It’s the world’s biggest: the Royal Academy of Arts summer exhibition

An external shot of Burlington House, LondonUntil the 18th of August the world’s biggest open-submission art exhibition is back presenting more than 1,000 pieces in a variety of styles. With the exhibition being held at Burlington House only moments away from St. James Place, why not marvel at the art selected scrupulously by panel of artists and architects across the board from more than 10,000 entries?

The summer exhibition allows you to view the work of well-known and celebrated artists such as Anselm Kiefer, as well taking you into the creative world of upcoming artists showcasing their paintings, structures, photography, prints, architecture and films. There will be a room dedicated only to portraiture, displaying works from established artists such as, Frank Auerbach, Alex Katz and Tom Philip RA, which takes you through the importance the portrait genre has played in both previous Royal Academy Summer Exhibitions and in contemporary art.

Other highlights will be a new large-scale sculpture from Anthony Caro RA and the series of six sublime tapestry pieces ‘A Vanity of Small Differences’ by Grayson Perry.

Tickets cost £6.00 for children and £10.00 for adults and are available here. The exhibition is open from the 10th July until the 18th August. The majority of the work that is displayed is available for the public to purchase, with the proceeds going towards the Royal Academy’s Schools bursaries scheme, as the exhibition is directly helping to support future artistic talents.

The exhibition opens from 10am Monday to Thursday, Saturday and Sunday until 6pm and on Friday closes at a later time of 10pm.

So after wandering around and soaking in the beautiful art, why not treat yourself again, this time to one of our gorgeous cocktails at DUKES Bar?

Image courtesy of  Mike Peel

Notting Hill Carnival 2013 is nearly here!

Street performers at the Notting Hill Carnival, LondonFirst held in 1964, the Notting Hill Carnival has since become one of Europe’s diverse and largest street festivals, and it’s back this year from 25th-26th August.

The Caribbean theme inspired carnival in West London will be packed with steel bands, traditional Calypso music and tempting food stalls. As well as a day filled with great contemporary music, you can also take pleasure in tasting some of the best of West Indies-inspired food like jerk chicken, rice and peas and rum punch, as well as the odd taste of other exotic cuisines. This carnival is a celebration and a great way to get together and spend August bank holiday weekend in London!

You can expect to see 50,000 performers and around 2.5 million people over the Carnival weekend. For that reason, if you are planning on visiting the festival, please remember roads will be closed so transport to and from the carnival may have to be on foot! But don’t let that put you off as the carnival is well worth the few minutes’ walk!

After a long day soaking in the cultural atmosphere, take the time to wind down at our very own DUKES Bar? A relaxed setting, DUKES Bar is the perfect place to settle down for the evening, or you can head to our restaurant – ran by Nigel Mendham – where we can prepare a variety of mouth-watering dishes for you and your family.

Image courtesy of Cristiano Betta

Waterloo Food Festival: a must-visit for any foodie!

Mexican finger foodIf you’re in London this month, there’s still time to catch the Waterloo Food Festival! Renowned for its specialist food shops, bars, cafes, pubs and restaurants, the Southbank is hosting the fifth year of the celebration of food and flavour.

Join in with the festival for tastings, cooking demonstrations and a selection of street food, where food businesses within Waterloo sit alongside long-term festival sponsors, featuring tropical cocktails, freshly prepared Latin American food, traditional pub grub and a selection of butchers, bakers, greengrocers, coffee specialists and wine merchants.

Making its debut is also the Lower Marsh Market, one of London’s oldest and best loved street markets, with mouth watering offers on every delicious food stall. Festival goers can check out the many outdoor food and music events, such as a tequila tasting and ethically sourced Mexican food, or explore the Fantasy Cafe in which artists take over to create a place ‘full of your wildest dreams’.

The event is now more accessible than ever, with a brand new free app to download, helping food fans be informed on the go. The Twitter feed also provides live updates, and the offers and competitions page is a great way to find out how to get an amazing deal. Make sure you go soon, as the exciting event ends on the 31st July!

This is a wonderful destination for foodies everywhere, so why not quench your thirst after at DUKES Bar afterwards? The best venue to relax in a timeless atmosphere, the exclusive and intimate bar is famous for its personalised cocktails and renowned martinis, and is the perfect end to a day of exploring your taste buds.

It’s back: BBC Proms 2013 in London

An internal shot of the Royal Albert Hall for the BBC PromsThis summer from 12th July all through to 7th September, you can enjoy one of the most popular seasons for worldwide classical music at The BBC Proms 2013. Held yearly at the Royal Albert Hall, you can become immersed in the daily orchestral classical music concerts, taking place since 1895.

This year’s season focuses on one of the greatest British composers, Benjamin Britten, in honour of his centenary birth. Highlights of the proms include the return of Doctor Who to celebrate the TV series’ 50th anniversary, the emotive and richly varied world of gospel music, and other great composers including Les Siècles and Wagner.

The world famous Last Night of the Proms is not to be missed, in which everything is brought to a thrilling finale; tickets are like gold dust! In turn, you can join in with the celebrations with Terry Wogan and thousands of others in The Proms in the Park closing party, held in Hyde Park.

Between 500 and 1,400 standing tickets are available for each Prom so you can marvel at the world’s biggest orchestras and classical performers. Alternatively, if you wish to attend a particular night, tickets are available online.

After a glorious summer evening enjoying some of the world’s finest music, why not continue the atmosphere by staying at DUKES London? We have numerous offers to help you enjoy your time, all of which can be found here.

Image courtesy of Yuichi

Remembering London 2012 with the Open East Arts Festival

An aerial shot of London's Olympic ParkThis month the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will be open to the public to hold the Open East Arts Festival, celebrating one year since the Olympic Games and East London Culture.

This festival is the perfect day out – from the 27-28th July individuals have a special opportunity to see where the Olympic Games were held, whilst simultaneously enjoying a day in the park overflowing with food, music, theatre, sport and family fun.

There is a variety of live music and performances to discover from acts such as The Waterboys, Seun Kuti, some soul Caribbean and many other fantastic live performances. Enjoy some of the food from the real food festival, including a communal feast on one of the bridges over the River Lea or just simply relax and have a picnic along the quintessential river bank. In the mean time young ones can enjoy the mini circus from the house of fairytales, storytelling, art and craft workshops, puppet shows and a whole host of activities to keep them smiling.

Ticket prices range from £6.00 to £9.50, and under 5s can go for free. To check for availability of tickets please click here. The festival is set to last 2 days, runs from 1:30pm to 10pm and includes a spectacular finale at 9:30pm. Also keep a look out for upcoming events in the park, namely the London Anniversary Games and the Wireless festival.

And after a fun-packed day in the park why not wind down and enjoy a meal at our restaurant? Offering a wide variety of delicious British dishes, it is the perfect way to end a somewhat perfect day.

Image courtesy of EG Focus

It’s the Queen’s 60th year: celebrate at the Coronation Festival

A black and white photo of a young Queen Elizabeth IINext month you can celebrate the Queen’s 60th year on the throne in an extraordinary way at the Coronation Festival at Buckingham Palace.

On four exciting days, the gardens at Buckingham Palace will be taken over by the Royal Warrant Holders Association, who are hosting the event. The exclusive event will see over 200 companies, who provide for the Royal family, exhibit their services. The commemoration is open to the public who can buy tickets for the daytime or evening event.

The daytime event gives attendees the chance to have a royal experience. Explore the gardens and sample the goods the exhibitors have to offer while admiring the products. If you’re attending the celebration then The Mirrored House, the catwalk show and Mosimann’s Garden restaurant are necessary visits.

The evening festivities celebrate music and dance from the past 60 years. Acts providing entertainment include Katherine Jenkins, Katie Melua, Russell Watson and The Feeling. Performances from the English National Ballet and the National Youth Orchestra will showcase even more of Britain’s home grown talent.

Taking place on Thursday 11th July until Sunday 14th July, the festival is not to be missed.

The Queen’s Coronation is a special occasion, so why not celebrate in style and continue the luxurious Royal experience? Here at DUKES you can enjoy a truly enviable setting whether you’re in the bar, the restaurant or your suite.

An interview with Debrah Dhugga, General Manager



Prior to joining DUKES LONDON, Debrah Dhugga was Director of Retail and Spa at hair and beauty brand, ghd. Previously, she spent four-and-a-half years as CEO of Tom’s Companies, a Durham, UK-based hotel, and restaurant and spa group with holdings including The Samling and Seaham Hall hotels. Much of Dhugga’s experience on the way up was in sales and marketing, getting her start in 1981 with Swallow Hotels and subsequently becoming Director of Sales of Malmaison Hotels from 1996 to 2005. Dhugga, who holds a fellowship with the Institute of Hospitality, was recognized as one of the top 100 U.K. females in hospitality and transport in 2012 and is a member of the Institute of Directors, the SPA Advisory Board, and Business Women Leaders. She is also a trustee for the hospitality charity “One and All” where she was tapped as a keynote speaker at the House of Lords. In 2011, Dhugga became a founding member of the Leading Ladies of London, an organization comprised of female general managers of five-star hotels whose mission is to bring more women leaders into the hotel industry. Dhugga earned a Marketing Degree from Newcastle University and is often out supporting the industry as a speaker at hotel schools and conferences. She is a mentor to many young people in the industry and personally challenges herself to raise funds for an industry charity each year.


Recognized as “Europe’s Leading Boutique Hotel” and the “World’s Leading Classic Boutique Hotel,” DUKES LONDON ( is a hidden gem in the heart of St. James Mayfair, where quintessential British charm and fine luxury merge to create a timeless atmosphere for all guests. The property features stunning bedrooms that offer outstanding comfort, the legendary DUKES Bar, and THIRTY SIX restaurant featuring Michelin-star chef Nigel Mendham so guests may experience the culinary excellence that has been awarded three AA Rosettes.There is also the option of true English style with champagne afternoon tea in the Drawing Room or PJ Lounge, as well as The Health Club featuring an Italian marble steam room, a modern gym with the latest Technogym equipment, and a beauty treatment room.

What is the secret to the consistent success of the DUKES LONDON property?

It’s “a hidden gem,” tucked away among the most beautiful little courtyards where it has been trading as a hotel for more than 100 years. DUKES has continued to raise its standards and we have developed the property as the years go by. But we have kept a lot of the culture and service levels, and everything about what makes DUKES truly special. DUKES Bar is one of the oldest bars in London and we get many people coming into the bar because of its historic nature. Many hotels lose the old-school attention to detail. My management style is to focus on luxury service standards. I like good old innkeeping quality standards.

Is it more challenging today to show what makes a property unique?

It depends. A hotel that is prestigious like DUKES and has a historical aspect is different from the traditional, contemporary hotels that have come onboard. The hotels that have been around for a long time also already have an audience, but it’s important that you maintain consistency in standard, allowing the tradition to continue throughout the hotel’s history but moving forward on service levels and products.The hotel also has a very majestic feel to it – it’s indulgent. We offer a variety of fabulous complimentary amenities including 24-hour butler service; room service three times daily; a brand new in-room media system; Wi-Fi; an iPod system; espresso machine; and much more. But the greatest service we offer is an important luxury in the hospitality field: we work to provide that home-away-from-home feeling so when guests stay in the hotel, they are as comfortable as they are when they’re in their own homes.

The word “luxury” can sometimes be overused. What is luxury?

An important element of it is service levels and what you do for your guests. Luxury has different meanings for different people.

How has THIRTY SIX worked so well? Is it challenging to compete with so many great stand-alone restaurants?

Our food and beverage component is interesting. We have our fabulous DUKES Bar, which is renowned and has an audience that goes back for years. We have a fabulous reputation for serving one of the best martinis in the world – we serve a minimum of 400 a night there. We didn’t have a destination restaurant in the hotel until two years ago when Nigel Mendham joined us; Nigel’s food is quintessentially English with a twist. There is something new opening up in town almost every night, but as long as we can consistently offer award-winning fare, from first-class room service to unmatched dining at THIRTY SIX, we will have continued success. In addition, Nigel is on staff – he is not just a name on the door – so that makes for an outstanding dining experience for our guests.

Are women still entering into this industry?

It’s still a male-dominated industry, but I and other females are trying to encourage more women to come into the industry. Unfortunately, when it comes to middle management, it might require deciding to have a family and coming back to work afterwards. It’s a challenge but I encourage companies to look at ways of helping more women enter and remain in the industry.

How critical is it to have an owner that engages you in all aspects of the hotel?

It’s absolutely critical that you have a relationship and trust in each other. It’s about running your business like it’s your own. You should customize the business as if you’re a self-owner, especially if you’re a manager as well as an operator, which I am. You need to have leadership skills and provide for and develop your team. This will help expand the business and customer service. You have to engage yourself in the business, more than you do if you were a GM reporting to an operator of a bigger brand, as the majority of the decisions come from you.

Would you also enjoy running a larger hotel?

I have managed larger properties and my engagement with the hotel always depends on what it is. Certain markets can be challenging. In key cities where you have larger hotels and brands to compete with and you have to adapt. People sometimes think DUKES is smaller than it is – it has 90 bedrooms and is one of the largest independent hotels in London. However, when you walk in, it feels smaller because of the way the hotel has been created and with the old buildings joined together, it’s very quaint. We don’t have large public spaces, but we do have a lot of small cozy areas around the hotel. DUKES is rather special. It is a large hotel with a boutique feel. I would not say I don’t enjoy running larger hotels; it just depends on the property and not on the size.

What advice would you give young people entering this industry?

Live your dream and experience as many departments as possible. I worked at all different levels. Once you find your niche, concentrate on its development. Go in with your eyes open and be enthusiastic. You have to have it in your heart.

Reproduced from Leaders Magazine, July 2013.