“Family run luxury hotel that exudes the best of British tradition”
Review by Fiona Duncan, published 8th July 2007.
Oh, it's so gloriously British. Where else but this hotel will the owner (fourth generation, of course) inform you (in The Goring Trumpeter) that "Chef and I jumped in the Bentley and went fishing for elvers…"? Or does Noël Coward sing Mad Dogs and Englishmen while you wait to be connected? Where else are there sheep in the bedrooms? Sheep? Yes: almost life size. Ask for Marmite at breakfast and it comes immediately.
The contemporary dining room serves traditional fare, from nettle soup to deep-fried elvers and pigs' ears
It's all about continuity. But although (as befits a hotel that was opened in 1910 and is still in the same family) The Goring has a sense of connection that's palpable, it never - and this is critical - feels pompous or takes itself or its Britishness too seriously.
Otherwise, surely, Mr George (Goring) wouldn't dress up as a knight on St George's Day and slay a pantomime dragon, followed by an offer of Champagne tea for his guests, and at the summer garden party there wouldn't be tins of Spam and rolls of loo paper as raffle prizes.
Many of the key staff are long serving, including the larger-than-life general manager David Morgan Hewitt and the fleet of warm and funny doormen. The hotel even has a pet cabbie, Gentleman George.
There's humour, too, in the self-mocking cartoons on the walls, and in anecdotes from the past. "Monday 17th, 01.30. Room 110," wrote one night porter in the log book, keen to keep the hotel's propriety intact. "Single occupancy, French national. Female arrived to visit this gentleman in his room. Refused. Situation explained to guest (I've had trouble with this one before) and he and the female left the hotel together. 07.00: The gentleman returned, looking rather tired."
It's all about comfort, too. In 1937 the Crown Prince of Norway confided: "I'd much prefer to stay at the Goring; I don't have a bathroom to myself at Buckingham Palace." There had been bathrooms here for years; in fact it was the first hotel in the world to offer central heating and private facilities for every room.
Nowadays it has an unexpected touch of glamour in addition to the warm clubbiness of its sitting room and Garden Bar. Those interior designers to the upper crust, Linley and Nina Campbell, have been let loose on some of the bedrooms (Campbell) and the dining room (Linley) with daring results.
The latter, resplendent in white and gold, is particularly lovely, and whether you approve or not, the three modern Swarovski crystal chandeliers ("branches of cherry blossom, or streaks of lightening?") create a talking point. I love them.
But if the dining-room setting is contemporary, the food is rooted in the past. Salad of deep-fried elvers and pigs' ears? You'll find it here - once Chef and Mr Goring have arrived back in the Bentley. Not to mention marrow bone, nettle soup, gulls' eggs, hogweed, sea beet and ransomes, plus of course haggis wi' neeps 'n' tatties and roast beef from the trolley.
There's another special thing about the Goring: its garden. Leased for many years from Grosvenor Estates, it has now been purchased by the hotel. It's huge, though fairly bland at the moment. If I were Mr Goring, I'd turn it into a secret garden, full of hidden corners and roses - old English ones, of course.
Beeston Place, London SW1 (020 7396 9000; www.goringhotel.co.uk).
Doubles from £229 to £579; breakfast from £14.
The Hotel Guru verdict
Whether newly decorated or solidly traditional, the emphasis is on comfort
Splendid characters and camaraderie, though lapses in service are not unknown
Stiff upper lip britishness, great warmth and a healthy dash of eccentricity
|Food and drink|
Full marks for the highly unusual menu - but results can be patchy
|Value for money|
All the usual services of a large hotel, with twice the character of most