Britain's famous hotels lose their lustre

They claim to offer the highest standards in service, comfort and cuisine, but some of the most famous hotels in Britain are losing their lustre, a new guide says.

While they may appeal to rich overseas visitors, five-star establishments such as the Ritz and Grosvenor House in central London, the De Vere Grand in Brighton and the Compleat Angler at Marlow, Buckinghamshire, are accused of becoming too big and impersonal for British tastes.

They are being overtaken by smaller hotels which maintain high standards in cuisine and service, saysHarden's Hotel Guide 2004, which is published next Thursday and features more than 900 hotels in Britain, Ireland, New York and Paris. Peter Harden, the author, said: "Some of the big names ... seem to be trading on a reputation greatly exceeding the quality they offer." He said particular examples were the Compleat Angler, a Macdonald hotel, the De Vere Grand, the Gresham in Dublin, a Ryan hotel, and the Grosvenor House, a Le Meridien hotel.

Mr Harden said the larger chains fared badly. Smaller hotels were more popular with the 2,500 contributors, who pay their own bills. Of the establishments awarded top marks by reviewers, many were in small towns or rural settings. Only two were in London; the Lanesborough near Hyde Park - "quite simply the best in London" - and the Milestone in Kensington, styled like a "small baronial country house" and "fabulous in every way". The guide said the Ritz in Piccadilly was "jaded and relying on its reputation".

The guide said it was not against chains per se, as much of the feedback was in favour of smaller chains such as Malmaison, Hotels du Vin and Luxury Family Hotels, which owns country house hotels aimed at affluent parents and their children.

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