Touring London’s Cavendish Hotel

A few weeks ago I was invited to take a sneak peek behind the scenes at the Cavendish Hotel on the corner of Jermyn St and Duke St in Mayfair, one of London’s finest 4 star establishments.

Although the current building dates from the mid-1960s (with a rather nifty addition I’ll get to later) its history goes back much further. The Cavendish Hotel operated on the site from 1836 serving the well-heeled Victorian gentlemen who had business in London. It’s most interesting period though, dates from 1902 when it was purchased by a certain Rosa Lewis, who for the next 50 years held court over the entire establishment and its visitors. Lewis, who quickly became known as the ‘Duchess of Duke Street’ established a hotel that was popular with the great and the good of the time – even entertaining King Edward VII on occasion. The current building retains one of the features of the old – two entrances, one on each of the street-facing sides of the hotel. I can neither confirm nor deny that one entrance was favoured by wives and the other by mistresses during the Duchess’s tenure…

These days of course the Cavendish is a thoroughly respectable establishment, and after several refurbishments the 230 room hotel’s interior rather outshines its typically 1960s exterior – in fact it’s very plush, both in the guest rooms and in the hotel’s public areas. On then to that interesting addition – during one of the earlier refurbishments a decision was taken to add several floors in order to accommodate suites. Given the generally low-rise surrounding buildings, the effect of this is that rooms on the upper floors of the hotel have a commanding view over the entire London skyline in every direction – the Cavendish’s unique selling point. The hotel is also very reasonably priced given it’s location, although of course the suites come at a premium, particularly the two-room Rosa Lewis suite which is sumptuous, befitting the lady herself! Typically, a well-appointed and very modern ‘classic room’ can be had for as little as £129 if you book well in advance, going up to £279 for a suite – I think you’ll agree that those prices are pretty amazing for such a characterful hotel in such an ideally central location in London.

In addition to my private tour of the hotel I also had the opportunity to sit down with the hotel’s Head Concierge, Richard. Richard is a member of the ‘Society of the Golden Keys’, an exclusive organisation that only admits concierges who have at least five years’ experience and who work in what the Society rather ominously calls ‘hotels of an acceptable standard‘.  Needless to say that Blackpool B&B receptionists need not apply – some of Richard’s London contemporaries work at the Hilton on Park Lane, Brown’s and Claridges. I was interested in finding out what a head concierge spent his or her day doing so I lined up some interesting questions, both to test Richard’s mettle and to be a bit nosy about the guests that the Cavendish accommodates.  Here are a few of his responses:

Q – If a guest is only free for the morning but would like to do some sight-seeing, what do you usually recommend that they do?
A – A London bus tour is a good idea, particularly when you’re pressed for time. You’ll see all the central London sights, and can get on and off at many points along the route – ideal.

Q – If guests want to go to the theatre but don’t have any particular preference, which show or play are you currently recommending?
A – For people who haven’t seen it, my recommendation is the Lion King. It’s a spectacular show with lots of catchy tunes, and is a great choice for families with children.

Q – When your guests want to experience the atmosphere of a proper British pub, where do you send them?
A – The Red Lion, just around the corner on Duke of York Street is an amazing find. It’s covered with Victorian etched-glass mirrors inside. There’s also the Chequers Tavern down the street of course. Both respectable and typical London pubs.

Q – What’s the most heart-warming request a guest has made?
A – One of our guests was celebrating his honeymoon, and asked for the bed in their suite to be covered in rose petals arranged in the shape of a heart. We were more than happy to accommodate that particular request!

Q – What’s the oddest request that you’ve had?
A – A guest brought his young daughter down to London to celebrate her birthday. As a surprise he wanted to be able to take her around town in a pink taxi (her favourite colour of course). Not exactly a hue that typical London cabs come in, but after several phonecalls we did eventually find a suitable vehicle for them.

Q – What’s the most unusual object that’s been left behind by a guest?
A – We had a rather absent-minded businessman staying with us at one time who, after he had checked out, called to say that he had left something rather valuable in his room. It certainly was – in fact it turned out to be a briefcase containing over £100,000! Needless to say that we took very good care of it while we were awaiting his return…

Just in closing, the folks at the Cavendish did ask me to mention that they’re rather proud of one of the accolades that they’ve received – in both 2011 and 2012 they appeared in the top half of the Sunday Times ‘100 Best Companies To Work For’ competition in the ‘small companies’ category. I think that probably speaks volumes about the working environment at the hotel, and no doubt it rubs off on the staff’s relationship with guests too…