Hot spots: The Goring Hotel, London | South China Morning Post
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Hot spots: The Goring Hotel, London

Jeff Chu

 

It sounds familiar … Perhaps that's because The Goring is where Kate Middleton spent her last night as a commoner before marrying Prince William and becoming the Duchess of Cambridge.

Can I stay in Kate's room? Yes, for £8,500 (HK$107,000) a night. For that, you'll get the four-room Royal Suite, which boasts a dining room with a grand piano, a four-poster bed in the master bedroom, a drawing room (pictured) and an expansive terrace overlooking The Goring's back garden (pictured). Standard rooms start at a less-regal £470.

What other royal credentials does it have? The chiefest of them, in fact. The Goring recently became the only hotel in the world to have a royal warrant from Queen Elizabeth, who lives just down the road. It's her official purveyor of "hospitality services".

Why would the queen need to stay in a hotel? She doesn't. But even Her Majesty likes to get out of the house once in a while. When Buckingham Palace isn't suiting the royal mood, she'll often throw a dinner party or host a private get-together at The Goring. Linley, her nephew Viscount Linley's firm, did the revamp of the bright, luxe dining room (pictured), with its thick golden curtains and Swarovski-crystal cherry-blossom chandeliers.

Is it palatial? Yes and no. By hotel standards, it's petite. As managing director David Morgan-Hewitt puts it: "We're a baby grand: a bloody great grand hotel that someone shrunk." The 69 rooms and suites have all been lushly refurbished within the past five years and all are showcases for great British interior designers - Russell Sage, Nina Campbell, Tim Gosling - with Gainsborough silks on the walls and bespoke furniture crafted in English workshops.

Is it stuffy? Let's say "appropriately friendly and relentlessly polite". It has the warmth of a family-owned hotel - the Gorings have owned the place for all of its 103 years - and the front-desk and concierge staff never miss a chance to greet guests by name. The traditional English formality, though, is tempered by touches of wit and whimsy.

Examples, please. Waiting for you on your bed is a plush miniature version of the hotel mascot, a sheep. (Her name is Baaa-bara.) The leather coasters in the bar are stamped with a cheeky "Oops!" or a chipper "Cheers!" And the push-button light switches in the rooms offer four automatic settings: "bright", "calm", "cosy" and the mysterious "oooh!" Asked to explain "oooh!", Morgan-Hewitt replies: "'Oooh!' is all about sex. Let's use the word 'romance' rather than 'sex'. Rekindle your lost romance with your wife or your husband or whatever."

And after the "romance" … A cup of tea, of course. The Goring's afternoon tea has this year been named London's best by the Tea Guild, which praised its "elegant surroundings" and "faultless presentation". Doubtless the feather-light scones and cakes would satisfy even the cantankerous Dowager Countess of Grantham; tea at The Goring is part of the Zicasso tour company's Downton Abbey-themed holiday.

Who else has graced these halls? Depends on what you mean by "graced". Queen Mary came for tea. Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother stopped in for cocktails. Lady Randolph Churchill, Winston's mother, lived here, as did the actor Sir Michael Redgrave. More recently (and memorably), Antipodean actor Russell Crowe was kicked out after climbing onto the bar during Irish actor Richard Harris' wake.

Will I get booted, too, if I don't have a title grander than Mr or Miss? At The Goring, everyone is made to feel like royalty, including the family of ducks that live in the garden, which are fed fresh-baked rolls in the morning and cheese straws in the evening. Now that's hospitality. Just don't jump on top of the bar.

For more information, go to www.thegoring.com

 

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