I am allergic to cricket. I’ve had marriages that have lasted less time than a test match. Cricket is the tantric sex of sport, but all you get is a sticky wicket…. Which is why I had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the cricket-themed Dorset Square Hotel. Dorset Square, just off London’s Baker Street, is the site of Thomas Lord’s first cricket ground. This little patch of parkland is where the first balls were googlied, diamond ducked, dibbly dobblied and double hat-tricked (you can see what an expert I am.) This means that for most men it’s not just a mere patch of green, but a shrine.
The Dorset Square Hotel is a row of interlaced terrace houses facing onto this hallowed ground. Echoing the cricketing theme, the bedroom door handles are halved leather cricket balls and the walls are lined with cricketing memorabilia, both original and bespoke artistic creations. It’s all very tongue-in-chic… And – against all my cricket-phobic expectations – it is totally charming.
A luxurious, intimate boutique escape in the heart of London by award-winning style guru Kit Kemp. Here she has waved her magic designer wand to create an idiosyncratic tapestry of textures, colours and styles that harmonise the antique and the contemporary. The 38 individually designed bedrooms, many of which look onto the leafy private garden, could be the style equivalent of putting oysters with custard. But, instead, all gels to aesthetic satisfaction.
To kick off the romantic mood, we were welcomed with a glass of champagne at the bar. Which led to two, then three… Before long we were thinker than you drunk we are. The Potting Shed bar and restaurant are open all day and offer a tasty and varied menu, with a skylight opening up onto the pedestrians and buses buzzing by down Baker Street. The breakfast is so delicious, staff should put speed bumps in the dining room to slow down progress to the buffet table.
London hotels have in the past provided me with service with a snarl. Coupled with some third-degree sarcasm, their ethos seems to be that the guest is always wrong. But the young, enthusiastic staff at Dorset Square are smilingly efficient and totally friendly at all times.
The other great thing about the hotel is its location on the edge of Regents Park. To me ‘working out’ is something you do on the back of an envelope. After all, there is growing medical evidence that exercising can make you hot and sweaty. Of course the hardest thing about exercising is trying not to let your wine spill. (The only aspect of cricket I do like is that it’s the one sport that builds in meal breaks.) But if you are a gym junkie, Dorset Square Hotel not only has access to a nearby fitness centre but is also situated right beside London’s most beautiful oasis of flowery tranquility. The only thing I run up are bills, but the park is so lovely, it did tempt me out for a few trots.
The only snag for space lovers is that some of the rooms are not that big. Our deluxe was fine but if you’re an American Footballer say, don’t expect to get in a standard room without covering yourself in lubricant. Then again, if you’re here for a Mr & Mrs Smith break – the closer the better, right? And it’s incredibly inexpensive for London, especially with its granite and glass bathrooms and heated towel rails.
If you are planning to head DSH for romance, the only other trouble is that there are so many fabulous distractions. On our first outing, we popped around the corner to the Sherlock Holmes Museum for a little light detecting. This was followed by a stroll down Marylebone High Street, pausing for the scrumptious modern tapas at Providores, the award-laden New Zealand-run restaurant. Next stop, the Wallace Collection. This astounding museum with its world-famous range of decorative arts is home to one of Europe’s finest collections of works of art, paintings, furniture, arms and armour and porcelain. It was bequeathed to the nation and is completely free. You can’t pass by without popping in to see some Titians, Rembrandts and best of all, The Laughing Cavalier by Hals.
Then it was onto Selfridges, a shrine for retail lovers, I spent a few hours here worshipping. Believe me anyone who says money doesn’t buy happiness, just doesn’t know where to shop. Oxford Street is full of fabulous bargains but my favourite destination is St Christopher’s Place, a cobbled courtyard away from the traffic fumes, lined with quaint designer boutiques. If you’re in the mood to pluck your highbrows, it’s only a short stroll through Mayfair to Piccadilly for more art at the Royal Academy. Or to Hyde Park to watch the cavalry prancing about in full regalia. We even took a saunter through Regents Park on our second day to the more kooky environs of Camden. The punks, performers and modern-day pirates of Camden Lock give new meaning to walking on the wild side.
After a frenzied day in the bustling city, sinking into an acreage of soft bedding, I heard a satisfied sigh escape my lips. I felt as thought I’d just reached the next level of Ashtanga yoga meditation, and all without having to knit my own aura. The Dorset Square Hotel is a true sanctuary in the heart of a busy metropolis. I’m still not converted to cricket but the hotel not only bowled me over, it offered many innings and fabulous outings.