A former gentleman's club with a grand facade, the building became the Hyde Park Hotel in 1902 and has since hosted the wealthy, famous and glamorous. In early 2019 the hotel was fully reopened after a thorough renovation, so there's still an aura of freshness and novelty about the decor.
The hotel is handily placed at a junction of scenic and commercial London. Directly behind it is the sprawling green space of Hyde Park and it's a short walk to a range of upmarket shops, including Harrods and several fashion retailers. The museums of Kensington are nearby, while the entertainment options of the West End are a short hop to the east.
The lobby areas are a riot of coloured marble. Softening this is a consistent floral motif, with large pots of colourful flowers and a series of chandeliers whose glass leaves imitate opening petals. Designer Joyce Wang's subtle infusion of Asian elements is enhanced here by Buddha statuettes, placed each side of the stairs. There's a distinct East-meets-West vibe about the entire hotel makeover which is very appealing. Beneath the lobby is the extensive spa, which offers a range of treatments. There's a gym and pool available.
My Mandarin king room is sizeable and pleasant with a view over Knightsbridge. A small entrance area with a cabinet containing a bar and coffee machine leads to a large, airy room. There's a sofa and armchair set up as a sitting area in front of the king-sized bed. Along the far wall is an excellent long desk with handy power outlets, and each bedside table also has a pull-out drawer with two more outlets. It shouldn't be so exciting in 2019 to find a hotel that caters well for guests' devices, but it is. Practical as the room is, it's also beautiful. There are pale green tones and lots of timber touches, with elegant and interesting elements such as large oval-shaped glass lampshades, and a striking standard lamp which resembles an artefact from an old lighthouse. The spacious bathroom is similarly stylish, with much marble and panels of scalloped glass. There are toiletries from the Terre d'Iris line by Miller Harris and Jo Hansford.
There are two restaurants on the premises: Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and Bar Boulud. The former is also the hotel's breakfast room and it's a very pleasant space to sit, with a view to Hyde Park. As I eat my scrambled eggs, I'm pleasantly surprised to see two horse riders trot past a few metres away. Bar Boulud, below street level, is a warm, red-accented French-American bistro serving classics including onion soup, beef tartare, steak frites, salad nicoise and a Yankee burger along with more complex mains. Best value here is the daily prix fixe lunch menu of two courses for £22, or three courses for £26. The Mandarin Bar and The Rosebery make cocktails based on famous folk who've graced the hotel with their presence. The Rosebery also serves a 1920s-style afternoon tea in a fun revival of its past role as a tearoom.
A saunter through Hyde Park is enticing. Harrods is a short walk away for shopping, with more cerebral satisfaction at the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. From the Knightsbridge Tube stop it's easy to flit to Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square, to take in West End theatre.
The Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park is classy accommodation with a stylish edge provided by its recent refit. It's an excellent base from which to enjoy London's shopping, entertainment and scenic attractions.
Rooms at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park from £630 a night. 66 Knightsbridge, London, UK. See mandarinoriental.com/london
The view of Hyde Park from north-facing rooms.
Guests in rooms facing Knightsbridge may hear traffic noise if windows are open (although it's possible to close them and use air-conditioning instead).
Tim Richards was a guest of Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park.