Story by Barbara Penny Angelakis
Photography by Manos Angelakis
The Capital Hotel
22-24 Basil Street
Knightsbridge, London SW3 1AT
And now, for something completely different! Located at one of the most coveted addresses in all of London, is the charming hotel The Capital. On picturesque Basil Street, between Harrods on one end and Harvey Nichols on the other, you will find a townhouse hotel reminiscent of an English countryside Inn, offering 5* service and accommodations. There are a mere 49 guest bedrooms including eight suites, seven deluxe doubles and one two bedroom suite… with each one individually designed and decorated, first by the owner’s David Levin’s wife, and currently by his delightful daughter Kate, who also happens to be the General Manager.
Each room has a distinctive but homey look, decorated with classic English fabrics and antiques from the Levin private collection. Guests that return year after year often request the same accommodations, especially if they book extended stays. They say it’s like returning home again. The beds feature Savoir handmade mattresses and are covered with the finest Egyptian cotton. Every convenience is thought of to make your stay comfortable and every service is offered such as complimentary shoeshine, daily newspapers, and full Concierge service. Mobile phones are available on request and secretarial and translation services are provided. There is a Doctor and Dentist on call and 24 hour room service is available. Private parking is in the hotel’s car park and round-trip airport transfers can be arranged if you are not traveling by car. And of course all of the rooms have state-of-the-art electronics along with in-room controlled air conditioning… fairly unique in England. But most important of all, everyone is greeted personally with a smile. Kate told us The Capital prides itself on friendly personal service and attention so that you always feel like a privileged guest rather then an impersonal hotel patron just passing through.
Possibly the English village inn feeling at The Capital is due to David Levin’s history as a hotelier. His first experience in operating his own hotel was at The Royal Oak in Yattendon, Berkshire, where he experimented with his own brand of warm personalized service and where he pioneered the first ‘gastro pub’, providing a level of hotel restaurant gastronomy unknown at the time. When he built The Capital Hotel, he extended and expanded his vision in London, where he opened a “grand hotel in miniature” featuring an exceptional restaurant with English Chef Richard Shepherd at the helm. In 1974 the Michelin Guide named only four hotel restaurants to their illustrious ranks, and The Capital Hotel and Restaurant received its first Michelin Star.
Our London trip was so short that time did not allow for an overnight at The Capital but we were hoping for a chance to experience dinner. Unfortunately the restaurant was closed in preparation for an international gathering of acclaimed chefs – another first that David initiated. He invites chefs of excellence from abroad to The Capital Restaurant to share techniques and recipes, and at the same time enhances the reputation for culinary excellence to the not so well thought of London restaurant scene of the previous several decades. Of course things have changed in London in the intervening years and many exceptional restaurants currently exist. But not to disappoint us completely, Kate invited us to a traditional Afternoon Tea in the charming Sitting Room.
As the story goes, in 1840, Anna, the seventh Dutchess of Bedford became hungry in the late afternoon and not wanting to wait until her evening meal, which was served fashionably late at eight o’clock, asked that a tray of tea with bread and sweets be served to her. After a time, friends were invited to join her for “tea and a walking the fields”. The practice developed into a rather formal social institution that allowed the upper classes to don long gowns, gloves, and hats, to take afternoon tea in fashionable drawing rooms and then have a walk-about. After a period, the middle classes followed suit by having a ‘high’ tea served later in the day to replace dinner. I quote from The Capital’s historical documentation “apparently the names – afternoon and high tea - derive from the height of the tables on which the meals are served, high tea being served at the dinner table”.
Regardless of the height of the table, Afternoon Tea is one of my all time favorite indulgences and this one proved to be no exception. We began by selecting our tea from a large choice of exotic brews and a traditional tea pot was brought to table with each of our selections. The tea was refreshed periodically with a new pot, so hot freshly brewed tea was available throughout the entire meal. Then came the finger sandwiches… with a twist. They served the traditional smoked salmon, cucumber, egg, and fowl, but with more sophisticated dressings such as turkey with chestnut and cranberry stuffing, salmon with lime crème fraiche, and wild mushroom and truffle. And again, refills were offered. I absolutely could not resist the mushroom and the turkey reprise. The sweet tray was a masterpiece of small tidbits of perfectly gorgeous delights such as a tumbler of hibiscus, coconut and pineapple salad, green tea macaroons, gingerbread from a homemade recipe. But for me, the best part of the tea was the scones with clotted cream and raspberry jam. Of course everything was freshly made in-house and refills were constantly being offered… good thing we did not have dinner plans for that evening.
The Capital Hotel was a surprising find in the heart of London and I look forward to enjoying a stay in one of the charming rooms and experiencing dinner in their restaurant on our next trip to London.
© March 2012 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.