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Three Over-the-Top London Hotels

One thing I learned in writing my book Life at the Top: Inside London’s Grand Hotels (a wm-London-teacompanion volume to Life at the Top: Inside New York’s Grand Hotels) is that hotels some people wouldn’t consider staying at because they have a reputation for being too expensive, often offer surprising values.

These impressions are wholly apart from the wonderful, once-in-a-life time experience that incredibly posh hotels offer each and every guest each and every visit.

Here are three five-star hotels I recommend for a special one-night stay, for afternoon tea, drinks or dinner.

The Lanesborough

Located at the corner of Hyde Park, this 95-room hotel (43 are suites) was originally an 1820s hospital built of Portland stone. Now this stunning landmark, like a lavish country palace, is a favorite of Jim Carrey, Leonardo DiCaprio and Madonna.

Rooms are decorated with lush fabrics and Regency period antiques; windows are triple- glazed, cutting out all traffic noises. The hotel, which derives its name from Viscount Lanesborough, who built his country home on this spot in 1719, is part of the St. Regis Hotel group and has the highest ratio of staff to rooms of any hotel in Europe, with 270 full-time employees. There’s even a motion detector computer which tells housekeeping when you've left your room so you won't be disturbed needlessly.

Surprising savings:

  • Complimentary land line phone calls anywhere in the world
  • butler service (packing, unpacking, clothes pressing, restaurant and theatre reservations)
  • bowl of flowers
  • bottled water
  • Internet access
  • unlimited movies
  • shoeshine
  • personalized stationery and business cards
  • a mobile phone for use anywhere in the hotel

Afternoon Tea ($55), served from 3:30 to 6 in the Conservatory, is so bounteous that you may not need dinner!

TIP: Rent the royal suite and you’ll have access to a chauffeur driven Bentley 24/7, so you can save on bus and taxi fares!

Geoffrey Gelardi, the general manager of the Lanesborough, is a third generation hotelier. His beloved late father was a top executive with Truse House Forte and his grandfather was manager of the Savoy Hotel in London and the Waldorf Towers in New York.

Said Mr. Gelardi, "When one travels a lot, it’s very annoying that every time you want to go on the Internet, you have to fill in your name and your room number and 'I agree to this' and 'I agree to that.' And then the hotel charges you anything from 10 pounds, 20 pounds, 30 pounds! So our whole philosophy at the Lanesborough is based not on 'nickel-and-diming' people -- but on giving great value."

Singles from $580/night
Doubles from $780/ night

Walk to: Apsley House, Harrods, Sloan Street
Tube: Hyde Park Corner

The Milestone Hotel

The Milestone is another wonderful, over-the-top hotel with Kensington to its left and Knightsbridge to its right. Overlooking Kensington Palace and Gardens, it occupies two mansions of architectural significance that date back to the 1880s.

Part of the Red Carnation hotel group, The Milestone, both pet and child friendly, has a staff of 100+. Its 57 rooms (12 suites) are not only luxurious but full of character, decorated in styles ranging from African safari to traditional Tudor. There are also six long-stay apartments.

Surprising savings:

  • Complimentary glass of champagne (or green tea) upon arrival
  • Bose MP3 Players and docking stations in all rooms and suites
  • Guests in suites receive canapés every evening

The Milestone periodically runs a special that for every 2 nights you stay in a suite, the 3rd night is free. Its "Showtime Package," which includes full English breakfast, dinner and 2 tickets to a theater of your choice, starts at $680/double.

Afternoon Tea, served from 3 to 6 pm in the Park Lounge and the Conservatory, is $20 for tea and scones and $40 for tea, scones, finger sandwiches and pastries.

Singles & Doubles from $330/night.

Walk to: Hyde Park, Harrods, Victoria & Albert Museum
Tube: High Street or Kensington

The May Fair

The 406-room, 12-suite May Fair, a favorite of Penelope Cruz and Jess Metcalfe -- and going way back, Frank Sinatra -- is between Berkeley Square and Stratton Street. The hotel’s 1927 stone exterior stands in wonderful contrast to the state-of-the-art rooms, each of which is equipped with Bang & Olufsen entertainment systems.

TIP: Ask for a room on the back facing Berkeley Square, one of London’s most beautiful squares. At night it turns into a mini-fairyland when the old-fashioned street lamps are lit.

Surprising savings:

  • periodically offers an "Advance Purchase Program" which must be paid for 10 days prior to arrival, and includes a 20% discount; no cancellations
  • it intermittently has a 2-for-1 lunch or dinner deal at the hotel’s delightful Amba Bar & Grill

Afternoon Tea, served from 3 to 6 pm in the hotel’s Amba restaurant, is $17 for tea and scones and $32 for tea, scones, finger sandwiches and pastries.

Rates: Singles & Doubles from $360
Walk to: Green Park, Buckingham Palace, National Gallery
Tube: Green Park

The Lanesborough
Hyde Park Corner
800- 999-1828

The Milestone Hotel
1 Kensington Court

The May Fair
Stratton Street
800-333- 3333

To order Ward Morehouse’s book, Life at the Top: New York’s Grand Hotels, go to: and click on "Books" in the left-hand menu

Life at the Top: London‛s Grand Hotels, by TravelSmart’s "Checking In" columnist Ward Morehouse III, will be published later this year.

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