As we’ve talked about recently, being a hotel that welcomes guests from right around the world, we embrace local traditions, customs and events as much as we can – and today, they don’t come much bigger than Black Friday!
Seeing a large number of returning guests each and every year, we hear so many pieces of positive feedback as to why we remain a favourite choice. These range from our attentive staff through to the experience offered by Alessandro and his team in the DUKES Bar.
And one of the lesser known points that comes up frequently is our association with some really remarkable brands. Truly appreciating the importance of ensuring we can offer quality in every area, it’s this that leads us to working with so many Royal Warrant holders.
As we mentioned in a previous post, one of the pieces of criteria behind DUKES being a five star hotel is the ability to provide our guests with dining options whatever day you stay with us and whatever time it may be.
London is a city that never sleeps, and so if you’re checking out early and need something savoury and substantial to set you up for the day, or have spent all evening at the theatre and need a little something to satisfy your sweet tooth before you get into bed, you can rest assured we can provide it all at DUKES.
For this reason, it’s no real surprise that food and drink is really important to us. We want everyone who spends time with us to feel as though there’s something to eat and drink that’s perfectly suited to their individual needs.
And it’s because of this why we have so many different options available.
Our bar is a favourite with our guests and locals actually some guests come to DUKES just to experience our martinis. In the words of others it’s legendary, enviable and as the New York Times once said it’s the bar “which some say concocts one of the world’s best Martinis”.
Open from 2pm to 11pm Monday to Saturday (4pm to 10.30pm on Sundays), spending time in DUKES Bar is somewhat of an event. You aren’t simply dropping by for a quick beer or glass of wine – we want you to savour the whole experience; to enjoy time testing our bartenders’ knowledge to create a drink that’s perfectly suited to you.
Having a drink in DUKES Bar is in many ways about harking back to a time before mobile phones, the internet or television. It’s about choosing a seat, having a drink made for you, and wiling away the time with your loved one, a group of friends or simply by yourself.
Headed up by renowned chef Nigel Mendham, GBR is a truly ‘Great British Restaurant’. It’s all about providing a dining experience built around homegrown produce from here on our wonderful British Isles, or menus that follow – or are inspired by – some of the country’s most traditional dishes.
An all-day dining experience (you can grab breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner here), the team at GBR don’t try to overcomplicate the dishes on offer. They know what works, what our guests want and bring the two together perfectly.
And with the bar overlooking the restaurant, if you’d prefer a few light snacks with a drink here instead of a meal, we’d be only too happy to oblige.
A truly British occasion, afternoon tea is something we can all enjoy. After all, who doesn’t enjoy taking some time out of their day to eat sandwiches, cakes and pastries and drink tea?
However, knowing that everyone has different tastes, we’ve produced a variety of options when it comes to afternoon tea.
For instance, we have our DUKES afternoon tea, which includes an array of sandwiches, warm scones and a variety of pastries served with a choice of tea. However, for something a little more ‘relaxing’ you can enjoy our ‘gin and tonic afternoon tea’ or our ‘champagne afternoon tea’ – all the same delights to eat, but with an alcoholic alternative to tea!
Served in our elegant drawing room and conservatory, there aren’t many better ways to spend an afternoon in London.
Picnic in the park
We really do love it when our guests stay with us for a meal or a drink, but we also know London has a whole host of sights and attractions to take in, including a vast array of beautiful parks.
Not wishing for you to miss out on the culinary delights our chefs create, we provide a particularly popular option for our guests to take a picnic to one of the nearby Royal Parks.
A real decadent treat, your personal butler will meet you at the park, lay out your rug and picnic basket and then serve your drinks before leaving you to enjoy the great outdoors of our city with a selection of tempting treats.
Cognac and cigar garden
Open throughout the week from 6pm to 11pm, our outdoor cognac and cigar area is particularly popular for those looking for a break away from the hustle and bustle of London life.
Providing our guests with the ability to sample some of the world’s finest cigars alongside some truly favourable cognac, if you’re a fan of a cigar, we’re confident saying you’ll be hard-pressed to find somewhere better to enjoy one in London.
Being real foodies at DUKES – and with a particular passion for high quality drinks, too – we aim to show this to each and every one of our guests. Only wanting you to have the best dining experiences possible, we do our utmost to cater for every need, no matter how diverse it may be. Just ask!
Being a five star hotel is something we’re extremely proud of. It’s not something we take lightly or something we make assumptions about. Each and every day we strive towards ensuring we maintain the extremely high standards set out when we were first awarded five stars.
But what are the standards that are expected of a five star hotel?
Interestingly, they tend to vary all around the world; there’s no universal grading system. Here in the UK the rating is determined and provided by The AA, and the criteria to receiving five stars is particularly in-depth.
Looking at our five stars at DUKES London, here we explore some of the notable reasons we’ve been awarded the highest rating for any hotel in the country.
First-class customer service
This isn’t about ‘the customer is always right’. Anyone can do that. First-class customer service is about truly going above and beyond what’s expected of us.
Nothing is too much of an issue. Whether it’s asking for certain pillows from our housekeeping staff through to talking with our concierge to arrange a full evening of entertainment, no question is too troublesome.
And it’s so important that every single guest fully understands this. This point is actually arguably the most important – being able to deliver a first-class level of customer service is one thing, but ensuring our guests understand this is what we do is key.
We invest so, so heavily in our staff. We want people who want to go that extra mile; those people who fully understand that a guest’s experience with us can be spoilt – or made – by the service they receive.
That’s why every single member of staff is dedicated to ensuring DUKES London offers one of the highest – if not the highest – level of customer service found in any hotel.
Fitness and spa facilities. Butler services. 24 hour reception, concierge and room service. And something that’s particularly British – a full afternoon tea offering!
It’s not uncommon to find these amenities in other hotels that have three or four stars. So many of them offer them brilliantly.
But what makes a five star hotel just that is all of these amenities are offered under one roof. That’s so important. When you’re looking for a luxurious break to London, whilst there is so much to see and do in our wonderful city, sometimes all you want is 48 hours of being pampered, without ever needing to step out through the same doors you came in until it’s time to leave.
Suites, suites, suites
We’re particularly proud of our suites at DUKES London, largely because they attract so much praise – and from a hotel rating point of view, they play a critical role in ensuring we maintain our five stars.
With hotels in this rating needing to have a minimum of one suite, it must consist of at least one bedroom, one lounge and one bathroom, and has to be able to be booked by guests at all times (this is an interesting one – whilst four star hotels may have suites, they’re not always considered permanent or continually accessible, something that can often prevent them from receiving a higher rating).
A full service restaurant
Our hotel restaurant is open seven days a week, 365 days a year (as our hotel is – itself a requirement for five star ratings). Breakfast, lunch and dinner is available, and you can book a table as a resident or non-resident.
Without this, we wouldn’t have the rating we have today.
Our guests want unrivalled levels of cuisine. They want a breakfast perfectly suited to their needs for the day, lunch options to see them through the afternoon, and a dinner menu that has something for every taste.
Nigel Mendham does a wonderful job here at DUKES. The reviews, praise and critiques he receives are exceptional and provide a brilliant insight into the fantastic work he and his team of talented culinary masters deliver right throughout the day, week and year.
Being a five star hotel
The AA’s quality standards are in-depth (you can download the full document here if you’re interested!) at currently 43 pages long, and cover nine separate sections of which some have over two dozen subsections.
Being a five star hotel isn’t an easy feat. We completely and utterly understand, appreciate and respect that. Once it’s received, it’s not something you can rest at ease with either. You need to fully embrace it and work towards ensuring your standards never slip, as like we’re sure every five star hotel will say – once you have the rating, your dedication to ensuring every single point you’re judged on never waivers only increases.
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 (www.dukeshotel.com) 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.
Major refurbishment of both bedrooms and walkways has helped to give our hotel a subtle new design for 2013.
Refurbished bedrooms designed by Sandy Deane Interiors, and walkway interiors specially created by Shaun Clarkson, have given DUKES a luxurious makeover whilst keeping the hotel’s well-loved five star charm and elegance intact.
Each of our newly refurbished bedrooms have been designed using a different colour scheme, featuring rich textures. The new bedrooms all feature matt satin with vintage décor, and help to make the bedrooms more elegant than ever before.
Other sophisticated colour schemes in the new bedrooms cater for all tastes. The colour schemes include zinc and grape, quail and plum, and for a more masculine tone, marine and port.
Shaun Clarkson, a world renowned designer who has previously worked in some of the best hotels in the world, also refurbished the Perrier-Jouët Lounge at DUKES in 2011. You can see some of his other projects here.
The finishing touches will soon be added to the hotel’s walkways and lift interiors, completing the renovations.
The features help to convey the highest luxury at affordable prices and a relaxing place to spend the night after taking in the sights of London.
With rooms and suites available for a variety of budgets, why not come and experience them for yourself?
BOING! made it as one of London’s debut performances at the Lilian Baylis Studio last year and returns this year promising a bigger and better performance at the Sadler’s Wells. BOING! is a children’s dance theatre production based on the magical moments two brothers experience leading up to one of the most special days of the year.
The play is cleverly set out on a huge bed in the centre of the stage, which miraculously turns into a giant trampoline helping engage the younger audience throughout the show. However, do not be fooled to think this is child’s play as adults are also expected to be astonished with the performances. Offering a variety of comedy, break dancing and acrobatics it will keep both younger and older generations enticed till the very end.
The play is directed by one of the best in children’s theatre, Sally Cookson, and performed by the award winning Wilkie Branson and Joel Daniel, so you are guaranteed to experience one of the best acts in British theatre to date.
This fast paced play is fun, festive and an all round exciting show, making it the perfect entertainment for the kids and the family. It is one theatre production not to miss! So if you are interested do not miss out on a chance to witness a wonderfully animated Christmas show. Tickets are on sale now.
After building up an appetite watching an exhilarating theatre performance, why not head over to our restaurant to try the capital’s finest cuisine? You can try our dinner menu after first having one of our famous martinis in DUKES Bar – have a very Merry Christmas!
Image courtesy of Sadler’s Wells Theatre
November 5th is drawing closer, and if you’re wondering where the best firework displays are this year, look no further. Once again, London takes centre stage if you really want to celebrate Bonfire Night with a bang!
The display at Battersea Park is taking place on Saturday 3rd November and is said to be one of the most popular annual events in London. This year, the fireworks have been designed by Pains Fireworks, who have in the past created displays for some of the best known events and institutions, such as the Disney Concert Orchestra in Dubai and, just as impressively, the recent Olympic Torch Relay.
This is guaranteed to be a night to remember for visitors of all ages! Watch the sky light up in a dazzling show featuring some of the most impressive fireworks, starting at 8pm. Make sure you stay warm throughout the night with the likes of hot roasted chestnuts and warm mulled wine, which will all be on sale at the event.
The ritual of celebrating Bonfire Night dates back 407 years. Back in 1605, Guido ‘Guy’ Fawkes failed in his plot to destroy parliament and all within it by gunpowder. Now a British tradition, every 5th November (or a date close by), the skies of the UK come to life with flashes of lights and loud crackles and bangs.
Entry is through advanced tickets only, which are currently £8.00 up until the day of the event, from when they will be priced at £10.00. Tickets are available online or alternatively you can buy them at a number of different local venues.
Some complain that Christmas is starting earlier and earlier every year. Others love it. Whether you love it or not we’d always recommend a visit to the Spirit of Christmas Fair at the Olympia Exhibition Centre.
There is no longer an excuse not to visit London or to leave your Christmas shopping until the last minute. The Spirit of Christmas Fair hosts a range of exhibitors meaning you should be able to find the perfect gift for anyone. Whether it’s a special bottle of fine whiskey for your dad or a toy that your little sister will treasure forever, you should be able to find it here.
Just a District Line tube ride away from DUKES Hotel, the Olympia is a grand exhibition hall and will be packed with stunning, independent retailers, as well as a number of fantastic food and drinks stalls, meaning you can wine and dine in luxury until your heart’s content.
What’s more, not only will the fair provide you with some brilliant ideas for your Christmas presents, but it will also feature the team from House and Garden magazine, who will be offering some of their best tips on how to make the most of your home.
Even if you’ve been a good shopper and bought all your presents early, there is still plenty for you to see. Fashion, art, health & beauty and furniture are just some of the offerings that will be on show.
Running from 30th October until 4th November, there really is no excuse for not taking in the Fair and rediscovering your Christmas spirit early.
Entry for one day is £17.50 if you book in advance, but if that’s not enough you can always buy an unlimited entry ticket for just £27, giving you up to six days of shopping heaven.
Whilst you’re in London, why not take in a show, or even one of our famous martinis? You could make it an extra special weekend by staying in one of our Deluxe Suites. Whatever you do, please do try and make sure you enjoy the festive spirit, which is slowly building in the capital at the moment.
Image courtesy of Elliott Brown