Travel: Four Seasons - the epitome of luxury
Adam Jacot de Boinod
- Credit: Richard Waite Photography
There’s something reassuringly familiar to Four Seasons’ regulars across the world. Whether it be on the coast of Mauritius, a peninsula on Costa Rica, or up the Bosphorus in Istanbul, there’s the same stamp of grand opulence along with a telepathic service.
They certainly know how to create luxurious spaces that are fun and glamorous. As for England, whether bang in the heart of London or deep in Hampshire’s countryside the standard is constant.
Greeted with the best of welcomes at the hotel on Park Lane by a classy, erudite and humorous man on the front desk, I knew I was in for a truly inspired stay.
Park Lane borders Mayfair - these being the two most expensive properties on a Monopoly board.
For most tourists the chief local attraction is Buckingham Palace, the home of the Queen, while discerning shoppers love Fortnum and Mason, the purveyor of all sorts of goodies and delicacies. Historians would raise an eyebrow at Apsley House (with its address being ‘Number 1 London’), the home of the Duke of Wellington, who delivered freedom from Napoleon in the battle of Waterloo.
Then, of course, there’s Hyde Park, London’s central artery of green and tranquillity where, if you’re lucky, you can catch the cavalry bobbing up and down with their silver plumed helmets on top of their pairs of steads sporting their shiniest of coats.
The interior of the hotel has been very stylishly curated. Popping out of the lift on the first floor I enjoyed the pictures of horses and looked down over the spectacular and breath-taking chandelier that illuminates the foyer. It’s a stunning centrepiece of crystals with its reflected shards of light offsetting the white reliefs on the walls. Such a keen awakening for all my senses.
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In the dining area are vases of faces by Fornasetti, artefacts in the alcoves and a sculpture of clasped hands by Lorenzo Quinn, son of the actor Anthony Quinn, which powerfully expresses human interconnectivity.
There’s an impressive wall-to-wall cellar of wines and two huge crystals create an amazing energy across the zebra-styled private dining room.
My room on the 9th floor looked out over the circus that is Hyde Park Corner which buzzes with London’s red buses and black taxis. I sat in my Eames-inspired lounge chair amongst a selection of Assouline books, sliding lacquer doors and walls with framed black and white photographs.
The room was styled with lovely artefacts and the lacquered wood was offset by the tranquil silvery blue furniture with a décor throughout of calming, neutral colours and a bathroom aroma rich with Bulgari products.
I was in for a real treat at Amaranto, the hotel’s modern, international restaurant. It’s so spacious across its marble floor of room upon room of people sharing joyous moments as they tuck into the fine dining from a menu boasting world renown luxuries such as Dom Perignon p2 2002 Champagne as well as Royal Beluga Caviar with its light to dark grey creamy texture alongside Vietnamese jumbo prawn, Italian burrata, octopus and lobster.
And then for my country visit, an effortless hour out of London just off the M3 motorway I came to Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire. Amid rolling hills this hotel is a combination of a restored 18th-century Georgian-style manor with more recent additions embracing a charming pink cottage. Old brick blends harmoniously with the new brick and it was here that Henry VIII first met Catherine of Aragon, the first of his six wives.
I took off for a bike ride and later for a walk along neatly mown grass paths where picnic benches were scattered at scenic spots amongst the hotel’s 500 acres of parkland.
Within the grounds there were imposing sculptures, from the nearby Sculpture Park of Farnham, of a hare, a stag, rabbits, boars and a Labrador. Great in the daylight and spectacular when lit up at night. The old vegetable garden walls and the tall, clipped hedges opposite incorporated a stunning flower garden and, in keeping with a country estate, croquet, tennis and horse-riding were the sporting options.
What I liked about the interior was the ambiance: a mixture of beautifully plush traditional antique carpets with curvaceous stairways lit up to highlight their organic stone-coloured steps. It all took me to many different scenes with the colouring of the decor echoed through the windows by nature. I loved the snug drawing room with wood panelling and a fireplace, the floral centrepieces as well as the grand piano dominating the walkway.
My room was lavish with its stunning shell centrepiece light; the calming sage green of the walls offset by mustard curtains; the older reupholstered furniture and teal leather seats with natural tones and slick fold-away reading lights and my bathroom boasted a coloured marble floor and Asprey products.
Wild Carrot, the hotel's flagship restaurant, offered me exquisite fine dining. I descended a stairway into a vast open spacious room with parquet flooring and eight massive, windowed doorways to look out upon the hills. Eclectic art and leather seats, some free-standing, others in horseshoe banquettes were adorned with vivid green foliage and cast-iron lighting.
From the stylish menu I chose well: particularly enjoying the British pea soup with confit shallots, crème fraiche and herb oil. The neighbouring Wild Carrot Bar had a gentleman’s club feel with little nooks for intimacy amid sumptuous textures of red leather seats and velvets of green, mustard, blush and teal.
One of the truly outstanding assets of this hotel, across the old stables surrounding a beautifully cobbled courtyard, is the swimming pool with its heavenly length, warm temperature and glass ceiling. It leads seductively from inside to the Vitality Pool outside in which all the latest jets and Jacuzzis pummelled away at my muscles as I looked up to the sky in the open air, to the swallows dancing by day and the stars at night.
Ten Trinity Square is another branch of the Four Seasons hotels and set within the financial district and the three hotels share a Scenic Route service where you drive along the River Thames between the two London hotels, past Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and the Tower of London, before enjoying the Royal Botanic Gardens and then arriving in Hampshire from which you can visit Highclere Castle, the famous setting for Downton Abbey and the pretty cottage at Chawton where Jane Austen wrote her novels.
Whether regional or seasonal this hotel chain is alive and well in England.