Sunny Days in London Town

London this summer has been and will continue to be the site of much grunting and sweating. We just wrapped up Wimbledon, and of course later this month there will be the Olympic Games. When it comes to getting away from all these exertions, there may be no better place in town than The Connaught.

Housed in an 1897 Mayfair townhouse, this hotel is the epitome of English gentility. “Everything has a well-bred gleam—the brass, the glass, the mahogany and the teeth of the welcoming committee behind the front desk,” Peter Mayle wrote of The Connaught in Expensive Habits, and that was before the place underwent an impressive renovation four years ago.

These days, The Connaught is gleaming as much as ever. In addition to old-world charm, there are even more of the amenities you’d expect from a contemporary first-class hotel, including a cutting-edge cocktail bar (headed up by the decorated mixologist Agostino Perrone) and an Aman spa. As much as I enjoyed the steam room there, and the celery froth atop Perrone’s Bloody Mary, few things during my recent weeklong stay in London were as special as the afternoon tea. Now, when it comes to the ultimate afternoon tea in London, a lot of people first think of Claridge’s. But I’d make a case for The Connaught. For one thing, you don’t necessarily have to wait weeks to get a booking. For another, the sunny, covered terrace is just a perfect little corner of London.

You sit there by the window, as light streams through the curtains, watching the cars come around the bend at Carlos Place. You sip fragrant tea from Harney & Sons and eat a royal variety of jams and pastries. The colorful artisanal preserves, which come from France, look as vibrant as they taste; the clotted cream that’s served alongside warm scones is slightly sticky and entirely, sinfully delicious. Hélène Darroze, who’s in charge of the hotel’s Michelin two-starred restaurant, also oversees the tea menu and brings a French seriousness to the pastries. Every single one my companion and I tasted was scrumptious. By the time we’d finished, only crumbs were left.

The rooms, if you decide to take one, are largely decorated with original art and furniture. Even the light switches have an authentically old-school aura, adding to the feeling that you’re living like landed gentry of another era. And another feature of the post-renovation Connaught is that there’s butler service for every guest. So while sporty types strenuously compete for glory all over town, you need to exert yourself even less. —DARRELL HARTMAN

For more information, visit http://www.the-connaught.co.uk/home.aspx or call +44 (0)20 7499 7070 to book a reservation.