By Janis Turk
Before Kate Middleton married Prince William and became Her Royal Highness, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, first she was a guest at The Goring.
Standing mere steps from the walls of Buckingham Palace for more than 106-years, The Goring is arguably London’s finest family-owned five-star hotel, the quintessential posh English retreat. So it’s no wonder Ms. Middleton chose to stay in its spacious Royal Apartments night before her Westminster Abbey wedding.
Quite literally fit for royalty following its pre wedding $196,000 makeover in 2011, The Goring’s fifth-floor, six-room, $10,950-a-night apartment (“The Royal Suite, where Middleton stayed that night) was designed by Russell Sage, incorporating several subtle tips of his hat to royalty.
Elegant silk wallcoverings specially commissioned from the Gainsborough Silk Company in Suffolk, a glass-bottomed drawer holding a love letter of HM Queen Victoria, a wardrobe with a Queen’s Guard’s uniform secreted inside, and even a portrait of Queen Victoria behind glass in the shower are but some of the suite’s subtle nods to sovereigns. The Goring’s other 60+ rooms and suites are equally regal.
If The Goring were fit for a royal wedding weekend, then my husband and I thought it would surely do for our 21stwedding anniversary. I’m often in London, and I’d stayed at The Goring in the past, but I hadn’t returned since its recent renovation.
(Of course, Duchess Kate came back for the unveiling and celebration of the hotel’s 105thbirthday last year).
I was dressed appropriately for a fashionable London hotel, but when I saw the elegant attire of the young ladies at reception, each wearing a little black dress, a smart ivory dress coat and single strand of pearls, I felt like an altogether unfashionable American.
However, when owner Jeremy Goring greeted us with his uproarious laugh and wicked sense of humor, we immediately felt at ease. One can be posh, prim and proper and still make guests feel at home: Both Mr. Goring and his hotel share that gift.
Hand Painted Wallcoverings
Since completing its multi-million-dollar renovation in 2015, the walls of Front Hall and the ground floor have been draped in hand-painted wallcoverings by Fromental.
The wallpaper depicts English parkland dotted with exotic animals, which designer Russell Sage thus describes: “Imagine if all the animals in London Zoo had escaped into Hyde Park…”
Just off the Front Room, is The Goring’s inviting Bar & Lounge, designed by Tim Gosling, a gentleman’s club-like living room where guests can enjoy a light lunch, afternoon tea or a nightcap by the fireplace. Adjacent is a sunny garden terrace overlooking Goring Gardens, one of the largest private gardens in central London.
After enjoying a drink and chef’s house-made cheese straws in the lounge, we were escorted to one of the hotel’s four spacious Belgravia Suites.
Impeccably English in style, these opulent one-bedroom suites were also designed by Mr. Sage and feature six historic silks rewoven from the fashionable Gainsborough Silk Company. Each has an elegant sitting room with a handsome marble fireplace and large windows with views of Beeston Place.
The well-proportioned bespoke bedrooms with fine linens are styled with hand-made furniture in birds-eye maple, mahogany and walnut. The spacious marble bathrooms have walk-in showers, and ours even had a television secreted in a mirror by the tub.
Guests at each suite are not only assigned their own footman, but they are also offered in-room cocktail service each evening.
During our stay, we would return from sight-seeing to find our clothes cleaned and pressed, our bath drawn and a silver tray with a crystal decanter and two glasses along with printed instructions on how to mix a special English cocktail.
On the evening of our 21stanniversary, The Goring staff left a crystal vase of fresh flowers and a box of Prestat chocolates and truffles (also a favorite of The Queen) in our room.
After dressing for dinner, we retired to the lounge by the fireplace for an aperitif before heading to the Goring Dining Room, designed by another Royal: Princess Margaret’s son, David Linley, nephew of The Queen, a Viscount, designer and furniture maker.
Linley has a noble touch when it comes to design, but his modern-take on old-school elegance is evidenced in soft, soothing colors, thick lush draperies and bold architectural elements, like walnut Greek columns flanking a white marble hearth. A creamy coved ceiling and frosting-white millwork pay homage to the room’s good Georgian bones.
Two whimsical, Swarovski chandeliers, each with a branch-like shape, hang dotted with lilac blue lights. The Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said they looked like Christmas decorations.
But of course, the real star of the restaurant is The Goring’s executive chef, Shay Cooper, whose creative take on classic continental cuisine has recently earned a coveted Michelin Star. I enjoyed a first course of Dorset crab, leek and potato salad, rye bread, and sauce béarnaise, and later we were delighted by our shared course of Beef Wellington, carved tableside.
Delightful desserts included Manjari chocolate, milk jam, salt caramel mousse, milk ice cream with Cornish clotted cream mousse, and an apple sorbet with caramelized hazelnuts.
Queen Mum Visit
Over the past century, members of the Royal Family have visited The Goring, and the Queen Mother’s favorite dish, “oeufs Drumkilbo” remains on the menu.
In 1948, Prince Charles’ christening cake was created by the Goring’s pastry chef, so it’s no surprise that the Queen has awarded The Goring with a Royal Warrant, a discriminating mark of royal recognition.
More than 106 years after opening its doors, The Goring remains aristocratic, yet modern, warm and welcoming. Named one of the top 100 of the World’s Best Hotels by Travel + Leisure in 2015, it was the perfect London lodging for our anniversary trip.
For there in the shadow of Buckingham palace, we were treated like royalty, and I slept like a princess.
Janis Turk is a travel writer, photographer, and author who has appeared in travel segments for CNN’s airport network. Her work appears in magazines and newspapers and popular travel websites. Her most recent book Frommer’s TEXAS (2017) is available on Amazon.com and in bookstores everywhere.