There are plenty of good reasons for wanting to visit London right now. But to discover all the amazing things it has to offer – its vibrant art scene, fashion, culture and food – you need to be in the thick of it and Brown’s Hotel which sits proudly in the heart of Mayfair is the place to be.
This is a hotel of firsts. It was the first hotel to open in London in 1837. It also boasts the first successful telephone call made in Britain by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876. And both Agatha Christie and Rudyard Kipling were so inspired that they penned many of their novels whilst staying here. And who knew it had two entrances; one on Dover Street, the other on Albemarle Street, adding another element of intrigue.
Recently redesigned by Olga Polizzi, Director of Design for Rocco Forte Hotels, the group, which owns Brown’s, the interior has never looked better. The results are pure class – this is a five-star establishment after all – but there’s also a modern home-from-home quality about the rooms and suites thanks to a clever mix of antiques and contemporary furnishings. The colour palette includes shades of orange, peppercorn red and lime, while the British artworks, which hang in every room, add a further pop of colour.
The beds are supremely comfortable and the service is impeccable – the staff, especially the cheery doormen, can’t do enough for you. What’s more, the atmosphere feels just right – warm and inviting throughout.
If like me, you arrive late on a Saturday afternoon, weary from a long day travelling then your first stop has to be the Browns’ Hotel Spa. I opted for the ‘Spiezia Head in Heaven Treatment’. It involves 75 minutes of back, shoulder, head and face massage with the Spiezia brand of aromatherapy oils. These are a hundred percent organic, handmade in Cornwall and good enough to eat, so my beauty therapist Kelly-Ann informed me.
I know what she means but I’d rather savour the house cocktails in the fashionable Donovan Bar. Named after Terrance Donovan the celebrated British photographer, it is a great place to meet friends. We tried one of the house specialities; The Balvenie Spey Trip. This whisky-based tipple made with rare single malt Balvenie Scotch, is served in a chunky glass tumbler recycled from one of its whisky bottles. The serving block it arrives on once formed part of the original oak cask.
There are world-class eateries in the vicinity too; Hakkasan, Cecconis, Scott’s… but you may just want to enjoy the comfort of your room and order in from the HIX Mayfair restaurant located on the ground floor.
Founded by gastro king, Mark Hix, the eatery specialises in the finest quality British ingredients including, Morecambe Bay shrimps and Aberdeenshire beef and the room service menu has a great selection of light bites to chose from.
In the morning speak to the Concierge Edmund Conway or Amr Fadl on how best to plan your day. If you are a keen runner ask for the Browns jogging map, which illustrates routes around Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Green Park and St James Park.
All that exertion will make you appreciate the breakfast/brunch at Hix even more. Highlights include the Orkney kippers with lemon butter and the Kedgeree, which are both out of this world.
A good long-weekend agenda in Mayfair is to immerse yourself in the art scene or go shopping. Step out onto Dover Street and head for the aforementioned Dover Street Market. Just a few doors down is Wolf and Badger, an independent boutique, which stocks new labels with a crafty edge.
A visit to Victoria Beckham’s new flagship located at number 36 is an absolute must. Stark and sleek it has the feel of a contemporary art gallery, complete with seating benches where you can pause and admire the clothes, which hang like works of art on zigzag-shaped rails.
Meanwhile Albemarle Street houses more stylish gems such as Amanda Wakeley, Paul Smith and British luxury leather goods brand Globe-Trotter. The latter has an array of handmade luggage should you need to upgrade your travel essentials before heading home.
Time for some culture? There are plenty of private and independent galleries closer to Brown’s such as the Albemarle Gallery on Albemarle Street. It specialises in painting and sculpture from international and UK based artists. Founding director, Tony Pontone, also gives guided tours of the capital’s leading galleries to guests staying at Brown’s. Meanwhile the Frieze Art Fair (October 15-18) is the place to spot new talent and even bag a good investment from its temporary home in Regents Park.
Finally on a sunny autumnal day, Hyde Park is ideal to stroll in or if you are game, why not take a pedalo out on the Serpentine? It might sound corny but it is great fun. You could of course head back to the modern, yet cosy tearoom at Brown’s Hotel, where a glass of R de Ruinart Champagne and some freshly baked scones are the order of the day.
For further information: www.brownshotel.com
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