The May Fair Hotel
Stratton Street, Mayfair; 1-800-333-3333; themayfairhotel.co.uk; 406 rooms and 38 suites. From $398. No eco-rating.
A stone's throw from Hyde Park, Green Park, Old Bond Street and Piccadilly, the May Fair – opened by King George V in 1927 – feels like a stop on an early British Monopoly game. From the outside.
The interior couldn't feel more different, with contemporary design that attracts fashion elite and puts this five-star bolthole solidly in the here and now. And it's clear in just a few moments in the buzzing lobby that the hotel has scored big with young glitterati who want their 15 minutes and more. Considering the short hemlines and tall heels worn by the parade of young women streaming in for evening cocktails, it comes as no surprise to learn the May Fair was a favourite of Paris Hilton a couple of years back. And it has been official hotel of London Fashion Week time and again.
But in your room, none of that matters. I'm expecting plush luxury, not a Spartan approach: think neutral colour scheme and uneven floors. My basic room is spacious but feels cavernous. The splashes of red and lacquered black don't overcome the expanse of beige that feel dull compared with the warm vibe in the lobby and restaurant. It's a disconnect that never resolves itself, even in the decked-out bathroom.
Rooms are equipped with Bang & Olufsen entertainment systems (but the television seems a mile away from the bed), an iPod station, international electrical outlets and free WiFi. The bed is definitely sleep-inducing, and the lighting system is easy to use.
Staff bring a distinctly down-to-earth friendly touch to this fashion-focused hotel. From the front desk, to the doormen, to the servers in the restaurant, all make a sleep-deprived arrival and busy stay smooth and seamless.
Need a private screen room for 200 of your closest friends? Want a night in a casino without leaving the building? If so, the May Fair is the hotel for you. It also appeared the place to be for bat mitzvahs, judging from the effervescent and chatty girls in the elevators as we headed out – and back in – for the night. The spa has a relaxation room, an herbal sauna and an aromatic steam room, and the gym has a range of equipment. Opening soon, a Cigar Room with chainmail, broken tile and hanging fireplaces and gardens for decor, and Cubans on-site to roll cigars.
May Fair boasts Eastern Mediterranean-influenced fare in Quince (think Börek cigars: seven-spice slow-cooked lamb shank and baby spinach in crispy filo pastry) and a stellar magnum collection at 150 in the May Fair Bar.
Unless you're booked into a much ballyhooed bespoke suite, the May Fair seems more about the stellar location and the see-and-be-seen scene.