The guy was wearing a sweatshirt and casual chinos. He lurked in the
background, staring intently as we got out of the car and unloaded our
suitcases on the sidewalk.
I eyed him somewhat suspiciously. Before the thought "luggage thieves in
Knightsbridge?" could come to mind, the guy made his move. In a flash, he had
grabbed our bags and moved so fast, he literally disappeared into thin air.
Whoa. Why is the doorman still smiling and beckoning us to enter the hotel
when he had just witnessed a crime? He should be hot-footing it after the
hoodlum to beat him to a pulp and teach him never to steal from foreigners who
don't carry spare underwear.
The way he behaved, the guy may as well have been a hotel concierge who was
merely taking the bags to our room . . .
Welcome to the Bulgari hotel in London - the latest addition to the luxury
accommodation scene but one which does not wear its snobbery on its sleeves. It
explains why the concierge was not dressed in conventional uniform but
appropriate bag-carrying attire, his speed and efficiency in keeping with the
hotel's oft-repeated mantra - "informal, but impeccable".
The hardware is fancy, but the software is not. The tagline is "welcome to
your residence in London", which accounts for its warm and personable staff who
eschew uppercrust airs to make you feel right at home.
Such effortless chic belies a difficult five year process to transform a
derelict office building into an ultra-luxe hotel-residence in the tony
Knightsbridge neighbourhood, reveals general manager Sylvain Ercoli.
For one thing, it is practically unheard of to demolish and rebuild anything
in London, given the city's draconian rules designed to preserve its
"In this case, the building was very badly damaged and had no redeeming
heritage feature that was necessary to protect," says Mr Ercoli. But as he puts
it, what really swayed the authorities' decision was the Bulgari factor.
Several parties were interested in acquiring and developing the property but
Prime Development - made up of several low-profile private investors - joined
forces with the luxury brand to come up with a proposal that pretty much
knocked the city planners' socks off. [Pictured here: The exterior of the
Bulgari Hotel & Residences London.]
"Every Bulgari hotel is different in the interior design and the
architecture, but the approach is the same," says Mr Citterio.
"The focus is on quality but they do not want the architecture to be
Design is applied to the details - from the door handles to the furniture,
desk accessories, fabrics and even the glasses."
Taking his cue from Bulgari's history as silversmiths, silver and steel are
dominant features in the overall design. [Pictured here: A private dining
The in-house Il Ristorante, for example, stands out for the wide sweeping
staircase that leads to the dining room, while a massive wall feature
chronicles the history of Bulgari's jewellery designs.
Understated "bling" comes in the form of heavy silver chandeliers in its
ballrooms, and B&B Italia furniture throughout. [Pictured here: The interior of
II Ristorante, an in-house restaurant.]
The dining room and bar.
The rooms - 85 of them, including 29 suites - are decked out in warmer tones
and rich fabrics, especially in the form of heavy tapestry-like curtains
intricately patterned to replicate Bulgari's vintage silver brooches.
Single piece marble vanity tops, Frette bedlinen and gorgeous minibars (with
Nespresso coffeemaker) designed to look like old-fashioned travel trunks add to
the overall opulence of the rooms.
With discretion uppermost in the hotel's interests, there are lifts that go
directly down to the bowels of the building, where the immense, showstopping
two-floor spa awaits guests wrapped in fluffy bath robes.