Sitting among the Regency-style streets of Belgravia, with its historic crescents, stately cream-stucco mansions, and picturesque garden squares is where you will find the 5-star boutique hotel, The Hari.
Having first opened in 2016, led by Dr. Aron Harilela, Chairman and CEO of Harilela Hotels Ltd, this was the debut hotel to open under the ‘The Hari’ brand and is where the contemporary meets the classic. Conveniently close to London’s highlights, the surrounding area dons the upscale districts of Knightsbridge, Sloane Square, Green Park, St James’s Park, and Buckingham Palace, making it ideal for all of those who want a quintessential London to stay.
And cleverly, The Hari has tapped into the heritage and culture of its locale. Expect this regency glamour combined with an all-around contemporary approach to hospitality, from decor to sustainability and offerings. The result? Well, along with elegance and style in abundance, there’s also a warm familiarity on arrival with attentive staff and acute attention to detail. It’s a modern luxury for the modern guest and visitor.
This is consistent throughout the hotel, including its 85 rooms, 14 of which are luxury suites, and then there’s the cherry on the top, the 750 sqft Penthouse which has an enviable balcony that looks out to Hyde Park, Knightsbridge, and Belgravia. To ramp up the stylish, eclectic nature of the hotel, spaces are also studded with fine artwork by the likes of Tracey Emin and there’s a library of books that guests can borrow, adding to the cultural stance of The Hari.
For guests and locals alike, there are stylish F&B offerings in the form of the Italian il Pampero restaurant, led by Executive Chef Claudio Covino which is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There’s also the namesake bar, in ode to The Hari cocktail (owner Dr. Aron Harilela’s favorite drink), and The Garden Terrace which features an eclectic cocktail list, and is complete with a retractable roof, handy for British weather. After all those treats, if guests want to work out, the hotel features an on-site 24-hour fully equipped health and fitness center.
With all of this on offer, it comes as no surprise that the hotel has been ranked number one at the Tripadvisor’s Traveller’s Choice Awards 2021 within the UK Hotels category. And the driving force behind this? It’s their General Manager, Andrew Coney.
We meet the man who, with his resolve, has elevated the guest experience (no request is too big), overseen the opening of the hotel’s popular Italian restaurant, and internally, has supported staff wellbeing, all within 7 years. That’s no mean feat.
Tell us about your experience, your previous roles, and the expertise that you’ve brought to The Hari?
My first experience in hospitality was working for a lady who owned a small hotel in Cornwall, and I worked for her during the summer holidays while at school. She was so unconventional, it taught me that hospitality doesn’t have to be stiff. Before joining the team at The Hari, I worked as General Manager at Conrad London St James (then InterContinental London Westminster), Slaley Hall in Northumberland, and at the Cedar Court Grand Hotel and Spa, where I lead the opening of Yorkshire’s only five-star hotel in 2010. I began working at what was then Belgraves – a Thompson Hotel in the summer of 2014. In 2016 we decided to become independent and reflagged as The Hari, the name of our owner’s late father and as such a tribute to him. We have enjoyed a successful and rewarding journey on our own two feet including the opening of our popular Italian restaurant il Pampero.
What does your role as General Manager entail?
I lead a team of 80 fabulous people who have been through the most extraordinary year with no less than three closures of the hotel due to the government-required lockdowns. The best part of my job is the independence which fuels innovation and spontaneity in everything we do. Being able to empower every member of the team to do what they think is right for the guest brings huge rewards.
Can you tell us about The Hari and its USP?
We really take the time to know and understand each guest. Creating a “tailored” or “personalized” experience is a term completely overused these days – but we absolutely take it to the next level with elements of The Hari’s spontaneity. A textbook greeting will no longer do, especially within the luxury five-star market. I empower my team to always find a way to enhance each guest’s stay. Prior to guests’ arrival, we go through a process we call “positive stalking”, essentially, we do some research into the guest, whether on social media or a company website, for example – all public information! We then create an experience around their interests, hobbies, and passions or perhaps why they’ve come to London. This could be in the form of an in-room amenity, we’ve created theatres out of chocolate for guests who are staying and heading to the West End or finding out that one of the children in the family is a big Harry Potter fan and we’ve placed a wand in the room with a list of secret spells that each member of the team knew how to act out. If someone has arrived saying they have had a lousy day, see if you can get a glass of Champagne up to their room before they do. The creativity and the fun you can have around honing a very personal experience makes all the difference. We’re a boutique hotel, but one that takes it to another level.
What are the cornerstones of The Hari as a global brand?
We are a beacon of modern luxury with impeccable, humble, and spontaneous service. We like for our guests to discover and really get under the skin of the city they are visiting. We take pride in offering our guests the best possible experience, paying meticulous attention to every detail with ease, where no request is too big to too small.
What can we expect from a stay at The Hari?
Guests can expect a relaxing stay in plush accommodation in the center of London. With our alfresco Garden Terrace, fit with retractable roof, so perfect for any quintessential British weather, enjoy a cocktail or two by our talented bar team before popping downstairs to our authentic Italian restaurant, il Pampero. Under the direction of the new Head Chef, Matteo D’Elia, il Pampero offers traditional Italian dishes with modern cooking techniques. Expect sumptuous pasta parcels filled with creamy carbonara sauce, a Deceiving Pizza with a base layer of beef carpaccio, and Chef’s signature Tiramisù – I’ll leave that one as a surprise.
Who is The Hari customer?
I would say The Hari customer is sophisticated, well-read, and well-traveled. Always on the lookout for authentic opinions and unexpected travel tips, our guests are eager to experience the more hidden and curious side of travel. Whether they’re first-timers or frequent visitors, we adopt an open and personable attitude to all, we are always on a mission to determine our guest’s needs, moods, and interests, while never intruding.
The Hari is a part of the family-owned group, Harilela Hotels, how does that family element feed into the brand?
For us, it is all about the family atmosphere and creating a culture of service and hospitality where there is no request too small or large. The Hari as a brand was built as an ode to our owner, Dr. Aron Harilela’s late father who had set up our parent company, Harilela Hotels, 50 years ago and for this reason, family-style hospitality is ingrained in our DNA. Even behind the scenes, we are all happy to get stuck in, no matter the department!
What is it about the hospitality industry that you love?
Having originally wanted to pursue a career in acting, I saw that hospitality could be seen as a different type of stage, from the busy Front Desk agents to the waiters at the restaurant; there is always an act of showmanship. Even if you are operating at the very top level, you can still have a degree of mischief around you, and people rather like that. It is an inspiration that I have kept with me throughout each stage of my career, even while working at some of the larger more corporate hotels, but here at The Hari, we’re not afraid to have a bit of fun. I have been known to have two business cards, one stating General Manager and another, stating Chief Mischief Maker.
A career highlight is definitely reaching #1 in Tripadvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Awards 2021, quite an achievement and I am so proud of the team, considering the ups and downs of the past year. Next on the bucket list…perhaps visiting a giraffe sanctuary. After having supported the Born Free Foundation animal charity for some time, by hosting events and fundraising through the hotel, they invited me to visit a gorilla orphanage in Cameroon. I went from one day walking the hotel and welcoming our guests, to the next day meeting gorillas in close proximity and walking into a pit of four young chimpanzees, being used as a human climbing frame.
What are the future goals for The Hari?
2020 ended on a high with the opening in December of the second Hari Hotel in Hong Kong. I was fortunate to be involved in this project from its early days of construction and I am so pleased that Rory Slater and his remarkable team over there, despite all the obstacles of our current times, made it to the finishing line. I was due to fly out to support but of course, our own lockdown here in the UK and a three-week mandatory quarantine period (which in my instance would be like trapping a wasp in a glass) made it impossible. As and when in 2021 I look forward to seeing our sister property and experiencing the hotel’s already well-received Italian and Japanese restaurants.
Back in London, we will be launching a brand-new brunch concept as soon as we open. It will have a strong Italian twist and will hopefully be a huge breath of fresh air to everyone who just wants to get out and socialize once again.
Address: The Hari, 20 Chesham Place, Belgravia, London, SW1X 8HQ