The Dorchester Hotel’s Promenade and new Artists’ Bar is welcoming familiar and new faces alike following a sumptuous refurbishment by award-winning Pierre-Yves Rochon, whose previous clients have included The Savoy and Four Seasons George V in Paris. Transforming one of the capital’s most iconic interiors and the integral meeting place of the Grade-II listed hotel since it opened in 1931, The Promenade’s regal new look is, if anything, more in-keeping than its previous incarnation and now boasts striking Deco-style black pillars which lead the eye, along with a gold-leaf-accented white and sage green ceiling to highlight the dramatic length of the space.
The Art Deco mood, which can sometimes feel a little cool, is meanwhile contrasted with ornate French gilt armchairs luxuriously upholstered in florals, a theme which was inspired by the landscape and gardens of England and further enhanced by a series of nature-themed artworks by exclusively British artists commissioned by The Dorchester. From three-dimensional butterflies to a gold-plated honeycomb, The Promenade’s diners are reminded of the nearby city beauty spots including Hyde Park, not to mention the hotel’s own petite front garden where the famous London Plane tree stands opposite the iconic entrance, having been named one of the ‘Great Trees of London’ by the London Tree Forum in 1997.
But never mind the tree’s celebrity status, more A-listers have been whisked through the Dorchester’s revolving doors than practically anywhere else in London so it was imperative to make the hotel’s redesign, its most comprehensive for 30 years, worthy of such a legendary venue and The Promenade captures the hotel’s heyday to superb effect. Rochon has also created intimacy in what is an incredibly grand space with the clever use of mirrored screens, tall palms and dramatic Palace-worthy floral arrangements which add sumptuous femininity whilst perfuming this heavenly and intoxicating oasis on Park Lane, Mayfair’s beating heart.
We were ushered to one of the plush corner seats in sky blue, accessorized with chintz cushions – the perfect spot for a romantic dinner for two. It also happened to be our wedding anniversary, and there was a thoughtful card awaiting us from The Dorchester team wishing us a lovely evening. Our attentive waiter also offered his congratulations and wasted no time in presenting a chilled bottle of our favourite alcohol-free sparkling wine, Wild Idol, for a toast before devoting our thoughts to the menu. Devised by culinary director Martyn Nail who has recently joined the hotel after 36 years at Claridge’s, the new menu makes The Promenade, a venue I previously associated solely with afternoon tea, one that satisfies all food desires, around the clock. Should you seek further culinary choice, The Dorchester’s other restaurants, from the three Michelin star Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, China Tang and The Dorchester Grill can all be accessed via The Promenade, where each has its own grand entrance.
Talking of grills, there is a dedicated section to classic grill dishes on The Promenade’s dinner menu, from Dover sole to fillet steak. I opt for the impossibly delicious and beautifully presented Cornish crab salad with quail egg, caviar and parsley oil to start, while my husband makes contented grunts over his lobster bisque featuring exquisitely made lobster tortellini which he generously insisted I taste. The decadence continued with both of us opting for the lobster thermidor with fries. I rather foolishly took the waiter’s advice that the truffle fries I was keen to order would be too rich, but having ended up requisitioning my husband’s I would urge anyone dining here to go all-out. There can’t be anything ‘too’ at The Dorchester, as illustrated by the divine signature chocolate dessert with a 68 percent dark chocolate crémeux and cacao nib ice cream. I am sure the superfood salad or club sandwich here are the best in the world, but they surely wouldn’t prompt you to exchange a complicit smile with your other half in Bonnie and Clyde fashion as you devour the last bite.
After dinner, relocate to the far end of The Promenade for a cocktail in the new Artists’ Bar where Liberace’s mirrored piano, which singer/pianists bring to life every evening, is the striking centrepiece and Ann Carrington’s mother of pearl postage stamp of Queen Elizabeth II is a touching tribute to our late majesty, who on the day of her engagement to Prince Philip was announced to the world in July 1947, celebrated at The Dorchester with a private family dinner. On the eve of the royal wedding, Prince Philip (then Lieutenant Mountbatten) checked into the Park Suite and hosted a select group of his closest naval colleagues, for his official ‘stag-do’, reinforcing the hotel’s reputation with a royal seal of approval. The Dorchester later celebrated the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953 in serious style by inviting stage designer Oliver Messel to decorate the façade of the hotel as a theatre, complete with ‘royal box’.
The hotel is also famous for having hosted another ‘Liz’; Hollywood royalty Elizabeth Taylor who was a devotee of The Dorchester and learned that she’d been given the starring role in Cleopatra whilst soaking in the pink marble tub of the Oliver Messel penthouse suite, where she later honeymooned with Richard Burton in 1964. The couple were frequent guests during their decade-long first marriage, with Taylor, having famously said, “It’s not the having, it’s the getting”, choosing to spend five of her eight honeymoons at The Dorchester. She is said to have enjoyed scrambled eggs, bacon, and a mimosa for breakfast, all of which you can order from The Promenade’s Breakfast menu. I feel a return visit coming on, minus the side order of a new husband.
The Promenade at The Dorchester, Park Lane, London. For more information and reservations please visit the website.