There are some with blood bluer than mine who shudder at the thought of the Middletons camping out at The Goring during the royal wedding. Lowers the tone, and all that. This family-run hotel – owned by the same family, remarkably, for four generations – has been a bolthole for the royals and their visitors since it opened its doors back in 1910. Its proximity to Queen HQ means it’s still a favourite with Her Majesty: in early 2013 she granted it a Royal Warrant. However, despite the calibre of their regulars, The Goring is an all-welcoming kind of place, despite the pomp and history.
Part of the charm of this most loved of London’s grande-dame hotels, you see, is that it’s not just bona fide royals who get the royal treatment. Whether you’re a a frequent visitor or wet behind the ears when it comes to preserved-in-aspic five-star living, you’re tenderly, familiarly scooped up and made to feel incredibly welcome. Everyone is treated with equal generosity: from wide-eyed, loaded Americans, to chaps who look like they’ve just rolled out of the House of Lords bar, to youngsters like me (because, praise be, this is a place where a 40 year-old is more often than not the youngest punter in the room), each and every one is embraced.
Despite her age, The Goring does lift her skirt occasionally: showing off a cheeky modern take on an Edwardian portrait, daubed with fluorescent paint to make it look shockingly graffitied, say. Then there’s the odd collection of empty frames in the hallways upstairs – empty! What is this? Modern art? And… actually, that’s probably about it as far as contemporary touches go, but I like that they have tried to funk things up a bit. Linley’s beautifully crafted furniture also lends a modern elegance to the public areas, including the wonderful dining room – bar its collection of strange, twinkling crystal lights, which look as out of place as Carole Middleton on the balcony of Buck Palace.
There are one or two oddities: an antique mirror is paired with what appears to be B&Q-sourced glass shelving, and there’s a distinct lack of an espresso machine
My room sat above The Goring’s not-so-secret secret garden. Despite facing Victoria station, from which commuters constantly stream, there’s barely a whisper in the air of the surrounding city, only the odd taxi horn blaring or police siren. This is a little sliver of well-manicured solitude in this at-times frenetic, at-times grubby part of town. As it was a warm evening in late summer, I even slept with the windows open – ah, the delight of a hotel that allows you to be adult enough to open your own windows and leave them that way, if you so please. It’s the little things.
The room itself is a chaotic swirl of handmade silk wallpapers, patterned carpet, plush upholstery and walnut veneers. The pillows and the mattress are splendidly over-filled, while the large, wonderfully equipped marble bathroom, with its mountains of over-sized fluffy towels, demi bottles of Molton Brown toiletries and great lighting, hits the five-star spot. There are one or two oddities: an antique mirror is paired with what appears to be B&Q-sourced glass shelving, and there’s a distinct lack of an espresso machine. I guess that one doesn’t stay at The Goring for the frippery and gadgets, so the lack of a Japanese bottom washer does not spoil my stay, nor does the absence of a Nespresso machine (especially as room service bring loose leaf tea in pots with extra hot water, fresh milk and bone china cups and saucers) – although, in 2013, to charge for in-room wi-fi irks a little.
What you’re here for – and at not one point during my stay did I forget this – is The Goring’s service. At each and every turn they have it nailed: even the chaps manning the door at Claridge’s could learn a thing or two from The Goring’s team. Regardless of the numbers coming through the door – it was especially busy for their famed Sunday lunch service when I was there – each is greeted warmly, and with a sense of being welcomed back. At breakfast, the staff – who happily accommodated an extra guest at last-minute – seemed to float just above the thick-piled carpet; as we were invited to take our tea and coffee out onto the lawn in the sunshine, we were bid good morning by, seemingly, every member of staff. There are few things more lovely than a dappled English lawn on a Sunday morning, where only the sound of croquet ball on mallet breaks the peace.
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Despite the enormity of our breakfast, we resolutely hung around for what is here, quite rightly, called luncheon. The mix of people here to dine is astonishing: blue-rinsed old ladies who would have, were the weather cooler, been swathed in fox and mink; an old colonel dining alone in a Sunday ritual that has survived even his own spouse; three generations of a family, the two youngest wearing polo shirts with the collars turned up, no doubt to the disgust of their grandparents; stylish gay men; businessmen nervously swapping seats before the object of their meeting arrives. There were even security types with not particularly discreet Madonna headsets, sussing out the crowd in-situ before seeing in a rather disappointingly meek-looking chap. I was expecting stuffiness and just the clinking of cutlery and crystal, but the atmosphere was jolly, relaxed and – again, as it’s The Goring – welcoming.
The food was great – there’s no molecular high-kicks here, just quintessential English cooking without the cheeky touches of a Mark Hix or the clever modern touches of a Tom Kerridge. Beef was expertly sawn by the white-jacketed waiter, and served in decent quantities with homemade horseradish that helped blow the last of the cobwebs away (a perfectly mixed Bloody Mary at the bar beforehand had seen off most of my slight hangover). The Yorkshire puds were almost as big as the plate onto which they were placed, and expertly light. The only disappointment was the slightly anaemic roast potatoes, which lacked the much-needed goose fat crunch. Puddings were fattening and rich – again, as they should be – with the baked Alaska being the best of the array we tasted.
As we rolled out onto the street, sated, shopping bags and suitcases spilling out in front of oncoming pedestrians, the adorable door staff gathered us and our baggage up and placed us ever-so gently into a cab, wishing us farewell by our names, murmuring their wish that we’ll be back to see them soon. Sooner rather than later, I hope.
The Goring, 15 Beeston Place, London, SW1
0207 396 9000; thegoring.com
The Goring x Globe Trotter
Trade in your Rimowa for a more elegant number from a new collection that sees The Goring teaming up with British case maker Globe Trotter. Hand-crafted in the UK, using The Goring’s burgundy and navy colour way on the exterior leather trim, for us it’s the interior – that no-one else will see, apart from you and security at JFK – that steals the show. Emulating the hotel’s trademark silk walls, Globe Trotter have taken the coverings used in The Royal Suite and Drawing Room at The Goring and lined the inside of the cases. It’s the kind of intricate detailing we’ve come to expect from both The Goring and Globe Trotter. C