Going back to a favorite hotel is always a hopeful experience, and it is especially intriguing when the hotel has undergone renovations. Will the old charm disappear? Will the changes be an improvement? Such was the anxiety and anticipation when my wife and I returned to the Edwardian May Fair in London, which has undergone ownership changes over the years and is now part of the Radisson group. The extensive renovation resulted in a mix of the traditional amenities with a spiffy new look that spelled modernization while preserving the attractions that have made the five star May Fair an enjoyable stopping point.
One of the May Fair’s key advantages has always been its location in Stratton Street, just off Piccadilly and convenient to museums, theater, shopping, restaurants and transportation. The hotel has competitive rates, even in the pricey situation that has arisen as a result of the American dollar’s devastating drop in relation to the British pound, these days roughly two dollars to a pound. I don’t feel too put upon by the unfavorable rate, as I had plenty of advantages over the years when the dollar ruled the roost. Life averages out.
We had one of the remodeled king deluxe rooms, a very elegant example of the top to bottom changes at the hotel. I have one quarrel with the design. In about half the rooms at the hotel, the closet and safe are in the large bathrooms. More generous bedroom space has been obtained this way, but while this would be no drawback for a single person, for a couple it presents obvious disadvantages. It is not a design idea bordering on genius. But, as I say, that is the only qualm.
The hospitality staff makes a special effort to be of assistance, and one boon is 24-hour free use of a well-stocked computer room so that one has ample access to a machine. There are inviting new dining facilities (the Amba Bar and Grill), and the breakfast staff is especially cheerful and welcoming.
Congenial Rooms Division Manager Michael Cheung escorted me to the different hotel levels to show off new amenities, including the May Fair Spa, which offers facilities for both men and women. There are good-sized assorted meeting rooms for events, and there is the Crystal Room for special luncheons or dinners. Most intriguing for me, as a film and theater critic, was the excellent remodeled May Fair Theatre, which has become a state-of-the-art fixture in town for special film screenings and other events. Thus the hotel, in addition to catering to travelers, has expanded for local use.
The original May Fair was opened by King George V in 1927, and reportedly became popular with Hollywood stars and producers in the 1960s. There is added security now—one needs a room card key to activate the elevators.
In the convenience department, during my stays I have always found an ample supply of waiting taxis. But the underground Green Park Station, central to just about everywhere, is just a few blocks away, and there are numerous buses along Piccadilly. For hotel information, telephone phone 44- 20-7629 7777, or Fax 44-20 7493 0244. The e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.