Andy Mossack stays at the new Dilly Hotel on London’s iconic Piccadilly and goes all ballroom with a salsa lesson.
There is something about a hotel with a history that always gives me a bit of a frisson. It never fails, and the new Dilly is no exception. This immense landmark building has graced London’s Piccadilly since 1908 when it opened in grand Edwardian style as The Piccadilly Hotel and enjoyed royal patronage through King George V. Over the years it’s had several suitors including Le Meridien, Forte, Granada and Marriott and it was the talk of showbiz London when Champney’s opened its first London health club there attracting a glittering cast of celebrity members.
Following the expiry of Marriot’s management contract, owners Archer Hotel Capital decided to run the hotel as an independent and amid an ambitious refurbishment programme, it reopened recently as The Dilly.
Despite her extensive interior sprucing up, there is still much to be admired in this grand old lady’s original neo-classical features. The magnificent Grade II-listed Oak Room dining room, with its gold leaf and chandeliers is currently used as the venue for Madhu’s at the Dilly, part of the family-run Madhu’s Indian fine-dining chain.
Up on the first floor, the extraordinary Terrace at the Dilly, a huge glass atrium covering what was once the Piccadilly’s outdoor swimming pool, the venue for many glamorous parties back in the 20s. Bathed in natural light with sweeping views along Piccadilly, the all-day dining restaurant and bar is a spectacular space. On warm days you can eat and drink outside on the balcony too, peeking down at Piccadilly between the colossal stone columns.
The old Champney’s space is now the hotel health club with a spa, gym, and indoor swimming pool. But there’s also an in-house dance studio – Inspiration 2 Dance – where hotel guests are offered classes on Smooth, Latin and Ballroom from a team of world-champion dancers in private or group classes. I took the opportunity of a salsa class with Viktoriya, a professional Ukrainian dance coach whose infinite patience was rewarded with a least a semblance of salsa moves. Not sure I would even feature on the Strictly scoreboard, but it was a highly entertaining session.
The refurbished lobby is your first impression of the new-look Dilly design. The cavernous space remains with the original stained glass-domed ceiling, but there are now contemporary dark blue tones everywhere with bright orange seating and a copper reception desk and an impressive flower display by Pulbrook & Gould florists adorn one corner. Long-standing traditions are not forgotten, however, and every evening at 6 pm an Edwardian gong is struck to announce the transition from day to night, and the ambience changes to dimmed lighting and scented candles.
The refurb continues upstairs in my Dilly Splendid room overlooking Piccadilly, where the same colour and seating tones prevail save for one wall, on which a map of the neighbourhood resides. The king-size bed and high thread linen are very welcome as are the bathroom amenities, courtesy of British perfumier Floris London whose ancient shop resides just over the road in Jermyn Street.
That’s the beauty of The Dilly’s position. It’s an envious spot, so close to London’s theatre district and Soho but just as close to charming St. James’s. Its Princes and Burlington Arcades echo elegant shopping from yesteryear, the lovely St. James’s Church designed by Sir Christopher Wren, Fortnum and Mason, a British institution and, of course, the splendour of Jermyn Street, with its gentlemen outfitters and tailors.
I take a walk around the hotel with Paul Whittle Director of Guest Experiences and leading the hotel’s concierge team. Paul’s is literally part of the fabric of the hotel after 35 years of service there and is integral to ensuring Dilly guests can get to enjoy their stay under his watch. Aside from free weekly walking tours of the neighbourhood he and his team each have their unique ‘black books’ of personal contacts and knowledge, the be-all and end-all of a concierge’s armoury.
“We can organise bespoke itineraries. London can be seen from so many perspectives: its great parks, museums, art galleries and theatres, some of the world’s most prestigious shops and streets all within easy distance – we want to help every guest plan their stay to maximise all that they want to see and experience.”
The new Dilly is also looking to be as family-friendly as possible, something perhaps lacking in many of London’s luxury hotels. There are gifts for children – ‘Dilly Explorers’ – including games, books, daily treats, popcorn and milkshakes. Terrace at The Dilly offers Peter Rabbit™ Afternoon Teas each day for children and adults And, perhaps most impressively, children under 12 eat free for lunch and dinner at Terrace at The Dilly.
The Dilly is a remarkable work in progress, after all, with such an immense property it is going to take some time to bring this Grande Dame of Piccadilly back to her former glory. There are plenty of exciting plans afoot and I wait with interest on how it develops. In the meantime, there’s no doubting the hotel’s ideal position and the tremendous endeavour of its people will provide a memorable stay.
Perhaps, it might even uncover a new ballroom dance champion in the making. You never know.
Tell me more about The Dilly, London
The Dilly, 21 Piccadilly, London W1J 0BH
T: +44 (0)20 7734 8000
Room categories range from Dilly Classic Room to Dilly Executive Suite. Rates start from £219. Dance lessons from £105 per couple.