We were supposed to be on a post GCSE mini break to Mallorca, but the ever-changing status on testing and quarantining instead saw us on an LNER train to London rather than a Jet 2 flight to Palma.
I have to say I was less than enthusiastic about getting on a plane again so soon and the train felt a much safer option. Direct from York to London King's Cross we were in the Capitol in less than two and a half hours. Staff and fellow travellers were all masked up something I hope will remain after the July 19th relaxation of restrictions.
Our home for the next two nights was The Dilly - the renamed and refurbished five star hotel in Piccadilly.
As the name suggests The Dilly is a bit of fun. Its exterior listed façade in the heart of London's West End and close to Soho, Green Park and Buckingham Palace - in fact I would say its location would take a lot of beating for whatever your reasons for visiting - is traditional high end London hotel. Its interior is more modern boutique hotel with a brave dark blue paintwork to the lobby and unusual hanging 'Dilly' from the ceiling,
Impressive flower displays are the first thing that greet you -a flower shop in the lobby by Pulbrook & Gould – with a long history of providing flowers for high-society and celebrities - provides the hotel’s floral displays.
The second thing is the hotel's experienced head concierge ( and guide for our visit ) Paul Whittle. Paul has been at The Dilly, which has goe under other names, for the last 35 years and what he doesn't know about this impressive building isn't worth knowing.
First opened in 1908 as The Piccadilly Hotel, The Dilly has 28 suites and 255 rooms. Those in the suites will get access to their own lounge are above the main lobby.
At the heart of The Dilly’s philosophy are the best locally sourced London or local produce wherever possible throughout the hotel from amenities in the bedrooms to the F&B choices.
But it is not just its location that makes The Dilly stand out from the crowd.
The Dilly has what must be the biggest indoor pool of any hotel in London access through an impressive gym with an array of machinery, fitness room et al. The newly reopened beauty spa By Yoma offers a full range of treatments
As you go deeper into this massive hotel, The Dilly reveals more surprised in the form of its own in-house dance studio - Inspiration 2 Dance - where guests can learn Smooth, Latin and Ballroom from a roster of world-champions in private or group classes.
Restaurants include Terrace at The Dilly - a light-filled space with a slanting glass ceiling which includes an external balcony that overlooks Piccadilly and was the scene of many swimming and dancing parties in the 1920s and 30s. Terrace at The Dilly offers a ‘British classics’ inspired menu, prepared with regional produce all surrounded by an array of houseplants and a balcony out onto Piccadilly itself. It is here the hotel serves its famous Peter Rabbit afternoon tea. Although we didn't try it ourselves - not quite what my 16-year-old daughter was after - it looked amazing and gets rave reviews.
After an early supper in the Terrace Paul had kindly reserved us a seat for the Euro 2020 semi finals at Sophie's Steakhouse in Soho where the atmosphere (and the cocktails) were as good as the result. The food looked so tasty all cooked on a massive fire pit, that we returned for lunch the next day and weren't disappointed. Walking back to The Dilly after the match was an experience itself as jubilant fans took to the tops of buses and telephone boxes to celebrate England getting through to the finals. (it's a shame that result wasn't quite so good)
After soaking up the atmosphere in Piccadilly Circus who were soon back in the luxurious comfort of our hotel room, It was one of the 40 or so that have been refurbished in a massive programme of works started during the first lockdown when the hotel was forced to close.
The room had everything you would expect from a high end hotel of this caliber, although some of the furniture could possibly do with a further upgrade. But the two double beds were super comfortable and the fluffy gowns and slippers always add a lovely tough. There is tea coffee and we had some amazing chocolates and macrons in our room. The mini bar was empty but I believe that is due to Covid compliance. But room service is available 25/7.
The second night we dined in the sumptuous surroundings of the 'pop-up' restaurant and bar Madhu’s at The Dilly in the Grade II-listed Oak Room which offers Punjabi cuisine with a Kenyan twist. The restaurant used to be run by Yorkshire-born Marco Pierre White back in the day, Today's offering is an Instagrammers delight (there is even an Instagram chair in the bar) The food and the service were top notch - and we even spotted ourselves on an influencer's story.
It also shows how the Dilly is melding the traditional with the modern, In this new post-Covid age grand hotels like The Dilly is aware that it needs to offer more to attract new audiences as we wait for the foreign tourists to return. Paul explains plans for visitor experinces including bikes with picnic hampers. It seems The Dilly is a good position to emerge from the pandemic
Catherine Scott and her daughter Millie were guests of The Dilly. Room categories range from Dilly Classic Room to Dilly Executive Suite. Rates start from £219.
www.thedillylondon.com or follow Facebook (www.facebook.com/thedillypiccadilly) or Instagram (www.instagram.com/thedillylondon).
Travel was courtesy of London North Eastern Railway www.lner.co.ukFares from York to London King’s Cross start at Standard Class: £37 return First Class: £91 return. Most seats on LNER services will require a reservation in their Seat Sure policy although there are some non-reserved seats available in designated coaches . Catering has now resumed including Eat at Your Seat in Standard class.