With an imposing facade and beautiful private courtyard a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace, the Taj 51 Buckingham Gate may be as close as one gets to living like our Royal Family. As I walked through the grand entrance, I was immediately fawned over by far too many staff for just one man, and after checking in with fanfare in the luxuriously appointed atrium, I marvelled at how traditional Indian hospitality had been transported so graciously to one of the world’s most distinguished postal codes.
The hotel is one of a worldwide chain owned by the Tata Group. This one, however, like its flagship Taj Mahal Palace, seemed to be a bit special. With luxury suites attached to the hotel for longer-term guests who fly in for month-long summer trips from India or the Gulf, I got the feeling this was a home away from home for Rajasthani royalty and the odd sheikh.
The spa, tucked away in the elegant courtyard, invites you in to experience an array of treatments fit for maharajahs’ wives, Saudi princesses and, generally speaking, the overindulged. The signature treatment at the hotel is the 23-Karat Gold Facial (£110); I have to admit, I actually thought they were joking. There were no disgruntled Ed Miliband supporters lining up here for the most ostentatious aesthetic treatment on the market.
A combination of gold, caviar and mother of pearl was rubbed into my face for a full 75 minutes, meaning that even if my bank balance didn’t scream oligarch, my face radiated it. With a foot and head massage tenderly provided as the gold mask set, I wondered if I could peel it off, put it on a plinth and keep it as my own Oscar, winner of the most absurdly opulent facial treatment of the year.
The hotel has recently opened its new restaurant Kona, which it calls ‘an innovative interpretation of the colours, flavours and vibrancy of Southern European cuisine, marrying contemporary styling with traditional cooking techniques from Côte d’Azur to the coasts of the Mediterranean and Ligurian seas’.
Hidden from view from the bustling road, it felt secluded and slightly empty, which was a shame given the quality of the food. Seared tuna with anchovies and peppers to start was delicate and flavoursome, however the winner was the side dish, an indulgent fresh truffle polenta, which could have seen me through to lunch the following day.
For a discreet, delicious meal near Buckingham Palace, it seems to have carved a niche for itself, with small groups of businessmen and women hatching plans for industry domination over champagne, fresh scallops and caramelised apple tarts. The restaurant also hosts the famous 24k Gold tea, the perfect over-indulgence after the over-indulging facial.
The suites themselves were immaculate, but designed in a way that created the ambiance of a tasteful home as opposed to an overdone inhospitable chamber. With all the amenities and the gold-standard location, for a long term visit to London Taj 51 Buckingham Gate is well worth the stay.