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“We’re in the right place — Buckingham Palace Road, opposite the Royal Mews — but I just don’t see it,” my veteran London taxi driver said.
It took a few minutes before we spotted the modest “41” flag that indicated one of the city’s most elegant secrets: 41 Hotel, also often called “Hotel 41” or simply “41.”
The hotel, just an approximately seven minute walk from Buckingham Palace, stands on the grounds of an earlier house, owned by John Sheffield, Earl of Mulgrave (also known as Lord Allpride). After his death, it eventually became the center for tradesmen serving the palace, including glaziers, coach-makers and linen merchants. At the end of the 20th century, Red Carnation Hotels, new owners of The Rubens at the Palace next door, bought it.
Guests enter what looks like the door to an Edwardian private home and cross the signature black-and-white checkerboard floor to a lift traveling to the fifth floor. From the top, one can see the true nature of 41 Hotel, which possesses more the air of a private club than of a hotel.
Formerly the grand ballroom of The Rubens, the converted space became the smallest of London’s five-star hotels, with 30 guestrooms and suites. And somehow, it manages to combine impressive elegance with practical comfort and playfulness, with an “Alice in Wonderland” vibe partly generated by checkerboard motifs and many colorful surprises.
Meanwhile, The Rubens’ former boardroom is now the executive lounge of 41 Hotel. Here, there’s a glass conservatory roof complete with polished mahogany paneling, a fireplace and a discreet desk where you are checked in and shown the insiders’ secrets: a “plunder the pantry” 24-hour buffet with drinks, snacks, sandwiches and ice creams, an honor bar and quite a lot more. At teatime, there are even scones and clotted cream.
The staff members, two to each guest, are as elegant and delightful as the hotel. They provide every conceivable service from printing out boarding passes to providing 24-hour butler service.
The guestrooms are enchanting, too. There are one-of-a-kind furniture and decorations. Mattresses and feather duvets are handmade, and the opulent marble bathrooms have a separate bath and shower. Guests enjoy smart televisions; iPod docks; coffee and tea-making facilities; and even terraces and kitchens in some accommodations.
The rooms are comfortable and unique and include king bedrooms, split-level suites and a conservatory suite with a glass ceiling. Small acts of kidness by the staff — such as including a surprise kettle of the client’s favorite tea with a wakeup call for an early morning flight — are as delightful as the property’s upscale glamor.
The property’s blend of elegance and warmth has earned high praise. 41 Hotel has been rated 11th best hotel in Europe in Travel + Leisure's reader survey, and it was named as one of the best places in the world to stay in Conde Nast Traveler’s Gold List in 2014.