Dukes London – 5 star hotel with Fawlty Towers vibes

I'm staying at a historic luxury hotel in London. But as it turns out that living on old merits is not enough to stay at the top.

If you’re ever been searching for 5 star hotels in London you have probably stumbled across Dukes. Dukes is a small hotel located in St James’s Place just next to Buckingham Palace. The hotel has been around since 1908. Many famous people has stayed here through the years like the author Ian Fleming and even various members of the British royal family. The hotel has also a very famous bar – Dukes bar.

Naturally I got intrigued to try out a hotel with such long and rich history. So during my latest London visit I booked a room for a night.

SLH member

Hotel entrance.

Dukes is a member of SLH (Small Luxury Hotels of the world). SLH is a loyalty program with over 500 hotels in more than 90 countries. All of them are small independently owned hotels with just 50 room in average. Dukes fits this bill very well. It’s far from a big chain and has only 90 rooms.

Everyone that has stayed at a SLH member hotel knows it can be really hit or miss. Even though they all should be luxury properties, they are small, often family owned and don’t always have big financial muscles. I feel this is particularly true now with the pandemic that these hotels have been hit hard, and with the downturn ahead the future doesn’t look that bright either for these smaller hotels.

So if I can support these small businesses by booking a stay I sure will. It won’t be a cookie cutter experience, and that I like.

The other side of this is that they might not be up there with the use of the latest technology. Expect to get a good old key during check-in.

The Arrival

First impression last they say, and I feel many hotels is missing out on a big impression they can make, and that is to either call or send an email prior your stay. I have stayed at many upscale hotels but very few take advantage of this opportunity. Sometimes I get automated emails, and even though they don’t feel so personal it’s still better than nothing.

Old style keys at this hotel.

What did I get from Dukes? Nothing. But as I said, very few hotels take advantage of this opportunity to make an impression. Of four different hotels on this trip only one sent me an email prior of check-in. If you book through some of the big sites like hotels.com or booking.com they might not even have your email, so that would also be the reason.


Check-in went smooth, not much to say about it. Got a bit confused where the elevator was, but that’s on me. There can be quite a bit of information to take in during check-in where everything is.

One thing to note is that they have kept the old fashioned key, so there’s no card to open the door. For me that’s more cumbersome than charming.

The Room

I got the superior room, which I believe is second smallest room. At 22-24 sq. m² the size ain’t bad at all for London standard. The room itself was nice but in need of some refurbishment. The handle on the toilet felt loose and didn’t give me any confidence it would flush at all. There’s was some other bits and pieces I noticed as well that didn’t feel it was on a level that’s required for a top hotel.

Superior room.

Bathrobes and slippers was provided in the room which is always nice to see. The bathroom plenty big enough with a bathtub.

Room view
View to the courtyard from the room. the entrance to the hotel is in a small alleyway.

No sense for details

Some Fabian dude, sure ain’t me.

What puts a hotel apart from being good to being great? Except from excellent the staff in many cases if comes down to attention to details. In this regard Dukes made several small mistakes which left you feel disappointed.

You name showing up on the TV is pretty common, what’s not as nice is that it shows someone else’s name, make you wonder if you’re even in the right room?

The hotel had turn down service – nice. Slippers had been put by the bed, but with one crucial mistake. There’s two pairs of slippers in the room, one pair that says ”duke” and another pair that says ”duchess”. Which ones did they bring out? The ”duchess”.

In the morning the cleaning staff knocked on the door, eager to start cleaning I guess. But let me check-out first!

Dukes has a blog that hasn’t been updated since early 2020, already there my bells should have started to go off.

Dukes Bar

The hotel has a very famous bar Dukes Bar, it might be even more famous than the hotel itself. I tried one martini drink and enjoyed it very much. I’ve read in other places that people feel it’s a bit uptight with strict dress code and such. That I can understand, but then it’s probably not the place for you.

Dukes bar drink
Drinks is served in front of you from a trolley.

The Breakfast

The breakfast is serves in the GBR (Great British Restaurant) one level down from the lobby. I liked the decor of the restaurant very much. It felt luxurious. The breakfast itself might not have moot the most lavish breakfast I’ve ever seen but for me I had nothing to complain about. But I could overhear other guests that didn’t should as happy. There was many misunderstandings between guest and waiters what was included in the breakfast and not. One German lady got a huge 75ml water bottle, apparently it was the only water available? Strange.

GBR breakfast
Breakfast to GBR, notice the big bottle on the right.

I was thinking about trying the afternoon tea, but time didn’t permit. I think that could be a nice experience.

The Check-out

At check-out I didn’t the the question how my stay was as you usually do and I think I know why. The night before the fire alarm went off at 12am! I guess it was some sort of false alarm as the fire department never showed up. Did I mention that, guess not, but for me it wasn’t the biggest deal as I wasn’t asleep, but nevertheless who wants to hear a loud alarm going off in the middle of the night and you have to make it downstairs. If I was going the catch an early flight the next day I would be really pissed.

Fire alarm went off at 12am.

These was also some other sort of alarm going off in the morning for a few minutes. So if you’re a big fan of noises I guess this is the place to stay. No, I really hope this was an exception. The hotel is located at an small dead-end alleyway so it shouldn’t be much noise normally.

During my London visit I stayed at four different hotels, and I have to say this was the worst experience. With a room costing a minimum of £310, and a superior room even more – well above £450 it’s not cheap. Especially comparing to other 5 stars hotels in the city. If you’re at the ”inspired” level on SLH you can get breakfast for free and hopefully save some money that way.

But for London I have better hotel recommendations for you than Dukes, stick around and keep an eye out for my next review.

Dukes London, 35 St. James’s Place, London, England



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