I am a firm believer that every trip abroad should involve at least one very indulgent hotel experience, and for this jaunt to Europe I picked the Goring. London’s last family-owned luxury hotel, which has been operated by the Goring family for over 100 years, is a stone’s throw from Buckingham palace and seems to have borrowed some of that building’s innate mystique. It is the only hotel ever to have received a royal warrant, and its proximity to the palace has led to some very interesting stories over the years…
The Goring has a “three nights for the price of two” deal, which seems too good to pass up, and I arrive directly from Heathrow after a 24 hour flight from Australia that’s been delayed for several hours during a stopover in Dubai. It’s 7pm by the time I arrive, and needless to say, I am exhausted. My driver pulls up outside the elegant entrance, and two doormen are waiting to help me out of the car and collect my bags.
I am ushered into a cozily lit reception area, where I am immediately checked in by a polished and friendly receptionist, who gives me a brief tour of facilities downstairs, before escorting me to my room.
My bags arrive moments later, and I am left alone in the Splendid Garden Room I have booked.
I am not too tired to notice that the room itself is lovely; much larger than I would normally expect from a London hotel room, with silk-lined walls and heavy drapes lending a cosy, luxe atmosphere on this chilly evening. In the morning, I will discover that the touch of a button opens the drapes to reveal a large balcony overlooking the Goring’s garden, the largest private garden in Central London.
Small touches- a choice of still and sparkling bottled water on a table near the bed, a hand-written welcome card, and a box of gourmet chocolates, ensure I feel welcome, and perched on one of the pillows in Baaaabara, the Goring’s signature cuddly toy sheep, which is given as a gift to each guest. Every time my room is made up, in the mornings after breakfast and at turn down service in the evenings, I discover Baaaabara in a different location: a whimsical detail I am charmed by.
The bathroom is larger than some bedrooms I have seen, and clearly designed for comfort. The Goring boasts of being the first hotel in the world to have an en suite bathroom for every bedroom, and the Norwegian Crown Prince is said to have elected to stay here when attending the coronation of King George VI for exactly that reason: he complained that at Buckingham Palace, he had to share a bathroom with three of four others, and the privacy at the Goring was much to be preferred!
This commitment to bathroom comfort seems to have become a tradition. Two sinks, a deep bath, underfloor heating, heated towel racks, adjustable lighting, beautiful robes and towels, and a generous supply of Asprey toiletries greet me when poke my head in for a look. Needing no further inducement, I sink into the bath for a soak, and am asleep in the comfortable bed minutes later.
Heading downstairs for breakfast the next morning, I am awake enough to notice some decor details that had escaped me the night before. The Goring has different coloured wallpaper on each floor (“This way you can never get lost, Madam!”) and the hallways are decorated with charming vintage prints and one-off pieces of furniture which remind me I am not in a soulless chain hotel.
Breakfast in the Michelin-starred dining room, a beautiful, light-filled space that feels opulent without being stuffy, is an unhurried affair. I am shown to a lovely corner table and receive service that stops just short of being *too* attentive.
I choose a delicious egg and salmon dish as part of the full breakfast option, and am also furnished with fresh coffee and fruit juice, yoghurt with fresh berries, buttered toast and a seemingly endless supply of fresh pastries. In the end, I have to tell the waiter to stop offering me the pastry basket on his frequent rounds; as I am at risk of being unable to explore London due to a pastry-induced coma.
Breakfast continues at this standard every morning of my stay, and a London-based friend who visits me for an early catch up just as impressed. However, being Australian, all either of us wants in the way of coffee is a flat white, and this proves a little too much for the kitchen staff. I am cheerfully told that of COURSE they can do a flat white, but what arrives at the table is a far cry from what I would find in a Sydney cafe. The hot chocolate, however, is superb, and the frequent, smiling refills reconcile me to ordering this as an alternative to my favourite coffee for the rest of my stay.
After breakfast, I wander through the newly refurbished lobby, where the concierge enquires about my plans for the day. Before I know it, he has arranged tickets for every attraction I mention wanting to visit, and when I come back downstairs after freshening up in my room, he hands me these in individually labelled envelopes for each activity. At my request, he has also booked me in to a nearby yoga class in the evening, and assures me that the hotel will furnish me with a yoga mat, towel and water when I leave for class. Having arrived with only vague plans for the day, suddenly I have an itinerary!
Fighting jetlag and an impending cold, I order room service several times during my stay. The food is delicious and always arrives promptly and beautifully presented, and my requests for fresh organge juice with ginger grated into it, and salt and hot water to gargle for a sore throat, are met without the bat of an eyelid.
Housekeeping is unobtrusive but meticulously thorough. Regular readers of this blog will know I am not a girl who travels with minimal skincare products. I leave two bags of assorted toiletries in the bathroom on the first morning of my stay, and when I return in the evening I find my products arranged BY BRAND on the vanity. Similarly, my half-hearted unpacking job has been completed by someone with far more patience than I possess. Clothing is folded, straightened and hung in the wardrobe, while more personal items like underwear and medication remain untouched in the suitcase. The perfect balance.
I also invited a friend to join me for the famed Goring afternoon tea, which I will review separately in another post. For now, let me wrap up my saying that I stay in a lot of hotels for work, and usually wish I was back in my own home. However, there have been a few times since I got home that I have found myself wishing I was at the Goring. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay and will return, not least to secure a companion for Baaaabara the sheep!