Five star hotels Dukes and The Milestone pamper little Smidge big time

MILLIE can be a real bitch with other dogs. Not so on this occasion when the resident Jack Russell joins us for ‘doggie afternoon tea’ at Egerton House. She and our much-travelled chihuahua, Captain Smidge, hit it off  immediately – a frisky scamper, a friendly nuzzle, a sharing of treats, a drawing room civility that’s very Knightsbridge.

We were billeted in the Harlequin Suite, a strutting peacock of a lodging. A basket of assorted dog treats awaited the special guest plus a kit including blanket, bowls and his own bespoke robe

So, too, is Harrods, of course, just along the road. We were tempted to take in its fourth floor Pet Spa, billed as ‘the world’s premier destination for canine chic and feline sleek’. On offer there’s reiki healing, ‘petiquette’ (behavioural support consultation), mud baths and ‘pawdicures’. Oh, and there’s even a range of moisturising olive oil treatments for the tortoise in your life.

Maybe another time. Smidge had already savoured the metropolitan canine high life big time. Escorted on his morning constitutional around Kensington Gardens by the head doorman of Egerton’s sister hotel, The Milestone; sampling smoked wagyu tartare at M Grill Victoria Street; tackling his favourite pigeon breast at one Soho establishment, venison dim sum at another; even nibbling candlelit hors d’oeuvres in London’s finest cheese shop before a game and chicken supper, specially prepared by Chef back at Mayfair’s Dukes Hotel, part of its VIP (very important pets) package.

All proof that staying in London with your dog doesn’t have to be a limiting ordeal. Indeed it can encompass true luxury. OK, shopping expeditions are sorely restricted and West End theatre and cinema visits are out. Still increasing numbers of bars and restaurants are pet-friendly; indeed so are whole areas (more of Bermondsey Street later) and a dog definitely helps you appreciate the glories of the capital’s parks.

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Open up those Golden Gates, Steven

Which brings us back to the tall Welshman in the green frock coat and top hat, happy to pose with a tiny, ginger, Mexican ratter in front of Kensington Palace’s Golden Gates. You know the ones. Forever associated with floral tributes to Princess Di.

Head doorman Steven Thornett’s girlfriend is a dog walker. We bump into her and some canine clients en route for the Gates, conveniently across Kensington Road from the Milestone. It’s like stepping onto the set of 101 Dalmatians except there’s not a single spotty dog in sight.

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Stephen’s services are just part of the amazing dog-friendly ambience at the Milestone, which manages to combine this with a swish art deco theme throughout. We were billeted in the Harlequin Suite, a strutting peacock of a lodging. A basket of assorted dog treats awaited the special guest plus a kit including blanket, bowls and his own bespoke robe. Later after turn-down a large marrow bone arrived as a nightcap. Oh, and there was a personalised key ring with his image. 

Beyond this, all the staff made a huge fuss of the Captain and he was allowed to dine and breakfast with us downstairs in the former private chapel of this 1830s mansion on a site first built upon in 1689 (it’s called after a cast iron milestone that still stands outside).

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Fellow Red Carnation Hotel Egerton House, which has the feel of a homely private residence, is just over a mile away, tucked away in a terrace opposite Brompton Oratory and may even surpass the Milestone for pet-centric passion. 

Millie the Jack Russell terrier is owned by general manager Michelle Devlin, who welcomes us to the £18 Doggy Afternoon Tea, a stack of bowls containing chicken and beef meatloaf, home-made doggy biscuits, ‘doggylicious’ ice cream plus a special chew toy to take home. We indulge in our own human-friendly afternoon tea, among London’s finest with sublime scones and those triangular crustless sandwiches unsuited to hearty appetites.

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M Victoria offers some of the best steaks in London in a swish setting

That doesn’t matter because we have already lunched on our arrival in London at (you guessed it) dog-friendly upmarket steakhouse, M Restaurants Victoria Street Grill, one of three very individual M venues, that has a reputation for doggy brunches. Captain Smidge sat on a special cushion in our booth and shared our spectacular a la carte that started with that wagyu carpaccio and lamb sweetbreads and involved Kansas beef fillet and haunch of venison, all of which met the approval of a small hound alongside his own bowl of treats. Time for a snooze after a long journey down.

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Only downside, Smidge didn’t get to meet in-house labradoodle, Hudson, the manager’s pet. This flagship M restaurant, created by ex-Gaucho MD Martin Williams, also boasts a stupendous bar, wine shop and gluten-free raw bar, all of which are not quite our chihuahua’s bag.

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In a complete style contrast Andrew Edmunds in Soho is an old haunt of the Captain’s. He’s partial to the pigeon breast served at this Good Food Guide listed restaurant that grew out of Edmunds’ old prints business in an 18th century townhouse on Lexington Street. Upstairs hosts the Academy, a private members club for literary folk founded by the late Auberon Waugh. The big attraction downstairs is the minimal mark-up on an extraordinarily good wine list. Highly recommended but it is a very cosy space, so only small dogs are welcomed. Our particular small dog also discovered a taste for my ham hock terrine (above).

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His venison dim sum appetiser that day is on the bar menu at Duck & Rice around the corner in Berwick Street. It’s a pub with cask and gleaming copper tanks of Pilsener Urquell, serving snacks in the bar and more elaborate Chinese dishes upstairs. Dog-friendly downstairs (water bowls and treats provided), it’s been a pet project (sic) of Alan Yau, creator of Wagamama and Hakkasan.

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Builder's Arms is a rare dog-friendly haven among Kensington pubs

A more traditional, pooch-sympathetic pub is a few Georgian terraces back from The Milestone close to a blue plaque celebrating the long-time residence of poet TS Eliot, definitely a ‘Cats’ man. The wood-panelled Builders Arms, dates back to the 1800s and has a genuine community feel, affordable food and terrific beer – plus free dog biscuits. 

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La Fromagerie, cheese heaven in Marylebone

An acclaimed artisan cheese store is a less obvious dog destination, but the original branch of Patricia Michaelson’s La Fromagerie off Marylebone High Street manages it, hosting candlelit suppers on Fridays and Saturdays, serving cheese (naturally) and charcuterie platters, raclette and even desserts. While there check the walk-in chilled cheese room (dogs not allowed!).

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It’s a pleasant evening leg stretch back for dog and owners, across Oxford Street and through Mayfair, to our second dog-friendly base, Dukes, a calming, ultra-luxurious hideaway deep in St James’s close to Green (perfect for walkies) Park.

Alas, Smidge isn’t allowed to accompany us into its bar, famed for the best Martini in London, but the hotel is hugely dog-friendly otherwise. Hence, when signing up for their Very Important Pets package and alerting them to Smidge’s indifference to proprietary dog food in favour of game and free range chicken, they had awaiting him a room service bowl of both, neatly cubed. He wolfed it, then gnawed his complimentary chew contentedly.

180318 Wiggy Dukes Foyer 180318 Dukes Guard, sadly, was too short, for us to take advantage of all the Dukes pooch perks on offer such as expertly recommended walking routes and a supply of clean-up bags, after which there’s a warm bath with special doggy shampoo available. Still he took ample advantage of a dog bed so comfortable we could have curled up on it. 

The an early morning walkies in Green Park pre-breakfast and pre-tourists with the spring sun out. How could a metropolitan dog do better?

A Doggy Ramble down Bermondsey Street

GO to Holly & Lil, handmade designer dog collar makers in Bermondsey, and pick up their “Who Let’s The Dogs’ In leaflet and map, even if you don’t succumb to their beautifully made range of doggy accessories. We did – a Frida Kahlo mug with chihuahua features but, hey, we were on a dog-friendly hol in the capital’s dog-friendliest zone. Also among its hippest. Think Bermondsey Beer Mile and the Maltby Street Market, the artisan alternative to the weekend tourist trap nearby Borough Market has become.

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Holly & Lil’s leaflet details 38 venues and shops also Bermondsey Street where dogs are welcome, including Jose Pizarro’s acclaimed eponymous Spanish restaurant at 194 and his Jose tapas bar at 104, opposite Holly & Lil’s and diminutive French bistro Casse-Croûte, which made the 2018 Observer Food Monthly ‘Everything We Love In Food Now’ Top 50 along with its recent spin-off Pique-Nique. With C-C rammed on Saturday lunchtime owner Hervé pointed us to that converted mock Tudor outhouse behind the tennis courts in adjacent Tanner Park. 

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At 30 plus covers this is hardly huge, but is a light-filled homage to French food, where you can even order a whole £41 tasting menu based on a Bresse chicken. We shared a marvellous Rasteau red from the Southern Rhone and a saddle of lamb, chunks of which we fed with a chilled chihuahua sitting by us.

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We walked off lunch with a visit to Maltby Street Market on the Ropewalk, SE1 3PA, small scale but full of street food interest every weekend. Smidge settled for the afternoon in Hiver Beers, which brews using honey from a three mile radius, including prime material the Bermondsey Street Bees hives on Holly & Lil’s rooftop. It’s not just dogs that Bermondsey takes care of.

Fact file

Red Carnation is a remarkable five star boutique hotel chain with addresses in Kensington and Knightsbridge (see below) as well as overseas.

The Milestone Hotel & Residences, 1 Kensington Court, London, W8 5DL. 020 7917 1000. Book via 44 deluxe guest rooms, 12 luxury suites, and six long-stay apartments. Double rooms start from £340 per night, including a £50 restaurant credit, a welcome drink on arrival, Wi-Fi internet, and access to the gym and resistance pool.

The Egerton House Hotel, 17-19 Egerton Terrace, London, SW3 2BX. 020 7589 2412. 28 rooms. Book via The Egerton House Hotel’s Afternoon Tea costs £40 per person;.The Doggy Afternoon Teacosts £18 per dog. Booking is advised for both.

Dukes London, 35 St James’s Place, London SW1A 1NY, 020 7491 4840. Book via Nightly rates in a Dukes room start from £320 inclusive of VAT and full English breakfast. Their comprehensive VIP (Very Important Pups) package starts from £25 per night per dog and offers two pet gourmet meals a day, grooming and a personal shopper for treats and toys, with dog walking and sitting available at a charge. Maximum dog weight of 24kg accepted.

M Victoria Street, Zig Zag Building, 74 Victoria St, London SW1E 6SQ. 020 3327 7776. 

Andrew Edmunds, 46 Lexington Street, WF1 0LP. 020 7437 5708. .

Duck & Rice, 90 Berwick Street, Soho, London, W1F 0QE. 020 3327 7888.

La Fromagerie, 2-6 Moxon Street, Marylebone, London, W1U 4EW. 020 7935 0341. Other branches in Highbury and Bloomsbury. 

The Builder’s Arms, 1 Kensington Court Place, London, W8 5BJ. 020 7937 6213. 

Pique-Nique, Tanner Street, London, SE1 3LD. 020 7403 9549. 

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