The Bulgari Hotel has a suite that is bigger than my home. I know this as I once, very briefly, had the run of the place. My wife – also a journalist – was reviewing the hotel and I was the plus one, so while she tested out the spa, I took some exercise by taking a long walk around the room, through the kitchen and the dining room into a living room area containing a sofa, which had bum-room for more friends than I actually have.
It’s a gemstone’s throw from Harrods and Harvey Nichols, and across the road from the One Hyde Park development, where an apartment sold last week for £140m. It is perfectly placed to catch the super-wealthy who see investing in London to be as safe as (empty, multimillion-pound) houses.
Its extravagance was mocked when in first opened, but it now has occupancy rates of between 90 and 100 per cent, which is even more striking given that rooms start at an eye-watering £750 a night.
I went back to the hotel this week for the launch of its latest draw, Rivea restaurant. No expense spared, the hotel has recruited Alain Ducasse – a man who has collected 18 Michelin stars across the world – to oversee a re-launch. He has created a fresh Provençal-style menu – think marinated sea bream with citrus, blue lobster with purple artichokes and a dessert of wild strawberries.
The aim seemed quite clear: attract the booked-in crowd, and perhaps remind them of their summers on the Riviera.
A former manager at The Ivy was looking after the front of house, and guests included Bryan Ferry, Eva Herzigova and Elizabeth McGovern, who arrived straight from the set of Downton Abbey. On other tables were plenty of expensively suited men with women who, to borrow a phrase from one of my fellow diners, were “wearing enough jewellery to finance a movie”.
Or presumably to book into one of the suites.