Arriving at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower, I thought back to my stays at the Jumeirah properties in the Middle East, where I lived for many years. This was my first experience of one of the company’s properties outside of that region and I was interested to see how it had transplanted the brand to London.
Originally constructed in the 1960s, it opened as The Carlton Tower and was at that time the capital’s tallest building and one of the most expensive hotels to stay in. The property then passed through the hands of various hoteliers until Jumeirah took over the management in December 2001, keeping its original name but later rebranding to Jumeirah Carlton Tower.
The exterior is not particularly pleasing to look at, and little has changed externally in the 50 years since it was built. In comparison with other luxury hotels in London, the Jumeirah Carlton Tower does look pretty dated both inside and out. I did, however, hear unconfirmed rumours during my stay that the owners were planning on doing a complete head-to-toe refurbishment towards the end of the year – so watch this space.
The Jumeirah Carlton Tower’s stellar location, however, more than makes up for its looks. In the heart of Knightsbridge and a short walk from Harrods, Harvey Nichols and plenty of high-end designer shops, it also has the added appeal of being just a short stroll from Hyde Park, for those moments when you need to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.
- Daily breakfast for two
- Buffet breakfast
- Room upgrade upon arrival
- Subject to availability
- Hotel credit
- US$75 or equivalent to be used in the restaurants or Spa (one credit per stay)
- One-way airport transfer
- Only applies to guests staying in a suite
- Early check-in / Late check-out
- Late check-out until 4pm, subject to availability
- VIP welcome
- Personalised welcome amenity and card from the Manager and enhanced recognition throughout your stay
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
Exclusive benefits may vary by hotel or hotel group. Exclusive benefits apply when booking the Best Available Rate and are not combinable with any hotel offers or special packages unless stated.
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As soon as my taxi pulled up outside the entrance I was warmly greeted by the doorman, who took charge of my case, while another member of staff discreetly asked my name and proceeded immediately to the check-in desk to let them know I had arrived.
The lobby area was surprisingly small and perhaps lacked the wow factor I was anticipating; overall, it was rather brown and uninspiring. I was at least expecting a nod to the Middle East in the form of a magnificent centrepiece or a chandelier or two. Nevertheless, the check-in was extremely quick and efficient, and I was welcomed by name, given my keys and escorted immediately to my Junior Suite on the 17th floor. After walking in, I was shown how to work the TV, informed about what was complimentary and told that should I need anything, just to ask.
Rooms and suites
Featuring 216 guest rooms, 58 suites and one Royal Suite, the hotel is not small, but I didn’t feel like I was staying at a huge property either.
My Junior Suite was on the 17th floor (the top floor), and it felt spacious, light and airy with just the right amount of furniture. Although slightly lacking in character, with tones of beige and brown and the odd flourish of art work on the walls to brighten things up, it featured a king-size bed adorned with crisp white linen and plump pillows, a large sofa (that doubled up as a sofa bed) and several seating options with a large table perfect for in-room dining, or for kids to use.
The room had all the latest technology: a 40-inch widescreen HD LED TV, well placed for watching in bed, an iPod, an iPhone docking station and good Wi-Fi connection.
The suite was well stocked with complimentary water, and a large brown wooden sideboard against the wall was home to the minibar, a Nespresso machine and a selection of teas.
There were two wardrobes: one by the entrance hall with plenty of hangers, a safe, a hairdryer and a handy umbrella; the second was by the entrance to the bathroom.
Surprisingly for London, double patio doors led onto a small balcony where there were two chairs on which to enjoy amazing views of the London skyline and Harrods. Do note that if you’re scared of heights, my advice would be to ask for a lower-floor suite as the drop from up high is not for the faint-hearted.
The Jumeirah style that I was so accustomed to in the Middle East was only apparent when I saw a Luxury Suite. It had all of the pizazz of Arabia – probably something to do with it being designed by Khuan Chew, who was responsible for the interior designs at the Burj Al Arab, Dubai. The suite featured opulent furnishings in purple, gold and pink tones, a spacious seating area with an oversized sofa and a chair and footstool – perfect for relaxing after a day’s shopping and sightseeing. There was also a large walk-in shower, separate bath and plenty of toiletries from Molton Brown.
I found my Junior Suite bathroom fairly small, disappointing and out of proportion with the rest of the room, mainly due to its size, which was seriously small for my room category, and there was no walk-in shower. The shower was positioned over the bathtub (a big no-no in my book), but at least it had a rainfall head. In order to take your shower, it was necessary to grab on to the chrome handrails and heave oneself into the bathtub, trying not to slip on the marble floor tiles in the process, which was, quite frankly, rather dangerous, not to mention impossible for older clientele.
The loo was not separated from the rest of the bathroom, and there was only a single vanity sink. On the positive side there was plenty of space for my toiletries and the lighting above the huge mirror was excellent. There were Molton Brown toiletries and plenty of white fluffy towels and a robe, plus very comfy slippers, which I loved. If a sumptuous bathroom with a separate walk-in shower is important to you, then book a Luxury Suite. If money is no object, the Royal Suite would do very nicely.
Oriental in style, Chinoiserie, as the name suggests, serves light lunches, afternoon tea and supper until the early hours. This is where I chose to have a quick bite to eat before heading to the spa. Just off the main lobby, it’s an excellent location for people-watching, with a good selection of comfortable chairs and sofas upholstered in pale green and orange velvet. It was fairly busy but a table was quickly found, a menu was presented and my drink order taken. This is a lovely area, informal, with the addition of a harpist playing in the background. People were casually dressed and all in all it was a relaxing experience. The menu was extensive, offering both hot and cold options from club sandwiches, chicken tikka masala to exquisitely decorated cakes. Afternoon tea is a highlight here.
I decided on a falafel wrap with tahini dressing, which was delicious, and I was most impressed when it turned up in no time at all, having explained to my waitress that I was on a very tight time frame.
Breakfast the following day was served in The Rib Room Bar & Restaurant. I was warmly greeted with a ‘good morning and hope you slept well’, escorted to my table, where another member of the breakfast team was waiting with a menu and ready to take my beverage order.
This room, displaying original art works by Feliks Topolski, had a grown-up, convivial atmosphere, and there was sunlight flooding through the large windows, giving it a different feel to that of the evening, when the ambience is more intimate. Tables were laid out with crisp white linen and bone china, and the seating was in large leather chairs.
There was a lot to choose from on the menu, from waffles served with vanilla mascarpone, eggs cooked any which way and even a special of the day, which happened to be a chorizo Spanish tortilla. I settled on eggs Benedict, my order was taken quickly and, while waiting, my waitress showed me the breakfast buffet. In most hotels owned or managed by Middle Eastern brands, a buffet breakfast can be quite overwhelming with too many dishes on display. However, I was pleased to see there was just the right amount of choice, ranging from fresh fruit, yoghurt in glass jars (no plastic to be seen here), cereals, pastries, breads, meats and cheeses to a Middle Eastern mezze station set up in the bar area.
So often in hotels, eggs arrive either under- or overcooked, so I was pleasantly surprised when my dish arrived perfectly done. I must say, throughout my breakfast experience the staff were all very attentive and polite, and nothing was too much trouble. I was checked on several times, coffee was replenished and a pastry basket displaying the chef’s specials was offered on more than one occasion. It was a delightfully leisurely and relaxing way to start my day.
Other restaurant options
The Club Room, on the ninth floor at the Peak Health Club & Spa, is a light, bright space to enjoy a post-workout bite to eat. However, The Rib Room Bar & Restaurant is a perfect choice in the evening for carnivores since it serves its renowned rib of beef alongside non-meat dishes too. At night this space was cosy, dimly lit and club-like, a little bit New York in feel. And if you want to explore beyond the Jumeirah Carlton Tower, the Michelin-starred Pétrus restaurant is just around the corner.
Spa and wellness
The Peak Health Club & Spa, on the ninth floor, is open to hotel guests as well as non-resident members. However, with an annual membership fee around £5,000, numbers are kept to a comfortable level.
The spa, which is in the health club, offers facials, body treatments, manicures and pedicures for both men and women using a range of products from Skeyndor, Phyto5 and Deborah Lippmann.
I had made an appointment for a Deborah Lippmann ‘steppin’ out’ pedicure that claimed to treat ‘the most overworked feet’ with super-hydrating shea butter, kokum butter and acai.
My therapist welcomed me warmly and quickly showed me to the room. After settling me into the large massage chair, she asked me to choose from the vast array of nail polish colours on offer. The room was rather small and not particularly quiet as it was just off the main reception area. However, the combination of the relaxing music and my well-trained therapist working her magic with a soothing foot and leg massage meant I was soon drifting off. The treatment was very pleasant, and the end result was some tip-top feet, but I did feel the treatment area was small, tired and much in need of an update.
I left my trainers at home, conveniently, so didn’t manage to use the gym. However, it was well equipped with Technogym and Keiser running machines, bikes, rowers, steppers and plenty of weights – and with the added benefit of the amazing views from the floor-to-ceiling windows, I could imagine this makes training a far less painful experience. There were changing rooms and showers. Lockers were also provided.
Personal trainers are available to book should you need that added motivation, and there is an aerobics studio offering more than 70 classes per week, so if you fancy cardio kick-boxing, combat fitness, yoga, dance fusion plus a whole host of other classes there is no excuse not to participate. Plus, they are complimentary for hotel guests.
Pool and beach
To reach the swimming pool from the health club you must use the panoramic lift to the second floor, which can prove a bit of an inconvenience. Impressive by London standards, the 20-metre indoor swimming pool, with partly cordoned-off lanes for swimming lengths, is available for guest use. A steam room, sauna and Jacuzzi are also by the pool, which is brilliantly illuminated by the domed glass roof.
Families with children are welcomed. There are a number of options for interconnecting rooms – ensure you ask at the time of booking.
Although there is no dedicated kids’ club, babysitting can be arranged along with an age-appropriate toy box which can be ordered (extra charge) for your little ones and will be waiting in your room on arrival. A nice touch are the VIP kids’ amenities such as mini- bathrobes and slippers, although I was surprised to hear that the lovely Jumeirah teddy bears were not automatically part of the kids’ arrival experience.
Staff and service
The highlight of my stay here was the service – it was faultless and exceptional throughout. From housekeeping, who delivered extra toiletries to my room in super-quick time, my spa therapist who went out of her way to find me some suitable footwear to use after my pedicure, to the charming and attentive waiters in the restaurant and bar, staff were polite and always on hand to assist.
As expected, with any well-followed Middle Eastern brand, the hotel did have a large presence of guests from this region, along with English, Asian, European and Americans. There were lots of family groups travelling together, as is common in the Middle East, along with guests on business who were in residence during my stay.
Check-out was a smooth affair. While the bill was being printed, the polite front-desk clerk said he hoped I would return soon, which I thought was a nice touch at the end of my stay.
Outside, the jovial doorman tipped his top hat, hailed a taxi and wished me a pleasant onward journey as he waved me off.
How to get here
40 minutes by road from London Heathrow Airport
216 rooms & suites