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It is hard to believe it has been a full year of the new Carolean age with King Charles III’s reign. Of all cities globally right now, London is arguably seeing the most extraordinary boom in luxury hotels, with the Peninsula London and Raffles London at the OWO (aka Old War Office) leading the way with lavish openings.

Without question, Raffles London at The OWO is London’s must-see, must-visit, hottest new hotel. The iconic Grade II* listed building situated on Whitehall in the original Old War Office of 1906 has been sympathetically revitalized, glamorized and refined to the nth degree. All reports, we are delighted to say, confirm that it lives up to the expectations of being one of the most highly anticipated hotel openings of the decade. Expect classic Edwardian architecture styled for modern living. From the moment one enters and is dazzled by the masses of flowers and the iconic triple-height ceiling dome with the Tudor crown, one is captivated. Lord Berners would approve, no doubt.

As well as being Sir Winston Churchill’s office and the site of numerous historic events, the building has featured in no less than five James Bond films and has strong links with Bond creator Ian Fleming, who often visited his brother’s office here while working with the British Naval Intelligence Service. With such strong Churchill and Bond links, one cannot help but fall in love with the history and grandeur of the building which also stands on the site of the 16th century Tudor palaces of Whitehall, home to Henry the VIII and numerous British monarchs.

Having spent over 60 years staying in, writing about and enjoying the most interesting hotels on the planet, you naturally meet and assess the people who run them. There are a handful of exemplary GMs and Philippe Leboeuf is one of these geniuses who watched over the elaborate restoration of The OWO, renovated by EPR Artichects and led by its director, Geoff Hull. Today as managing director, Mr. Leboeuf, who runs the hotel and an additional 85 glamorous residences with the precision of a finely-tuned Rolls Royce, stands out as one of the true masters of luxe hotelkeeping. He directed the fabled Mandarin Oriental in Paris for years and his successful formula was simple: always put the well-being of your guest uppermost, regardless of the cost or effort.

Our room was a show-stopper outfitted with a bespoke hand-crafted kitchen, crown cut oak cabinetry, solid brass inlay and Brazilian Taj Mahal stone. Designer extraordinaire Thierry Despont outdid himself with the interiors, marble bathrooms and linens fit for a potentate.

We indulged in a delicious lunch at the chic Saison (spit-roasted rack of West Country lamb with confit shoulder and Swiss chard gratin with gnocchi, a side of purple sprouting broccoli, panna cotta for pudding and a half bottle of very good Bordeaux) and marveled at the grand marble staircase, complete with a mezzanine balcony where Sir Winston Churchill often delivered morning briefings to his team. Michelin chef Mauro Colagreco heads up three of the nine restaurants and there are a number of lounging and bar areas including The Guards Bar & Lounge, where we imbibed the enchanting London Sling cocktail. A grand Steinway sits proudly in the hotel’s Drawing Room and echoes the character, charm and rich heritage that pervades for afternoon tea, snacks and cocktails. We did laps in the pool and got massaged at the very smart Guerlain Spa which redefines wellness experiences. The hotel is thoroughly sumptuous, welcoming and beautiful in every way, elegantly enhancing London’s status as a must-visit destination. www.raffles.com/london.

Happy traveling,
Publisher, ENTREE


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