41 Buckingham Palace Road Hotel
By Richard West,
My wife and I recently visited London and the alarming question arose: how to escape half of humanity seething around Big Ben/Parliament/Westminster Abbey and the other half to’ing and fro’ing in front of Buckingham Palace and the Royal Mews, both halves dressed as if awakened in a laundry hamper, then moving along at a speed best described as digestive.
Answer: follow the advice found these days on any London postcard stand: “Keep Calm and Carry On.”
Thus we carried on into the quiet (and calm) foyer of the small, boutique 41 Buckingham Palace Road Hotel, opposite the Royal Mews, at once leaving the street turmoil for the civilized amenities of traditional England. Downton Abbey’s butler, Carson, wouldn’t be out of place here, but instead, we were escorted by the eternally perky and helpful resident manager, Lauren Hargrave, to the hotel’s only occupied floor, the fifth, to the all-important omphalos of 41, the Executive Lounge near the other 28 rooms.
It’s the awesumptious manorial library you always wanted: a kindly gent offering a complimentary glass from four Champagnes; the Honesty Bar stocked with liquorials across from the Grazing Bar (canapés like cheese straws/olives/egg dip/chocolates/candied nuts) that after 8 p.m. becomes Plunder the Pantry, more substantials (cheeses, pies, quiches, smoked salmon, cured meats, wicked desserts). Speaking of, there’s real decadence nearby, a small fridge stocked only with free Haagen-Dazs cups not far from the complimentary Soap Tray: perhaps a bar of Avocado and Olive Oil? The exec lounge also serves menued breakfasts, afternoon tea, and casual dinners.
Why leave? Because your room is equally swell. Ours was long rather than the usual boxy hotel layout, a foyer that flowed into a living room that segued into the bedroom, all in the hotel’s ebony-and-ivory décor that brought to mind elegant formal wear and the marbled black-‘n-white patterned floor of the Great Hall in Queen’s House down river in Greenwich where time is deemed official. Along the way, three bathrooms, one a shower only.
Of course the obligatory free wifi, newspaper, His/Her slippers, but also, unusually, a bathroom scale, espresso maker, aromatherapy pillows, ipod accessories, Penhaligon toiletries. Even rarer, common sense: only one phone button (“Whatever, Whenever”) and just one shower knob that reads “On/Off.” Genius. Oh yes, a Pet Concierge for your VIP, Very Important Pet, who shouldn’t travel without a Pet Turndown Service, Pet Bathrobe, Pet Bed and birthday party, etc.
And on your last night, on the bed a long-stemmed rose and scattered rose petals. After being as well taken care of as Henry James’s sentences, what else to do but carry on?
41 Buckingham Palace Road Hotel
41 Buckingham Palace Road
+44 (0) 20 7300 0041
Richard West spent nine years as a writer and senior editor at Texas Monthly before moving to New York to write for New York and Newsweek. Since then, he’s had a distinguished career as a freelance writer. West was awarded the National Magazine Award for Reporting in 1980 and is a member of Texas Arts & Letters. He lives in Amsterdam.