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Red Carnation Hotels

Recent Additions to London's Hotel Scene

There is nothing like a boutique hotel. It harmonizes with its location just as music does with lyrics. Large modern hotels fit in all over the world without distorting the landscape. The same uniform high-rise is often as suitable for Singapore as it is for Chicago. But boutique hotels work only when they bear the imprint of their setting. An intimately sized luxurious hostelry, be it in New Delhi or Dubai, must look like it has been sculpted to its surroundings.

For first time guests, no matter that they have perused a brochure, fantasies about a boutique hotel often precede check in. What should one expect in London? A lavish lodging whose imprimatur says, "English countryhouse in the city!" A stay at The Milestone, a service oriented and sumptuously decorated 45-room, 12-suite establishment, may just be the definition of the best of London accommodations. The warm atmosphere and opulent touches duplicate a well- appointed home.

The Milestone, London

A house always existed on the site. The stately Victorian building, dating from the late 19th century, was fashioned from two townhouses and underwent an extensive renovation. Yet, its historical beginnings have not been discarded; some of the original architecture and period details remain.

Open less than two years, The Milestone, located directly opposite Kensington Palace and Gardens, already feels like a classic and is as majestic and serene as if it were a metaphor for the monarchy.

The regal treatment begins at the entrance where a doorman outfitted in a red morning coat and top hat greets visitors and whisks away baggage. Those staying in suites are given over to the care of a butler who unpacks. To early morning arrivals from the States, as an antidote to jetlag, he offers, "It’s best not to nap. You’ll sleep better tonight."

Soon a young woman bearing a large basket of more than a dozen varieties of scented soaps knocks on the door. It’s as hard to decide which one to choose as it is to make a selection from a box filled with tempting chocolates. Next, a young man arrives and presents a padded basket holding a pot of green tea or champagne or sherry depending on the time of day.

To make guests comfortable the hotel provides desks stocked with office supplies; votive candles; afternoon tea; pre-printed business cards; toiletries from the quality perfumery, Penhaligon’s; direct personal phone and fax numbers; and hot water bottles and book lights at turndown.

The health club has a sauna, Jacuzzi and the latest in fitness equipment. Management thinks of everything that guests might have forgotten. Left your swimsuit or exercise clothes at home, you can purchase them at the hotel.

Fresh flowers are an essential part of the decor. The arrangements are so abundant that it appears as though The Milestone has its own greenhouse.

Each guestroom and suite is different. The hotelier and her assistant shopped the world for fabrics, accessories, furniture, woodwork and lighting.

Ask Caroline King, the amiable general manager, to show you some of the interiors. The balcony off the Royal Studio has a hedge like an English garden. In the Saville Row Room illustrations of men’s fashions hang on the walls. The Club Suite features a snooker table. The Venetian Room is stocked with Baci chocolates and the Garden Room features many botanical patterns. In the tented Safari Room, which is reminiscent of a luxury camp in Africa, the soaps are shaped like lions.

Wonderful food is served in Cheneston’s restaurant, but before you settle in for dinner, have a drink at the very clubby bar, Stables. Can you guess how it’s decorated?

The Milestone Hotel, 1 Kensington Court, London W8 5DL. Tel. +44 (0) 20 7917 1000, 1-877-955-1515. Rates start at $400 plus VAT. www.milestonehotel.com

For techy travelers, the future is here. In the Carnation Collection’s recently opened hotel, "41", one screen in each room fits all. Entertainment and communication–TV, computer, radio, Internet, DVD and CD–are all rolled into a simple interactive system hooked up to a printer/scanner/fax. Remote keyboards move with guests from easy chairs to bed. And if you prefer not to get up from that incredibly comfortable bed, your butler will bring your breakfast to you. You can stay put on a fine handmade mattress cuddled in a feather duvet and send e-mail, download spread sheets or check stock prices.

Located across from Buckingham Palace and the Royal Mews, the entrance to "41" is a discreet front door and corridor. There is no lobby at ground level. The hotel, constructed from a warehouse, is located on the fourth floor. In keeping with the high-tech theme, the design is contemporary and the black and white color scheme throughout is lively.

Central to the architecture is a double-height executive lounge where the skylight offers a preview of London’s weather. You can find out whether you’ll need a "brelly" by looking up at the conservatory ceiling. The oversized lounge features mahogany bookcases, comfortable seating areas, tables that are set for dining and a massive fireplace.

There are 20 suites and rooms in all with a ratio of two staff members for each accommodation. Bathrooms were specially built in Scandinavia with showerheads so big that just like that bed, you will want to linger in the shower stall.

Breakfast, traditional afternoon tea and a selection of complimentary snacks in the early evening are offered in the executive lounge and are included in the daily rate.

The hotel was meant to emulate a private club for a discerning few. Both tradition and the 21st century are in force at "41". Despite its newness, the clubroom looks as though English gentlemen and ladies, too, have been using the premises for years.

"41", 41 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW 1W OPS. Tel. 020-7300-0041, 800-552-6844. Rates begin at $277 plus VAT. www.londonby.com/41buckingham

Winter 2000-01