Review by Fiona Duncan, published 29th April 2007.
I think the Capital might be my favourite hotel in London; certainly one of them. Its grand hotel style, combined with economy of scale, suits me perfectly, though it's evidently not to all tastes. "If I was paying all that money," said my dinner companion, "I'd want splendour, not gratuitous intimacy. Give me the Savoy any day."
Actually, he didn't exactly say that; I've paraphrased. He's a demon barrister with a brain famously bigger than Alaska, so he used words like specious, dialectic, and epigone, and went on to ask why I supposed he would be happy dining in a shrunken version of the Royal Festival Hall, while waving at the unadorned, pale wood walls and circular 1950s-style chandeliers (I did see his point). He was also unnerved by the rather odd pieces of foie gras topped with frothy, slightly too sweet passion-fruit mousse, served in mini Kilner jars.
Well, bad luck, my friend - this is my column, and I love the Capital. It's a hotel I know well and I'd say that it has never been on better form, better run or provided a more conducive option for a luxurious yet intimate place to stay in town. For me, only the location detracts: to my mind, Knightsbridge is for American visitors and ladies with taut faces who, having plundered Harvey Nicks, lunch. Worst of all, the Capital's great selling point is that it's almost next door to Harrods, overflowing, these days, with all that is bling and glittery gold, more reminiscent of a Dubai shopping mall than the venerable emporium it once was.
But plunging back in to the Capital afterwards, with its cosy sitting room and bar and its deeply comfortable, ever so English bedrooms, was like coming home, only better. You are enveloped the moment the doorman ushers you in. "I've forgotten my room number," I told the concierge on duty. "It's 504, Mrs Duncan." How he managed that, I don't know, as he'd never seen me till that moment. This is Clive, the head concierge, who is so practised in his dark art that he is said to be London's finest. He'll even take you jogging. Put him to the test.
And then there's the barman, César, who holds regular cocktail masterclasses for enthusiastic guests, tasting included. As I can vouch, by the time César has shaken the final concoction, it's a very much livelier group than the shy bunch that first gathered.
And then there's the Capital's secret weapon, double-Michelin-starred chef Eric Chavot, passionate about what he cooks in a way that's entirely French and entirely captivating. Lucky me: I have sampled a celebration lunch he whipped up on a yacht in Cannes and now I have glided my way through his wonderful six-course tasting menu here (£66, plus £44 for the sommelier's choice of wines for each course - it sounds a lot, but is very reasonable for what you get). The foie gras notwithstanding (my barrister friend ate every last bit, by the way) I was transported to foodie heaven, and so, though he might not admit it, was he.
Basil Street, London SW3 (020 7589 5171; www.capitalhotel.co.uk). Doubles from £285 to £435 per night.