Controversially, I left London when I realised that I had become a Londoner. I realised this, as many people do, during the infamous London commute – a case of survival of the fittest. I had gone from the country gal skipping through the underground tunnels admiring the posters and uttering ‘no please Sir, after you”, to a one-woman tank storming down escalators, tut-tutting at the dawdlers and rolling my eyes impatiently at tourists as I attempted to dislocate my own limbs in order to squeeze myself through the beeping tube doors. Well, surely they couldn’t possibly expect me to wait for the next one, it wasn’t due for a whole minute – I hadn’t leapfrogged that pushchair for nothing!
It was no good, my love affair with London was over. I fled to the country – where once again I am uttering ‘no please Sir, after you’ and get this… I totally know my neighbours, and not from Crimewatch, but from jolly village soirees and horticultural shows! That was five years ago, and since then I have only ever entered the big smoke out of necessity and I flee it the second I am free. So frankly, the idea of spending a weekend there, for pleasure, filled me with dread. However, when I was asked to check out a luxury family-run hotel with a Michelin starred restaurant just skipping distance from Harrods my ears pricked up, what can I say, I took one for the team on the shopping front when I fled to the sticks.
The Capital is a 5 star hotel which is no stranger to the London hotel scene, in fact, it welcomed its first guests in 1971, it scooped a star in the first ever Michelin guide in 1974 and it has been winning awards since long before I was born. In fact, this elegant townhouse hotel was the first hotel in London to offer fine dining and over the years everyone from Brian Turner to Gary Rhodes has earned their stripes in its kitchen, all under the watchful eye of its hands on proprietor, David Levin.
Today, David’s daughter Kate runs the hotel, which boasts 49 bedrooms including eight suites. Having arrived in the pouring rain I was greeted by a charming doorman who ran out with a smart umbrella to usher me in to the hotel’s warm welcome. An old fashioned lift carried me to my floor and an old school key unlocked the door to my room. The timelessly elegant cornflower and cream interior had a nod to the past, whilst the quirky Ralph Lauren denim walls enveloped me in my city haven. I lay on the deliciously soft bed and relaxed… for five minutes… I wanted to go and explore, the itchy footed Londoner within was taking me over already. Well, come on, you can’t stay Louboutin throwing distance from one of the swankiest shops in the world and not check it out.
I returned three hours later, with countless shopping bags and a face that told the whole hotel that I had just spent a month’s wages, hmmmm. Without further ado I headed to the hotel bar. The Levin family own 19 vineyards and produce various award winning wines. Despite breaking all of the rules I ordered a wonderfully naughty pre 5pm glass of sauvignon blanc. As I sat their alone with my book it dawned on me why I felt so smug, The Capital didn’t feel like a hotel, it felt like a home. For 24 hours I was the London trustafarian with a lavish crash pad in the heart of Knightsbridge and a Michelin-starred restaurant awaiting me.
That evening my partner and I would be dining at the hotel’s seafood restaurant, Outlaw’s at The Capital. The London outpost of acclaimed Cornish-based chef, Nathan Outlaw focusses on simply prepared, ecologically sound seafood from his local area of Rock. The simple and classy décor comes courtesy of infamous interior designer, Nina Campbell. We had a table by the floor to ceiling windows, perfect for people watching. As we approached our seat’s a Mercedes pulled up covered in over a million Swarovski crystals, well, it’s the way we roll isn’t it. However, not even the blingiest car in the city could distract us from the delicious fare. I particularly enjoyed by vivid magenta smoked mackerel and beetroot risotto – it was so beautifully presented it seemed like a shame to eat it, until I tasted it that was. My partner Sam had a generously concocted seafood and saffron soup which married scallops, mussels, octopus and a crispy oyster in a deliciously infused broth.
During our stay I had also arranged for Sam to try out the hotel’s infamous whisky collection. The bar manager, Cesar Da Silva, not only boasts the coolest name in town, but he has also been granted the honour of being the youngest ‘Keeper of the Quaich’, the exclusive international society which is home to the most knowledgeable whisky connoisseurs the world. Now, I didn’t tell Cesar, but to me all whisky tastes like nail varnish remover and sea water, so I watched the magic happen instead. Gradually he guided Sam through the three whiskies that sat in front of him, each paired with a slice of cheese to accentuate the flavours. Sam learnt that good whisky deserves more than a robotic repetition of meaningless sips and adding ice is a sin. No, the beauty in whisky is in how its flavours change and evolve with each sip. A slice of green apple cleansed the palate, a slice of red reset the taste buds and a sniff of coffee beans realigned the nose, ready to taste the next whisky. By the end of the tasting Sam had totally changed which whisky he liked best, each time he had revisited the glasses new flavours and aromas had come out to play.
The next morning we braved the rain and strolled around the surrounding streets towards Hyde Park, to suck in the last of London before our journey home. As we crossed an empty road towards the park, we stopped in our tracks to give way. But this was no normal ‘please Sir, after you’, we had stumbled upon hundreds and hundreds of perfectly aligned horse guards, trotting to the start line of the Lord Mayor’s parade. As I stood in surprise, watching the beautiful creatures pass us in their pairs, I looked around in shock, we were the only people witnessing this special moment. A minute later and they had gone, leaving just a steaming pile of manure in front of London’s most iconic park, with tourists passing us without any idea of what they had just missed.
As a wise young mine named Cesar once told me, you can’t truly tell how much you really like something unless you go back and try it again and again. See you soon London.
Overnight accommodation at The Capital Hotel is starts from £215 per person with the Shop til you Drop package – based on 2 sharing a double room on a B&B basis. The price also includes a £50 voucher (per couple) to spend in Harrods, and a cocktail in The Capital Bar.
For more information or to make a reservation call 020 7591 1200 or visit www.capitalhotel.co.uk.
The whisky tasting is £40 per person in the Capital Bar.
The hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Outlaw’s at The Capital is masterminded by seafood specialist Nathan Outlaw (AA Chef’s Chef of the Year 2014-15) and won the award for Best Value Set Lunch Menu in The Good Food Guide 2014, for reservations call 0207 589 5171.