JW Marriott Grosvenor House and high society – celebrities, VIPs, entertainers; call them what you will – go together hand in hand. The Beatles played there on December 2, 1963, Sammy Davis Junior came in 1974 and Johnny Cash in the early 1980s, all in the hotel's Great Room. Henry Kissinger gave a press conference in the Ballroom in 1979 and Obama stood at a lecturn in 2011. Walt Disney and his wife Lilian were early guests as honeymooners in 1935. Sir Alex Ferguson was there in February 2011 for a 2000 matches Celebratory Lunch.

The exclusive hotel is an important venue for star-studded awards ceremonies, and the busy photographers captured Liz and Dick (as Taylor and Burton were irreverently known) at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts ceremony in 1967, Michael Caine at the BAFTAs in 1984, Dame Shirley Bassey and Paul McCartney at the Q Awards in 2007 and Dame Helen Mirren at the BAFTAs in 2013.

These are some of the pictures and the stories they tell. To find out why and when Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, Ben Affleck, George Clooney, Tommy Cooper and the others were at the Park Lane hotel, all you have to do is pay a visit and take a look in that private dining room, if it isn't locked.

Like the private dining room, the Great Room and the Ballroom themselves are eye-openers. At a little over 3100 square metres, the Ballroom was originally used as an ice rink, home to the Park Lane Ice Club, and the future Queen Elizabeth II had skating lessons there as a child. But competition grew from other ice rinks and the room was converted to Europe's biggest ballroom.

It now provides a striking setting for some of the UK's biggest celebratory nights, banquets, balls, fashion shows, conferences, wedding parties and the like. One such is the world's oldest charitable ball, the Royal Caledonian Ball, founded in the 1840s and granted royal patronage by Queen Victoria. It remains a staple of the London social season each springtime.

Unapologetically, it is difficult to avoid name-dropping when contemplating such an illustrious hotel, and apart from some of the above named, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jacqueline Onassis, General Eisenhower, General Patton, Muhammed Ali and Ella Fitzgerald were among other famous guests.

Aviator Amy Johnson, the first woman to fly solo from Great Britain to Australia in 1930 aged 26, was given a huge reception there. That decade, American film stars Humphrey Bogart, Robert Taylor and Ray Milland slept over, and Douglas Fairbanks Jr made a beer advertisement in 1934 during which he was photographed at supper with Gertrude Lawrence. The following year he returned and was photographed playing the piano amid the flesh of a glamorous group of "Grosvenor House Girls". The list continues...

Going back to the late 1600s, Grosvenor House was the private London residence of the aristocratic Grosvenor family. The centuries of history are too long to mention here but are detailed in the establishment's own book, "Grosvenor House, The Inheritance and the People", available at the hotel and containing a wealth of pictures and stories.

# JW Marriott Grosvenor House, Park Lane, London

Grosvenor House Hotel opened on May 14, 1929 with 472 rooms and offering a new standard in hospitality. It was the first five-star on London's famed Park Lane and today it remains one of the most high-end hotels on the high-end road. For unassailable proof about the status of Park Lane, just remember the Monopoly board game, where the road is outvalued only by the ultra upscale Mayfair, one of London's most exclusive haunts where – as one description goes – the shopping is haute, the dining is exquisite and the nightlife is vibrant. A casual stroll through the area's chic streets will reveal that Michelin stars and chauffeured cars are practically the norm here.

Mayfair is bordered on its western edge by Park Lane. Numerous Rolls-Royces and flash sports cars that can go so much faster than one can drive on the UK's crowded roads are to be seen parked at these hotels, with their uniformed doormen. And, looking through the window into an Aston Martin dealership, isn't that an updated James Bond-style DB5, albeit minus the pop-out gun barrels, the bullet shield, ejector seat and three-way revolving front number plate?

JW Marriott Grosvenor House is half-way along Park Lane, which at the northern end has the triumphal Marble Arch and Speakers' Corner at the junction with Oxford Street, and at the southern end has Hyde Park Corner, with its Wellington Arch, Wellington Statue and other important memorials.

Immediately across busy Park Lane from the hotel is Hyde Park, the largest of London's eight Royal Parks with its Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain, boating on the Serpentine lake, concerts (Blind Faith and the Rolling Stones in 1969 and Pink Floyd in 2005, to mention three famous ones), the Speaker's Corner, horse-riding paths, Rose Garden, playground and so on. At the western end of the park is Kensington Gardens, home to various royal types busily breeding more royals in Kensington Palace.

From an eighth-floor suite in JW Marriott Grosvenor House, guests face a wall of trees on the edge of Hyde Park. Over the greenery a kilometre or so away can be seen the circular Royal Albert Hall with its domed roof.

This year, then, the hotel celebrated 90 years of history. The property has been through various ownerships and extensions, and in September 2008, after a four-year, multi-million-pound restoration programme, Grosvenor House was rebranded as a JW Marriott Hotel (JW is after founder John Willard Marriott), and is the only JW in the UK.

# The Great Room

Today they boast 496 fully refurbished bedrooms and suites, including two Royal Suites, spread across eight floors. Once past the doorman, the sumptuous lobby has curated floral displays and a Swiss Gallery shop with Girard Perregaux watches offering more than two centuries of Swiss craftsmanship to produce the ultimate in timepieces.

The hotel's JW Steakhouse serves the cuts Filet, Porterhouse, Rib Eye, New York Strip, Kansas City Strip, Flat Iron Steak and Tomahawk Rib Eye. There is fresh seafood too. The little shop called Starbucks at Park Lane Market sells pastries, chocolates, jam and other edibles and souvenirs, including what Sean Penn described as "the best cheesecake this side of the Pond" (ie, the Atlantic).

The Park Room lounge aims for the sophisticated atmosphere of a stately English home and serves afternoon tea, with a pianist in attendance. In the Red Bar the walls are red, the carpets are red, the sofas and stools are red and everything else is... well, red. Except the cocktails. In the Executive Lounge, guests can partake of Continental Breakfast, Afternoon Delights, Cocktail Hour and Evening Delights. The latter could have, for instance, an Italian theme one night and Spanish the next. The hotel has 23 event rooms.

JW Marriott Grosvenor House is an indulgence, almost an embarrassment of riches. Enjoy it if you can.


JW Marriott Grosvenor House
86-90 Park Lane, Mayfair, London W1K 7TN
Tel.: +44 20 7499 6363


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