Starting A Family Tradition At Dukes Hotel London – Review
While temperatures break terrifying records across Southern Europe this summer, I’m more than grateful to be gazing out of rain-speckled window panes across St James’s Palace to its namesake park’s green lung beyond. A Union Jack flaps in the cooling wind; my children race around the Duke of Clarence suite at Dukes Hotel London, cock-a-hoop at finding themselves in such exquisitely spoiling surrounds. It’s big enough to play hide ‘n’ seek in – and my delight that such childish frivolity still delights a 12 and a 10-year-old (who often display a certain amount of what they call ‘sass’ at home) shows me that I need to stash away the PlayStation more often and get them out of their familiar surroundings. Cupboards open; ooohs and ahhhs abound. ‘Mum, there are three loos. More than we have at home.’ Yes, important stuff.
And there’s more. Spiderman duvet covers; dachshund (Dukes’ doggy mascot) biscuits to decorate; fruit smoothies; Uno; Ludo; a wigwam – our sprawling suite shows us who the VIPs are in this set up. Not that I haven’t clocked the bottle of Pommery chilling in the ice bucket (thank you, Dukes). And this after the most splendiferous picnic – which was supposed to be in Green Park with hamper, rug and views of Buckingham Palace, but thanks to our summer rain, the staff set us up in the covered courtyard for jam sandwiches, sausage rolls, potato salad, fruit cake, freshly squeezed orange and much more. Granny and the children’s older cousin from New York join us to catch up over Americanos. It was how I imagined other families – not mine usually, but more exotic, far-flung sprawling clans – gathered at their preferred hotels in major global cities, names of concierges on speed-dial, personal proclivities known and understood. Warm ‘welcome back, sirs and madams’ from impeccably trained doormen.
And this, I think, is what Dukes intends to do with its new family tradition experience. Staying in hotels as a child has a magic to it that grownups (regrettably) don’t always catch hold of. The excitement of being somewhere new – infinitely more glamorous than their usual surroundings, with staff who will overlook greasy paws on the pristine tablecloth or proffer a second glass of orange juice, with perhaps the wink of an eye, is the stuff of memories. I can still recall my very first encounters with hotels with effortless acuity.
Dukes, a discreet and intimate luxury hotel, tucked away just off St James in Piccadilly, offers the perfect balance of welcoming and homely with grandeur and flair. For the children, the lift (with its seating inside) is thrilling; as is jumping down the stairs in huge blocks; as are the glamorous black and white photos in the dining room (‘Look, a woman taking a cheetah for a walk, mum!’). With the family offering, the children come first (and, to be honest, the dog comes in a hard second – with his personalised bowl, treats and chef-made chicken and rice dinner).
To keep us entertained in the afternoon, we all set off to discover the sights, kitted out with a map, a polaroid camera and book vouchers for Hatchards. Our mission? To take snaps of the children in our chosen landmarks that would later be put in a frame for them to take home as a memento. We strolled to Hyde Park, beavered to Buckingham Palace; illegally climbed the lions in Trafalgar Square, sucked in the sights and sounds of Chinatown and Piccadilly, and ended up a little bit wet in the glorious surrounds of Hatchards, where the children were able to spend their £20 vouchers. A new Agatha Christie and Ghost Story book for Romilly; Call of the Wild and an Anime book for Hector.
Their verdict? ‘I loved the little details in the room like the teepee and the cookies we got to decorate and it was really fun when we got to go around London taking photos,’ says Romilly. ‘It was cool,’ says Hector. High praise, I assure you. I can’t wait to take them back, especially for their first Dukes martini in a few years’ time. Now that is something they’ll never forget.
A Family Tradition at DUKES Hotel, London starts from £2,149 for a two night stay in two Deluxe Rooms. dukeshotel.com