Simon Wittenberg visits the newly-opened five-star hotel on Grosvenor Place to dine in The Lobby restaurant, surrounded by opulence and extravagance.
The Peninsula London is one of this year’s most eagerly-awaited hotel openings in the capital. It’s the “new kid on the block” on the five-star hospitality scene, nestled amongst the likes of the long-established Dorchester and Lanesborough hotels just a few steps away.
It took 30 long years for the Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels-owned Peninsula business to secure a site on Grosvenor Place overlooking Hyde Park Corner and the iconic Wellington Arch. Planning permission was eventually granted by Westminster City Council in 2016 to redevelop a former 1960s office block, once home to the avantgarde Jet Business.
The result of a six-year construction project that reportedly cost in the region of one billion pounds and which saw builders navigate the challenges posed by the pandemic is a spectacular 190-room property.
Only opened around a couple of months ago, The Peninsula London in Belgravia joins 11 other properties in The Peninsula portfolio, which stretches from Chicago in the USA to Manilla in the Philippines.
Accommodation at The Peninsula London is priced from a cool £1300-a-night, but for this, you get a 52 square-metre “standard” room, far larger than the 30 square-metre average for the capital, and comes complete with a stunning spa-type bath, a standalone shower, plenty of touchscreens, La Bottega toiletries, and even a £3,000 smart electric toilet with a multitude of functions.
One of The Peninsula London’s pièces de résistance is undoubtedly the internal courtyard, which some rooms look out onto and offers a small tranquil haven away from the bustling traffic on the surrounding roads.
It is also home to The Peninsula London’s own vintage fleet of cars, which boasts a fully-restored black 1935 Rolls-Royce Phantom Sedanca de Ville, a modern-day 23-plate emerald green Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII and Bentley Bentayga, where we had the pleasure of sitting in the inviting and contrasting full brown leather interior complete with Peninsula-branded sill plates.
On site, there’s a ground-floor shopping arcade featuring luxury brands, which is still in the process of being completed, and a 25-metre pool and spa, which is set to open later this month. When it comes to dining, there’s a multitude of eateries and watering holes.
Head to the top floor, and you’ll find the Brooklands rooftop restaurant and bar, inspired by the iconic racetrack in Surrey and, provides far-reaching views over the London skyline.
Coming back to ground level and Cantonese food comes courtesy of the Canton Blue restaurant, where the décor combines ornately carved ceilings, ceramic fireplaces, and walls lined with hundreds of painted vases – a true awe-inspiring masterpiece. This leads down to Little Blue – a cocktail bar with its own entrance at street level, whilst there is also the “grab and go”-type Peninsula Boutique & Café, perfect for those pressed for time or in search of a quick source of caffeine.
Then there is The Lobby, the subject of our review and the culinary destination for “international all-day dining”. As the name suggests, this restaurant sits at the entrance to the hotel and is divided by the central walkway as you enter through the revolving doors from either side of this property, i.e. from Grosvenor Place itself or the courtyard.
Capable of hosting around 130 diners at any one time and designed by American architect Peter Marino, it’s a large and airy triple-height open space furnished with hand-blown magnificent hand-blown crystal chandeliers and a series of square tables with crisp white tablecloths and contrasting soft red chairs stationed between the towering pillars which line each side of this eatery.
At the kitchen end of The Lobby is the stunning hand-painted de Gournay landscape murals inspired by the lush greenery of the hotel’s courtyard and surrounding Royal Parks, above which sits a mezzanine level – the source of the live entertainment (a pianist and violinist during our visit) and dulcet tones to serenade guests at ground level between 2 pm and 11 pm.
We visited The Lobby on a Friday lunchtime, and it appeared to be mainly a corporate audience dining at this venue. However, this will no doubt evolve as more rooms are opened as the hotel gets up to full speed.
When peering at the à la carte over a basket of fresh bread accompanied by a dash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, there’s a decent line-up of entrées, which span smoked salmon with brioche, to green pea soup and a cobb salad.
For my starter, I chose the tasty Burrata (£28), which arrived on a bed of pickled mushrooms for a touch of added “zing”, whilst the soft centre seeped out onto the awaiting aubergine base and bread crisps.
My other half decided on the just as impressive “Goodness Bowl” (£22), layers of uber-healthy ingredients, taking in the likes of quinoa, wild rice, sliced radish, broccoli, flaxseed, and avocado, all bound together with a chia dressing.
The drinks menu is more like a book, thanks to the weighty pages and scenic photographic cover, and spans a multitude of wines through to spirits. We tried a couple of the three mocktails on offer, namely a Virgin Mary with a subtle kick of Worcestershire sauce (£16) and a “Bellino” concocted from white peach purée and alcohol-free Prosecco (£16).
There was a relatively long pause between the first and second courses, although this seemed insignificant when there was a fair amount of people watching to do it; plus, you can enjoy the comfort of the plush seating and classical tunes from up above.
When it comes to the mains, there’s something for everyone, whether you’re vegetarian, pescatarian, or are after something carnivorous. Dishes range from sandwiches and burgers to red lentil daal and tagliatelle bolognese.
I settled on what was a thick and generous fillet of Scottish salmon (£45) from The Grill section, which arrived with some thinly sliced courgette on a bed broccoli purée, so some sides are needed here. On that note, I decided on the smooth and flavoursome truffle mash featuring rich black truffle butter (£14).
It has to be said that the sides offered at The Lobby are potato-heavy, with the broccoli trio (purée, roasted, and crisps) being the only exception to this rule at £16 – something we also tried.
Also, from the same part of the à la carte, my wife was drawn to the Hardwick double lamp chops (£65), which arrived with some nicely garnished al dente courgette strips.
Served soft with bloody juices seeping, which may be a little too rare for some, there is the option of asking the chef to cook it for slightly longer, if required. With this being the case, it arrived back with the perfect composition, and a clean plate ensued.
The Lobby also plays host to The Peninsula London’s afternoon tea, which costs £110 per head and offers savoury bites, sandwiches, cakes, and scones. As an alternative to the dairy-heavy sweets, my other half had a “taste” of what this tea offers in the form of four vegan cakes, which were almost too ornate and delicate to break into.
First up was the chocolate honey pot with a ceramic-like exterior, topped with a mango foam, then rich and velvety vegan chocolate Battenberg pieces, a fig cheesecake, and a Bramley apple cake topped with a lemon ganache. All were superb and easily justified the aforementioned price tag.
I finished what had been an impressive meal with the wedge-shaped coffee ice cream sandwich (£15), composed of thick outer honey biscuit layers and a deliciously creamy interior – another true masterpiece from the pastry chefs.
From our brief experience at The Peninsula London, this is a spectacular property in the heart of Belgravia and will no doubt give the more established flagship hotels a run for their money.
It is a building that has been designed to withstand the test of time. With such a sizeable investment and attention to detail that is second to none, The Peninsula London will no doubt be a focal point on the capital’s landscape for many years to come, following the positive impact it has made so far in its opening weeks.
The Peninsula London – Where and How?
The Peninsula London is located at 1 Grosvenor Place, London SW1X 7HJ, United Kingdom. For more information or to make a reservation, visit https://www.peninsula.com/en/london.
See videos from our visit on the Luxurious Magazine Instagram page.
Photo credits: The Peninsula London / Simon Wittenberg.
Read more dining features and guides here.