Turnbull & Asser, Holland & Holland, Berry Bros. & Rudd, The Capital. There’s a reason this esteemed collective of British brands is synonymous with a time when honour was held above all else. To maintain integrity, a stiff upper lip, and to stand the test of time and changing traditions – these are surely the marks of an institution deserving of the Royal seal. I have a fascination with tenacity, a trait which people often tell me I hold in abundance. It could well be a compliment. Or an insult. I can’t quite tell.
David Levin MBE opened The Capital on Basil Street, Knightsbridge, in 1971. Having started his tutelage at the age of 17, as a commis waiter at the Malmaison in Glasgow, David is a dyed-in-the-wool hotelier. His idea was to launch a property in the city that would rival the grand hotels, but scaled down in size. This would allow for a more personalised service, without losing the prestige demanded by the travelling elite.
As the hotel reaches its fifth decade under the helm of David’s Daughter, Kate, there is something highly commendable about an establishment that maintains the tradition of a family-owned and run property.
I arrived on a cold winter’s evening, somewhat blustered and a little panicked that I might miss a friend’s performance later that evening. Given the hotel’s location in Knightsbridge, I needn’t have worried. The first thing that struck me was how relaxed and endearing the entrance was. The reception area was reminiscent of a grand country home, roaring fire, brandy on a silver tray at the entrance to warm the cockles, and a sea of smiling faces. I’m enamoured by many facets of hotels large and small alike, but feel most at home in boutique properties. Perhaps I’ll never find out how they manage to know everyone’s name on cue. Hiring that many savants isn’t possible, so how they learn the names of the guests who fill the 49 bedrooms beguiles me.
With only a few hours until I needed to be at the performance, I sat down in a chair by the window and began the process of digging my favourite cufflinks out of my Aspinal bag. I placed them down on the table with all the panache of a ham-fisted, errant school boy, before noticing a beautiful vase of blush pink roses. It’s the small things that put a hotel on the map and remind you why it’s become an institution. Fresh flowers are a beautiful touch, especially when they perfectly match the decor. Dressed to kill and with time to spare, I decided to catch forty winks. Egyptian cotton makes all the difference; the difference between deep sleep and constantly waking up to change the air conditioning.
Sometime later, around 1am, I returned to the hotel, having watched Paul O’Neill in his latest performance. A triumph, to say the least. There was little else to do but climb into the super-king-size bed and fall into a gentle slumber. I awoke the following morning with a need for dark sunglasses and sustenance. The Capital benefits from the Michelin stared restaurant, Outlaws, run by the award-winning chef Nathan Outlaw. My concern was that I would descend the stairs to breakfast to be met with white table clothes and people who might actually be eager to enter London’s busy streets. Luckily, it was 10.30am, so I was met by the late risers and those who wanted to sit and really enjoy their breakfast. Sadly, I didn’t have the time to take in the dining rooms British seafood focus during the evening, but slipping in for breakfast was a close second, I’m sure. Smoked haddock and poached eggs. Clean and simple, but cooked to perfection. The eggs had that golden pearl drop of a rich yoke and the haddock could well have been caught that morning, it was so delicious. No doubt I will return in the future to see what the dinner menu had to offer.
Post-breakfast, and a soak in a rather well-appointed tub, it was time to pack my bags and leave London’s most luxurious boutique hotel. The team were beyond knowledgeable, the décor befitting of any country pile, and service exacting. If you are looking for a sojourn in London, where you are as comfortable staying in as stepping out, I highly recommend a reservation with Kate and David at The Capital.