To come up with the inaugural list of Five- and Four-Star London hotels that were announced in April, our incognito inspectors had to analyze hundreds of qualities about each property. In that scrutinizing process, we uncovered a few hidden treats that the typical guest many not ever notice. We discovered that one place has an underground casino. Another offers patrons access to a secret cigar lounge. Our curious crew of inspectors gives the inside scoop on Star-Rated properties that reward shrewd guests with secret perks.
An Underground Casino
When you check in to The Ritz London, no one will tell you that there’s a members-only casino on the lower level of the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel. Approach the concierge (and dress the part—no jeans or sneakers) to ask for access, and he will escort you to The Ritz Club’s private, tucked-away entrance. Go down the stairs, where you’ll be required to fill out an application and have your picture taken to become a temporary member. But jumping through the hoops is worth it after you step into a space that looks like it could be Versailles—the lounge features crystal chandeliers hanging from ornate gilded ceilings, detailed frescoes covering the walls, plus velvet sofas and plush armchairs. Head to the casino, where you can play blackjack, roulette, three-card poker, punto banco, punto 2000 and casino stud poker. When you need a break, visit the fine-dining restaurant, which has chefs specializing in everything from Chinese to French cuisine to sate your every craving.
A Secret Cigar Lounge
The Garden Room at The Lanesborough sounds like it’s a conservatory or greenhouse, when in fact, it’s the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel’s underground cigar lounge that’s exclusively for hotel guests and members. You won’t find it on your own, though, since the nondescript entrance is in an empty hallway that appears to be occupied by offices. But if you ask, the staff will show you to the luxurious lounge—and a walk-in humidor that holds more than 1,000 stogies and 25 private lockers for guests’ and members’ personal collections. Sit on a brown leather and wicker chair and enjoy a Cuban or pre-Castro cigar with a cognac (The Lanesborough offers pours that date back to 1770).
VIP Airport Concierge
More than 70 million passengers travel through London Heathrow each year, which can make navigating one of the world’s busiest airports a headache. But Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Claridge’s offers a special VIP pick-up or drop-off airport concierge that will make it painless. You’ll feel like a dignitary—and you should because this is a treatment once reserved only for heads of state staying at the hotel. You’ll leave Claridge’s for the airport in the vehicle of your choice (the fleet includes a Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Bentley Mulsanne), and the chauffer will drop you off at the terminal where an escort will lead you to a private airport lounge, bypassing security lines in the main terminal (for arrivals in Heathrow, an escort meets you as soon as you leave the plane and takes you to the lounge). Instead, immigration, security and customs will come to you, ensuring a check-in that’s smooth and simple.
Photos courtesy of The Ritz Hotel London Ltd and The Lanesborough London Inc.