11 Secrets Of The Dorchester Hotel

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 16 months ago
11 Secrets Of The Dorchester Hotel

The Dorchester Hotel on Park Lane opened its doors in 1931, and almost immediately became one of the places for the rich and famous to be seen. We dig a little deeper below the surface:

Photo: The Dorchester on Facebook

1. It's owned by the Sultan of Brunei

...who bought it in 1985. It is now part of the Dorchester Collection, which is owned by the Brunei Investment Agency. This led to celebrities including Stephen Fry, Richard Branson and Anna Wintour boycotting hotels in the Dorchester Collection in 2014 as a protest against the sultanate's introduction of sharia law, including the death penalty for homosexuality and adultery.

2. It's Grade II listed

And has been since 1981.

3. It claims to have the deepest baths in London

...but with rooms starting at £468 a night, we haven't been in to try. The bathtubs are made of Italian marble, naturally.

4. Prince Philip had his stag night there

We're not saying it was a traditional stag do by modern debauched standards, but he spent the night before his wedding there in 1947. It could be said that the Dorchester was the official hotel of that wedding — Queen Elizabeth (or Princess Elizabeth as she was then) was seen dining there the day before the engagement was announced.

5. It's definitely soundproof

When the hotel was built in the 1930s, the rooms were individually soundproofed by lining the floors and ceilings with compressed seaweed. The exterior walls were lined with cork, and these soundproofing methods are still in place today. Double and triple glazing has since been added.

6. The cocktails in the wall

Cocktail barman Harry Craddock (who was more famously associated with The Savoy) worked at The Dorchester from 1938-1947. While there, he made three beloved cocktails (the Martini, Manhattan and White Lady) and stored them in sealed containers in the wall of the bar, where they were found in 1978, still in a drinkable condition, along with the recipes.

7. The famous tree

The London Plane tree in front of the hotel is famous in its own right. It was named one of the Great Trees of London by The London Tree Forum in 1997, which recognised it as a 'tree to give directions by'. The BBC even dedicated a whole programme to the tree in 2000.

The Dorchester continued its arboreal heritage by planting 80 trees around London to celebrate its 80th birthday in 2011.

8. Murder, he wrote

Londoner and film director Alfred Hitchcock was, like many of the rich and famous, a regular at The Dorchester. While standing on the terrace of the Harlequin Suite, he's rumoured to have once declared it the perfect place to commit a murder, as Hyde Park across the road offers ample opportunity for burying bodies.

9. No flowers

One of The Dorchester's restaurants is the three Michelin-starred Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester. It offers French cuisine and views of Hyde Park but the one thing you won't find here are flowers on the table; Ducasse himself has banned them, apparently.

10. During the war

Much like Claridge's and Selfridges, The Dorchester was used as a base by several people of note during the second world war. Due to its construction from reinforced concrete, it was considered one of the safest buildings in London, leading America's General Eisenhower to set up base there, along with cabinet ministers Lord Halifax and Duff Cooper. The rooms that Eisenhower commandeered are known as the Eisenhower Suite today.

However, the war didn't stop the upper echelons of British society continuing life as usual: the restaurants were simply moved into the ballroom (which could hold 1,000 people for functions) to avoid the possibility of broken glass in the soup if the hotel was hit by a bomb.

11. Going underground

One quarter of the building sits below street level, meaning that 40,000 tonnes of earth had to be excavated when the hotel was built.

Last Updated 07 July 2016