If you have a brother or a sister you will be familiar with the concept of sibling rivalry.
It can be very divisive. For no apparent reason, children nurtured in the same womb have a tendency to fall out, sometimes temporarily, sometimes permanently, often spectacularly.
There is a fair chance the issue at stake is petty, along the lines of “So, who’s getting Mum’s vintage collection of stained Tupperware?” In fact, the more trivial the argument, the greater the likelihood of long-term sibling acrimony.
My own sister and I have got round this problem brilliantly: we see each other once every five years and drink heavily.
But how hard it must be for two rather beautiful sisters who happen to live over the road from each other. They see each other every day. They have had millions of pounds lavished on their upbringing, their flamboyant lifestyles and their annual maintenance. Their parties are legendary, attracting movie icons, supermodels, pop stars and tycoons.
It must be hell because the question, rather inevitably, is this: who is the prettiest sister?
Such is the dilemma facing The Dorchester and 45 Park Lane. It’s Mayfair’s grande dame versus the glamorous starlet.
The two hotels are part of the “pinch-me-it’s-all-too-beautiful” Dorchester Collection, which has outposts in Paris, Geneva, Milan, Beverly Hills and Los Angeles. When the group decided to open a younger, cooler hotel to complement the stately grandeur of The Dorchester it could have stuck it in a different part of the capital, to avoid confusion. But it didn’t. It built it alongside The Dorchester in the heart of Mayfair.
The spectacular project could have ended in tears, and in a sense it has – tears of joy.
I have stayed at The Dorchester a couple of times and was baffled by the concept of 45 Park Lane. Then I stayed there and suddenly it all made sense. The two sisters, who both have flawless skin and very warm hearts, get on so well because they are so different.
It’s all top hats, tails and English formality on the main entrance of The Dorchester. Roll up outside 45 and the tastefully tanned, relaxed greeters are in black t-shirts and modern tailored jackets. If The Dorchester is a luxury cruiser setting out for New York with a string quartet, then No 45 is a sleek yacht, pootling around Cape d’Antibes with an evergreen Bryan Ferry leading the house band.
45 Park Lane has an active arts programme, including artist visits and exhibitions, and on the night I stayed the wraps came off a temporary show by Chris Bracey and Christian Furr, devotees of the “art of electric miasma.” Think bright neon signs and reclaimed found objects.
As we worked our way through the bar’s superb tea-infused signature mixes (The Duke of Earl combines Earl Grey and Tanqueray gin with lemon and cane sugar syrup, which sounds awful but is utterly moreish), Spandau Ballet’s Martin Kemp popped up to take a gander at a neon installation. If you maintain, as I do, that the Spands’ Chant Number One (I Don’t Need This Pressure On) is one of the defining tracks of the 1980s, this is a big thing.
Mr Purple was so excited he leaned across the black granite bar and ordered a Forbidden Kiss from barman extraordinaire Thomas Morris. It was that kind of a night on the mezzanine level.
Now, I have always loved the front bar at The Dorchester, the one alongside Park Lane rather than the den at the back of The Promenade. But I rapidly fell under the spell of Bar 45. After three cocktails, I was eating out of its hands.
The big place over the road is home to one of the UK’s finest restaurants, the three Michelin-starred Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, as well as the old-school Grill with its idiosyncratic tartan and traditional table service. Again, there has been no attempt to ape the formula.
Instead, 45 Park Lane is home to CUT, which is the mother of all modern, sleek steak restaurants, run by US big-hitter Wolfgang Puck. There are USDA prime steaks and pure breed wagyu from Queensland, Australia. There is also an impressive selection of very fine American wines, reputedly the widest selection from Uncle Sam’s vineyards available in the UK.
Sadly, I had an evening engagement and couldn’t make dinner. Still, it’s always good to have a justifiable reason to return, in case utter enjoyment is not acceptable.
Later that night, I returned to bed. What a place to kick-back. The hotel is surprisingly small with only 45 bedrooms and suites, all with views of Hyde Park. The scale helps to reinforce the feeling of luxurious intimacy; the rooms are beautifully styled with original artwork, the latest digital widgetry and bags of neat design touches.
The mirrors that decked one of the walls in my bedroom/sitting area were seductively tinted so even I, au naturelle, looked borderline hot when I sucked in my tummy. That’s got to be worth the admission price alone. Sorry, the moment was not captured on film.
The purple flowers in a simple glass bowl were stunning. The strawberries, in a bulbous dark blue bowl-cum-cookie jar, were deliciously sweet, not like the tasteless berry-imposters that lesser places palm off on high-paying guests. Because the details do matter and they are done very well at 45 Park Lane.
Then it was just a case of slipping into the bed, which was about the size of a polo field, and hitting the button on the bedside computer that said: “Blinds.”
Then, Goldfinger-style, the electronic blinds came down; Hyde Park disappeared; and it was time for 40 winks at 45.
Both The Dorchester and 45 Park Lane are among only seven London hotels to be awarded the top rating of five stars by US-based Forbes Travel Guide.
- 45 Park Lane, London, W1K 1PN.
Tel: 020 7493 4545
- Website: www.45parklane.com
- Rates are from £523 per guest bedroom per night inclusive of breakfast and VAT, subject to availability.
- Richard McComb travelled from Birmingham Moor Street to London Marylebone courtesy of Chiltern Railways. www.chilternrailways.co.uk