By Teresa Rodriguez
It looks like Brexit panned out better for us San Franciscans than the Brits, so why not take advantage of our strong U.S. dollar and spend this holiday season in London? You don’t have to play tourist—been there, done that—but you can slip past the velvet rope to experience a side to the city known only to the elite. Or William and Kate. Think champagne on arrival. A chauffeur in a Bentley. An urban winter wonderland serving hot après-ski favorites. We’ve sampled them all, and narrowed down the poshest places to stay, things to do and gifts to buy across the Pond.
For Boutique Luxury: Hotel 41
With only 30 rooms, this most romantic and intimate of hotels—staffed by a superb team that outnumbers guests two to one—will grant your every wish, 24/7. The lobby, called the Executive Lounge, is where you’re greeted with a choice of chilled bubbly and complimentary treats throughout the day; only Hotel 41 guests can dine underneath the room’s incredible glass rooftop. The provocative black-and-white décor is a fantastic change from traditional British style. On the holidays, the hotel offers its “Magical London” package, including: two nights’ accommodation in an exquisitely appointed bedroom or suite, full English breakfast each day, afternoon tea for two and late checkout at 6 p.m. If you book a suite over Christmas Eve, you’ll have a festive tree in your room and find a stocking stuffed with all sorts of delights. 41hotel.com
For Pets: The Milestone Hotel
This Kensington beauty dates to 1689, and has been the home to many of London’s upper crust throughout the centuries. Lucky for us, it’s now an award-winning, five-star, quintessentially British hotel with access to a chauffeured Bentley and, more important, staff dedicated to the needs of your four-legged loved one. Head concierge Jose Pauco will make sure your pet receives a tailor-made welcome hamper, which includes a toy, a treat, a Milestone tag and clean-up bags. And that’s not all. Your furry friend gets a
Milestone-branded comfy bed, in-house Pet Menu and a Pet Sleeping sign to alert the maid when your darling is snoozing. Book the Kensington Gardens two-story suite, complete with a king-size bed adorned with Roberto Cavalli linen.
For Shopping: The Egerton House Hotel
This delightful property (pronounced EDGE-erton) is tucked away on a quiet, tree-lined street in Knightsbridge, one of London’s most prestigious neighborhoods. It’s conveniently located within walking distance of the epic shopping on Knightsbridge, Sloane Street and the King’s Road. Don’t be surprised if Michelle Devlin, the enchanting general manager, is there to greet you when you arrive, because the Egerton House feels more like a private residence than a hotel. Before shopping, fuel up on their afternoon tea with champagne on the side, and after enjoying the financial fruits of Brexit, end your buying spree with the perfect martini mixed by bartender Antonio. During the holidays, the hotel offers the Egerton Wonderland package, which includes one £100 Harrods voucher. If you’re lucky, it will be worth $200 by the time you arrive there! egertonhousehotel.com
For Snow: The Montague on the Gardens
Around Christmastime, the Montague on the Gardens transforms from a West End hotel into a resort you’d find in the Alps, with an outdoor deck boasting the works: falling snow, fir trees, twinkle lights and a well-stocked bar full of holiday spirits. To experience what it’s like to live in a stylish home in the heart of London, book the two-bedroom Guv’nor’s Suite. It has heated floors, a marvelous copper bathtub and a beautiful conservatory providing ample natural light. And if you take advantage of the Christmas Cracker package, you’ll get Christmas Day luncheon in the Blue Door Bistro.
For Christmas Dinner: The Chesterfield Mayfair
The Chesterfield Mayfair’s Butlers Restaurant is famous for its elegant Christmas Day celebration and a favorite with both locals and sophisticated global guests. Executive chef Ben Kelliher has created a delicious Christmas menu that exemplifies the best of traditional English cuisine, with touches of international influences. On his Christmas menu: Creedy Carver chicken, duck and foie gras terrine; Cornish lobster cocktail; free-range bronze black leg turkey; Butlers’ famous grilled Dover sole filleted at your table; Buccleuch Estate beef fillet; and Chesterfield Christmas pudding with frosted sugar red currants and brandy sauce.
For Gifts : Fortnum & Mason
We were told by the cab driver that the Queen only shops at Fortnum & Mason, an upscale department store in Piccadilly. I hoped to spot her, but instead walked into a Christmas wonderland decked out with all the holiday trappings, including unique tea sets your friends would die for. Make sure to swing by the Christmas Arcade and check out Bombki, which sells delicate ornaments by a brilliant designer who mouth-blows each one. These shiny works of art can be personalized—so everyone you left back home in San Francisco can get an ornament with their name on it.
bombki.co.uk and fortnumandmason.com