Smokers have been treated as social pariahs in London since the smoking ban was introduced in 2007.
You often see them huddled in the rain grabbing a quick smoke or seeking sanctuary on a street corner indulging in their very unhealthy habit.
For the top-notch ultra-deluxe Lanesborough however – the luxury hotel which loves to give freebies – the ban has turned into an opportunity thanks to its cosy “Garden Room” smokers’ bar.
I was recently taken on a personal tour of this facility. It is yet another innovation from Mr Gelardi, one of London’s most admired hoteliers.
This is the same Mr Gelardi who decided to offer free WiFi and Sony Vaios to guests after being annoyed by the extortionate charges experienced on his own business trips. His hotel also has one of London’s best suites.
Nestled below ground level in a secret corner of the hotel, the Garden Room gives the feel of a hideaway for illicit activities. For those who went to school in Britain, think of a luxurious version of “behind the bike sheds”!
It has open fireplaces, underfloor heating, cashmere blankets and a world-class range of cigars to choose from, as well as a fully functional bar.
Cigar aficionados can spend up to £1500 per cigar on a Cohiba Behike – in fact it’s the only place in the world where you can sample them “per stick”, so it’s cheap at the price! A mindblowing array of varieties is on offer.
Leather furniture, soft music, gentle lighting and discreet service all add to the vibe of a place you want to spend time in, whether you smoke or not.
The atmosphere was cosy and vibrant when I was there. Management tell me it is one of the most popular areas of the hotel, so much so they don’t even take reservations. And it only accommodates around 40 guests.
The icing on the cake is the fact that the Garden Room is run by “Puff Daddy” himself, Mr Giuseppe Ruo, who is able to provide great advice on the optimal cigar/drink combinations.
Little wonder that the Garden Room won the Best New Hotel Bar Award in the Imbibe Hotel Bar Awards 2009. It’s worth a visit – if you can find it!
Photo credits: The Lanesborough (St. Regis Hotels & Resorts).