expert-advised wellness program.
Who’s it for?
Fans of the Pen brand and its sharp service and generous perks will flock here, especially given the historic ties between Hong Kong and Britain. The hotel’s high-design dining spaces and outstanding cuisine will also bring international gastronauts, as well as London’s resident foodies. Aspiring aristocrats will love being in one of the city’s toniest parts, while fitness buffs will be happy jogging and cycling in Hyde Park just outside.
Fast-car and flying-machine enthusiasts will find passionate fellowship from Sir Michael Kadoorie, chairman of Peninsula hotels’ parent company. He’s partnered with Brooklands Museum in Surrey (former site of a legendary motorsport and aviation center) for the display of a classic British racing car by the ground-floor Lobby—with the nose of the original Concorde (Sir Michael owns it) looming overhead. More such treats await at the eighth-floor rooftop.
The Peninsula sits within walking distance of Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, and the Serpentine, not to mention Belgravia’s posh Georgian- and Regency-style residences and embassies. For nearby bites, the Pen’s ace concierge Gavin Mahood might recommend Wild by Tart, a spot with a sustainable seasonal menu, tucked away in Eccleston Yards by Victoria Station; or a super-local gastropub, the Alfred Tennyson. Also nearby is Pantechnicon, a handsome early 19th-century arts and crafts center on Motcomb Street now housing an imaginative gastronomy complex with Japanese details. For fashionistas, there’s Sloane Street, with its designer boutiques, topped off with Harrods and Harvey Nichols. Further high-end retail therapy lies toward Mayfair, New Bond Street, and Old Bond Street.
The Peninsula sits within walking distance from Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, and the Serpentine, not to mention Belgravia’s posh Georgian- and Regency-style residences and embassies.
Peter Marino’s vision for the hotel’s 190 guest rooms and suites—many with views of Wellington Arch or Hyde Park, others with terraces overlooking fancy Belgravia homes—is perfectly pitched to the brand’s brief of “understated opulence.” The color scheme harmonizes off-white and palest blue with suave dark trims and furniture accents of orange, jet black, and wavy stony brown. Landscape art commissioned from the Royal Drawing School adds a refreshing green touch. Room sizes start at a sprawling 549 square feet (some of London’s most spacious) while the palatial private-terraced sixth-floor Peninsula Suite has its own gym, a screening room, and a VIP elevator.
My entry-level Deluxe Room over the courtyard had a large sitting area with a plush couch—and would rate as a suite at most other hotels in the city. Sleep was regal on the king-size bed’s deep pocket-coil mattress, under the softest of Quagliotti bed linens and a fluffy white goose duvet. The commodious bathroom clad in honey onyx, with heated floors and bespoke sustainable bath products by British-based perfumer Timothy Han, suggested a private spa; the spacious dressing area was mahogany-paneled. Among classic Pen features: the valet box (for laundry or getting shoes perfectly shined) and the digital tablet, a compact user-friendly control panel for myriad room functions. Other perks include “Peninsula Time”—flexible check-in and check-out—and PenChat, the hotel’s e-concierge service.
The food and drink
Even in such a thrilling food city as London, the Pen’s dining and drinking offerings are in a league of their own. A cool place to start is the panoramic eighth-floor rooftop Brooklands Bar, where, starry-eyed, I sipped a vodka sour reimagined with orange blossom liqueur, under a glittering basket-pattern ceiling based on the fuselage of a Brooklands-made WWII bomber. At the adjacent restaurant, Brooklands, chef Claude Bosi (of the two-Michelin-starred Bibendum) serves Franco-British fare in a dining room under a 46-foot aluminum model of the iconic Concorde airliner suspended above. Still, it was the chef’s flair with British ingredients that grabbed my attention, from the smoked eel layered between delicate slices of Devon skate to the succulent rosy chop of Lake District lamb—ending with an adorable deconstructed British apple dessert. Just so you know, the three-course dinner price includes endless amuse-gueules and petits fours. And why not finish with a digestif on the restaurant terrace, its vista sweeping from St. Paul’s to Big Ben to Battersea.
On the ground floor, past an arcade of luxury boutiques, lies the Peninsula’s Chinese restaurant, Canton Blue, and its bar, Little Blue. The tour-de-force design from Henry Leung of Hong Kong’s CAP Atelier creates an enchanted realm of fairy-tale chambers inspired by another type of craft, the 19th-century junk boat Keying, which carried trade from China to Britain. More than 2,400 richly hued porcelain items gleam around the plush booths. Chef Dicky To’s modern Cantonese food fuses Chinese techniques with British ingredients—but whether you opt for the lacquered duck carved tableside, British wagyu beef fried rice, or the Cornish blue lobster braised with aged cheddar, start with some stellar dim sum.
The Lobby offers the Pen’s signature Afternoon Tea (reassuringly classic) with an erudite young tea sommelier—Isabela, a biologist from São Paulo—happy to guide you through the tea offerings one leaf at a time (don’t miss the sparkling Darjeeling).
Staff and service
Over coffee at the Lobby, the hotel’s supernaturally energetic, widely traveled Australian managing director, Sonja Vodusek, told me she tries to meet every potential staffer during the hiring process. “Because I want to know, beyond their CVs,” she said, “do they look you in the eye? Do they smile, make conversation? Can they engage?” In my stay, such hospitable engaging was on display from the doormen to the waiters and the concierges—all glamorously costumed by fashion star Jenny Packham, who has dressed the likes of Kate Winslet and the Princess of Wales.
“We have 155 countries represented in staff,” Vodusek noted, “appropriately for London, being so multicultural a capital.” And having spent the first 10 years of her hotel career in housekeeping, Vodusek is mindful of the basics, not just the luxe: “Is the coffee hot? Is the bed comfortable?” Yes, they were!
Eight rooms, Deluxe and Premiere, are accessible, as well as two Deluxe Suites. They have roll-in showers. All public areas are accessible by wheelchair.
A fleet at your disposal
Grand automotive marvels aren’t just display adornments here. Waiting in the courtyard for guests to take complimentary 20-minute rides is a fleet of chauffeured classic and deluxe vehicles of British-make (naturally), including Rolls-Royce Phantom IAs, hybrid Bentley Bentaygas, an electrified 1960 vintage Austin taxi, and a meticulously restored 1935 Rolls-Royce Phantom Sedanca de Ville. I took a spin in Bentley Bentayga (my first ever) through Belgravia. It was like a glide in an opulent leather cocoon.