The Capital Hotel, London Review. (July 2010)

Posted on: July 27th, 2010 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

Continuity and change are clearly in evidence at the Capital Hotel, London. This 50 roomed hotel, holder of 5 AA Townhouse Red Stars, and part of the Small, Luxury Hotels of the World group, is close to its 40th Anniversary. Opened in 1971, it has become synonymous with the highest standards in the hotel and restaurant world, winning a host of awards in its distinguished short history. Two of the most recent were the Cesar Award 2008 for “London Hotel of the Year” by the Good Hotel Guide, and the “Most excellent Hotel Restaurant Award” in 2008 by Conde Nast Johansen. The dining room gained two Michelin stars under its chef Eric Chavot from 2001 to 2009. The Capital’s aim is now to preserve the benefits of the past whilst adapting to the changing consumer demands in this highly competitive field.

Located in Basil Street, behind the busy shopping heart of Knightsbridge – it is literally a stone’s throw from Harrods – the Capital retains its quintessentially English character in an oasis of peace and tranquility. It has become, as its owner David Levin envisaged, a “grand hotel in miniature,” offering a level of comfort and service far in excess of hotels of a similar size. Preserving traditional features, from the liveried doorman with top hat, the personal greeting at reception, to the classic design and furnishing of the rooms, it attracts guests from all over the world, the majority being from England itself, America and Australia.

With 80% repeat business and an occupancy rate of over 82%, The Capital is conscious of the need to maintain the loyalty of its regulars.

At the same time, given the average age of 58-65 of its guests, the advantages of attracting a younger age group would bring additional benefits. While David Levin, as Chairman of the Group, and his appointed General Managers have held the vision and strategy for the property, David’s daughter Kate Levin has taken closer order in the operation.

Kate’s beaming smile, her youthful enthusiasm, her sense of style and attention to detail are all backed up sound experience in the leisure and event management industry before joining the family business. She is a strong believer in face to face communication, so easily lost in larger establishments. That “small is beautiful” is an axiom which has reaped rich rewards.

Although there are function rooms for business meetings – the Eaton and Cadogan suites – the feel of the hotel is never corporate and impersonal. Indeed, personal attention to the guests’ needs is paramount, being evident at every stage of their visit.

For instance, Concierge Clive Smith, a familiar face in reception, uses his 25 years of knowledge and experience to provide excellent individual service.

Staying at the Capital is a joy. The small reception – lit with a real fire in winter – and tiny lift belie the generous size of the rooms. These were individually designed by Nina Campbell assisted by David Linley, with classical, often floral, English décor in soft pastel shades and sumptuous fabrics. The super king sized Savoir beds, equipped with handmade spring base and mattress, are supremely comfortable. Top quality pillows and blankets, and Egyptian cotton sheets add to the luxurious experience. Elegant, antique style mahogany furnishings and original paintings from the family collection add to the traditional feel of the rooms. The marbled bathroom was well supplied with and a host of designer toiletries, and, more importantly, supersoft towels and bathrobes.

Even men’s slippers, always overlooked elsewhere and for which I will be eternally grateful, were provided. The junior suite in which I stayed also had a cosy sitting room, complete with television, two-seater settee and deep armchair. Clearly, no expense is spared to make one’s stay truly memorable. Whilst refurbishment is gradually taking place, there can be little doubt that the current superior standard of rooms is a magnet for new and returning guests.

Afternoon tea, has become an institution at The Capital.

It is taken in the small Sitting Room which can double as a private dining room. Served by helpful and knowledgeable staff, a variety of leaf teas is offered alongside dainty triangular sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and excellent, freshly made miniature pastries: the chocolate éclair with crisp choux pastry and proper crème patisierre and the apricot and almond tart were perfect specimens of their kind.

A generous slice of traditional fruitcake was moist and gently spiced. Amazingly, the overall experience was rich but light, leaving enough room for dinner.

Indeed, one might choose to explore all the amenities of Knightsbridge that are on the doorstep of The Capital; a hotel which well deserves its place, in every sense, in the Small Luxury Hotels of The World.

With a warmth of touch and a unique character, it is easy to see why the property enjoys so much success with returning guests and I, for one, delighted to recommend its charms. (Review took place during July 2010, conducted by Daniel Darwood.)