The Lanesborough is establishing itself as a very British hotel

28 September 2022 by

The Lanesborough has always served its visitors with grandeur, but now it seeks to solidify its identity to keep newer rivals at bay.

With the collection of luxury London hotels set to expand significantly over the next two years, never has it been more important for each one of them – whether they are new or existing – to have a clear point of difference to enable them to stand out from the crowd.

In the case of the Lanesborough, one of the leading five-star players in the capital for the past 31 years, the renewed emphasis in recent months has been on highlighting the Britishness of the hotel. With many of the soon-to-open properties having an ingrained Asian heritage, be it the Peninsula London, Raffles London at the OWO or the Mandarin Oriental Mayfair, the Lanesborough is highlighting its distinctness by proudly celebrating the indigenous elements of the hotel.

"The new openings mean that the competition is only going to get tougher," says Stuart Geddes, managing director of the 93-bedroom hotel. "The Lanesborough has a real sense of identity, embedded in its location on Hyde Park Corner within an iconic Regency building. My focus is to reinforce that and set our stall out as a British hotel."

True Brit

Providing a new, clear identity for the hotel has been a priority for Geddes ever since he was promoted to managing director from hotel manager in August 2021 following the departure of his predecessor Marco Novella. The starting point was the restaurant, first with the appointment of Shay Cooper as executive chef, followed by the opening of the Lanesborough Grill in place of what was previously Céleste.

The launch of the new restaurant in April marks a return to a British-focused eaterie for the space. When the Lanesborough opened in 1991, following its transformation from its former life as St George's Hospital, the restaurant was known as the Conservatory and overseen by the hotel's inaugural executive chef Paul Gayler, a leading figure in the establishment of modern British cuisine.

The restaurant was relaunched in 2009 as Apsleys under Italian chef Heinz Beck. Then, following the reopening of the hotel in 2015 after a £60m-plus, 19-month refurbishment, the eaterie became Céleste, a French restaurant, overseen by Éric Fréchon, who combined his London responsibility with his role as executive chef at Le Bristol in Paris.

Credit: RR32
Credit: RR32

"I think it is a missed opportunity if a London hotel is not offering British cuisine, unless, of course, there is more than one outlet in the property," says Geddes. "Our guests want to soak up what London is about which includes the local culture, the arts, the theatre, and the royal family, as well as the food."

Appointing the right chef to deliver on what Geddes wanted to achieve could have been tricky. "There are many brilliant restaurant chefs out there, but good hotel chefs are becoming rare beasts," he says. "We needed to find a chef who could cook great British food in the restaurant as well as infuse the British culinary experience across bar snacks and in-room dining."

Luckily, Geddes was fortunate in that he knew the man he calls "a great British chef" who he had worked with for four years at the Goring. "It was a no-brainer for me to bring him to the hotel and execute what we wanted to achieve."

When approached by Geddes about the Lanesborough, Cooper was executive chef at Julie's restaurant in Holland Park, having moved there in 2019 after heading up the kitchen at the Goring for five years. "Since becoming a head chef, I'd always worked in a hotel environment and was keen to have a go at something different," he says, explaining his departure from the Goring where he helped achieve the hotel's first Michelin star in its then 105-year history.

Cooper was encouraged to make the move to the Lanesborough by the offer of what he describes as "a very grown-up job" which would provide him with the kind of longevity that he would not get at Julie's. He was also inspired by the intention to be bold with the British focus of the restaurant.

The Lanesborough Grill menu, says Cooper, offers "familiar and appealing dishes, nothing too challenging" with a choice of eight starters, eight main courses and five desserts plus cheese.

The idea has been to create hero dishes which in time, are expected to become synonymous with the restaurant. Take, for instance, the starter of coronation crab salad. "There is a regal ring to it, which is very much in line with the property," says Cooper. "And, of course, the original dish of coronation chicken has a strong British history. It is something people are familiar with, but we have created added interest by changing the main ingredient to crab and providing our own interpretation of the dish. There is nothing challenging or weird about it."

Bombay potatoes, which form the base of the dish, are topped by layers of crab, mango chutney purée and spiced shallots served in a fashion akin to an onion bhaji, with a curry and lime sabayon alongside.

The crab salad is a big seller, as is the beef Wellington (£80 for two), which is one of several dishes served on gueridon trollies. "When people see a dish on a trolley, it piques their interest," says Cooper, who highlights that the cheese trolley, offering a choice of 12 British cheeses at any one time, has been known to encourage customers to order cheese, even though they had already paid their bill.

The decision to introduce a trolley service overseen by restaurant manager Thomas Borghi and not offer a tasting menu both contribute to a more informal style of restaurant compared to what went before. "The way the restaurant was previously was very formal and starchy," says Cooper.

Geddes agrees, highlighting the aim to deformalise the restaurant experience and make it more approachable and fun. "Shay's food lends itself to that. We are in very grand setting, but the food and service don't have to be formal. Thomas has done a great job in introducing more theatre in the service, requiring both skills and timing, and enabling the team to engage more with guests."

Space race

There is no doubt that the space, which retains the rich decor and glass-domed roof of the 2015 refurbishment created by the late Albert Pinto, is one of the most impressive in London.

"It is a stunning room and seemed a shame and irresponsible to pull it apart after such a short time," says Geddes. "The design fits with what we are doing, with its beautiful English chandeliers, furniture by George Smith and Wedgewood frieze. Removing the tablecloths and adding more planting has created a more informal setting, alongside the addition of artwork by British artists, available for sale and curated by Art Acumen."

Meanwhile, Cooper is working on new British menus for in-room dining and the selection of snacks available in the Library Bar, Withdrawing Room lounge and Garden Room terrace. The success of a Bridgerton afternoon tea (£65 per person, £80 with a glass of house Champagne), inspired by the Netflix Regency-drama and launched earlier this year, has been so successful that it has been extended until November. Created by head pastry chef Salvatore Mungiovino, the likes of the Lady Whistledown (ink pot and quill-inspired pistachio dessert) have been going down a treat alongside traditional scones, jam and cream.

Geddes and Cooper agree they would welcome the hotel regaining the Michelin star it lost earlier this year as a result of changes to the kitchen brigade, but they insist it is not their prime focus. "We need to stay true to what we set out to do and that is to create food that will bring clientele back and encourage new guests to visit us," says Cooper.

Geddes is delighted with the success of the Lanesborough Grill so far, with the number of covers up "significantly" on what was being served at Céleste. The 80-seat restaurant is currently serving around 70 guests at dinner and 40 at lunch. "There is room to improve, particularly at lunch, but we are pleased to be bringing back regulars as well as add to them."

Up the occupancy

The increase in restaurant business from the strong residential community located within the three surrounding neighbourhoods of Mayfair, Belgravia and Knightsbridge, has coincided with a rapid return in the number of overnight guests since April.

"Everyone has come back in their droves, especially the Americans," says Geddes. Prior to the pandemic, 80% of guests came from overseas, today that figure is closer to 90%, with 95% of all business coming from the leisure sector. "We expect to far surpass what was a record year for the Lanesborough in 2019 when we achieved 78% occupancy across the year."

While occupancy at the hotel is currently running at 80%, the most significant improvement has been the rise in the average daily rate (ADR) and revenue per available room (revpar) figures. Geddes does not reveal the hotel's ADR and revpar, but confirms the starting room rate is £1,200. However, figures supplied by STR show just how strong the luxury hotel market in London is performing. Luxury properties in Knightsbridge, Pimlico and Victoria (the submarket in which the Lanesborough is located) recorded a 32% increase in average daily rate from £483 in June 2019 to £600 in June 2022, while revpar rose 10% from £405 to £448 during the same period.

The hotel's Royal Suite, with seven bedrooms and space to entertain up to 12 guests in its dining room, sells at £25,000 per night, making it what is believed to be the most expensive suite in London. Currently booked out to the same guest for two months, the Royal Suite was occupied by another guest for four months last year. Overall, turnover at the Lanesborough has been boosted by the fact that guests have increased the length of their booking over the past two years to an average stay of four nights, with the signature suites booked out for significantly longer.

"We have some incredible guests who are able to keep a very low profile at the Lanesborough," says Geddes. "The discretion we offer and exceptional levels of service are among the key reason people sa stay with us."

Of course, essential to offering top quality service, with a strong focus on emotional intelligence, is ensuring that a well-trained team is consistently in place. "We have had our challenges with recruiting staff, but we have made incredible progress over the past year," says Geddes.

There are currently few vacancies among the 350-strong team, which includes butlers, drivers, laundry staff and a large contingent in the club and spa. Recruitment and retention has improved following an increase in salaries across the board, the roll-out of an extensive training programme and offering more wellness support to staff through the likes of yoga and strength classes.

Geddes stresses the need to make the work fun. "It is important that team members wake up in the morning and want to come into work with genuine smiles on their faces. Our guests pick up on how staff are feeling which helps foster a happy environment for everyone."

A positive working atmosphere stems from the top, something that emanates from the strong and respectful relationship between Geddes and Cooper, which goes back to their days together at the Goring. "Making sure we are both on the same page where food is central to what we do at the hotel is critically important," says Geddes. "Being united provides a clear sense of direction in what we are trying to achieve. Shay is a thoughtful, considered chef, he is not a showman."

Cooper explains that the support he receives from Geddes is invaluable and has helped create a positive energy in the kitchen. "I am very grateful for that and will never take it for granted," he says.

The Lanesborough is now in the best possible position to meet the expanding competition head-on. It's most significant challenger is the 190-bedroom Peninsula London, scheduled to start welcoming guests in early 2023, bang next door to the Lanesborough.

"We will benefit from all the marketing the Peninsula is doing for the area and from the fact that the hotel will have a huge private dining operation which will result in people using nearby bars, including ours, prior to events," concludes Geddes. "The Peninsula presents a threat, but also an opportunity for us."

From the menu


  • Coronation crab salad, curry leaf sabayon £19
  • Buttermilk fried quail, mushroom, spring onion £18
  • Summer vegetable salad, potato tuile, Ticklemore, green goddess dressing £19


  • Grilled monkfish, glazed aubergine, spiced mussel butter £35
  • Cotswold white chicken, black garlic, cauliflower cheese purée, roast chicken gravy £35
  • Girolle mushroom risotto, fresh almond, broad beans, preserved lemon £32


  • Lemon tart, Earl Grey tea meringue, candied citrus fruit £14
  • Elderflower and strawberry trifle, strawberry ice-cream £14
  • Rose blend tea ice-cream sandwich, apricot and ruby peach sorbet £13
  • Selection of British cheeses £22

The Lanesborough

Hyde Park Corner, London SW1X 7TA

020 7259 5599

Owner Abu Dhabi Investment Authority

Managing director Stuart Geddes

Executive head chef Shay Cooper

Management company Oetker Collection

Bedrooms 93, including 43 suites

Staff 350

Food and beverage The Lanesborough Grill, three bars and lounges (the Library Bar, the Withdrawing Room and the Garden Room), the Lanesborough Club & Spa Restaurant and seven private dining rooms

Opening room rate £1,200

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