‘Effortless Charisma’: Brown’s Hotel, London – Review
Discreet decadence in London’s oldest hotel
Opened in 1827, Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair has hosted everyone from Rudyard Kipling to King Charles. Today, its flamboyant décor, impeccable service and destination cocktail bar sustain it as one of the capital’s most distinguished addresses, says Siobhan Grogan.
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Review: Brown’s Hotel, Mayfair
Whether you’re shopping or sightseeing, there’s no better location in London. Spread over 11 Georgian townhouses, Brown’s Hotel has Mayfair’s swishest boutiques on its doorstep, with Regent Street a few minutes’ stroll away. Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park and Piccadilly are all within walking distance, although – naturally – there’s a chauffeured hotel Bentley if you’re really overloaded with shopping bags.
Beyond the top-hatted doormen, Brown’s feels more like an elegant private home than a five-star hotel. Instead of a vast impersonal lobby, there are mahogany panelled corridors, roaring fires, original stained-glass windows and a gin and tonic trolley at the check-in desk. Brown’s is in no way stuck in the past: there’s arty photography in the restaurant, ostentatious floral wallpaper throughout and splashes of vivid turquoise and bottle green which bring a quirky (and very British) charm to this historic London landmark. Better still, staff are warm and welcoming, offering genuine smiles and suggestions rather than brisk formality so you can really feel at home.
Rooms have the same contemporary good looks, all individually designed by hotelier and interior designer Olga Polizzi. They’re understated yet surprisingly cosy with statement headboards, strokable throws, velvet armchairs and a stash of classic novels, with bonus views over Albemarle Street and London’s rooftops.
Suites are even more impressive, with fireplaces in giant living rooms, minibars hidden behind antique chests and organic bathroom products by Irene Forte. Despite the no-expense-spared luxury, they still feel like somewhere you could curl up with a glass of wine and relax.
The whole of London is right there for the exploring. Try a boat ride down the Thames to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich for panoramic views across the city. Or head to the historic Borough Market to gorge on artisan street food. You could even simply while away an afternoon in the Victorian pubs of Shepherd Market, after a splurge in nearby Fortnum & Mason. If you fancy something a little more invigorating than flexing your credit card, Brown’s includes specially designed jogging maps in every room, which are a great way to explore the capital’s nearby parks.
Afterwards, you’ll have earned a trip to Brown’s small but perfectly formed spa in the hotel’s basement, which has a 24-hour gym and three tranquil treatment rooms where therapists use Irene Forte products made with fragrant Sicilian botanicals.
Expect old-school glamour at every turn. At breakfast, tea is reverentially poured into bone china from silver teapots, while the delicate pastries served during afternoon tea in the Drawing Room were once a favourite of Queen Victoria. The same room is believed to have inspired Agatha Christie’s ‘At Bertram’s Hotel’, although the children’s menu is Jungle Book themed in honour of former guest, Rudyard Kipling, who wrote his famous book here. Kids can feast on jam sandwiches, chocolate lollipops and animal-shaped cookies while you savour champagne and warm, buttery scones.
A cocktail in the Donovan Bar is also a must. Named for photographer Terence Donovan and lined with some of his classic 1960s prints, the bar serves drinks designed by Salvatore Calabrese, one of the world’s leading bartenders and former President of the United Kingdom Bartender’s Guild. Several cocktails are inspired by former guests – including AA Milne, Kingsley Amis, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Winston Churchill – although we’d recommend the delicious Breakfast Martini made with Bombay Sapphire gin, Cointreau, lemon juice and orange marmalade.
Afterwards, nip next door to Charlie’s restaurant, where Michelin-starred chef Adam Byatt serves contemporary British dishes – including a daily roast – in one of London’s most beautiful dining rooms. On Sundays, Charlie’s even hosts jazz evenings where a live band plays swing and funk while you dine. For something more informal, the Drawing Room next door offers an all-day menu of salads, pasta and sharing plates, including a finger-licking tempura squid and the ultimate fried chicken.
THE FINAL WORD
A sophisticated but intimate retreat from London’s busy streets, Brown’s is a haven of unexpectedly extravagant décor, surprisingly comforting fine dining and some of the best cocktails in the capital. There’s simply no other hotel in London that can match either its fascinating history or its sheer, effortless charisma.
Executive rooms at Brown’s start from £750 per night and junior suites rates start at £1150 during low season. During high season, executive rooms start from £950 per night and junior suites from £1350 per night, all B&B. roccofortehotels.com
Find out more about the hotel’s sustainability initiatives here.
Featured image: The front hall at Brown’s Hotel, Mayfair (photo by Janos Grapow).
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