There are hotels that I have no problem leaving in the morning and there are hotels where I cancel everything and stay all day. The Connaught is one of the latter. I feel deep contentment when I am there.
It’s the textbook Britishness, I reflected, as I stretched out on the cloudlike bed in my unflashy, elegant suite, that makes me feel so much at home. Back in the Seventies, I worked on the yacht of an American couple who repaired every winter to The Connaught. To them, The Connaught was England; they didn’t need to visit the rest of the country. All that clubby, dark wood panelling, that magnificent mahogany and gilt staircase, that old-school service – they adored it.
And they adored The Connaught Grill, which was in its prime in those days – and so did I. And now it’s back, just reopened as the hotel’s third current restaurant, and I’m back, like a shot, to dine there and stay the night.
The Grill opened in 1955. It was my father’s favourite London restaurant and, when I wasn’t in some sort of adolescent trouble (rather frequent I’m afraid), he would treat me to lunch there. I would always behave myself at the Grill. Though it was stuffy, it made me feel grown up and I knew I was somewhere special. I still remember the low murmur of fellow diners, the genteel clink of silver on polished cutlery and the sudden whoosh of flame from the flambé trolley as waiters in tails glided about, adjusting the cutlery, and I remember the pleasure my father took in Michel Bourdin’s classic Anglo-French Edwardian cooking. It was an intimate, hushed, deferential but somehow magical place.