Turn the corner into Albemarle Street in the heart of London’s Mayfair and you will spot a smart trio of flags ripping in the breeze. Welcome to Brown’s Hotel.
This quintessentially English retreat is made up of 11 Georgian townhouses and first opened doors way back in 1837. Prestigious location aside, over the years the hotel’s illustrious guests have included Queen Victoria (a particular fan of its afternoon tea), the author Agatha Christie, and Theodore Roosevelt. Plus, the first telephone call in the United Kingdom was made from Brown’s by its inventor Sir Alexander Graham Bell.
Today, the iconic destination is in safe hands as part of the hotelier Sir Rocco Forte’s renowned stable of luxury properties, welcoming a new generation of visitors to the capital with open arms.
WHAT TO PACK
Olga Polizzi, Sir Rocco’s sister, is in charge of all the interior design across the Rocco Forte group and has given Brown’s Hotel a new lease of life while taking care to respect its storied past. Throughout the hotel, stylish botanical wallpapers by Adam Ellis combine with eye-catching art and photography and traditional furniture to create a luxurious, modern feel that isn’t stuffy and doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Downstairs, you’ll find rich wood panelling, stained-glass windows and a roaring fire, plus glittering chandeliers and mosaic tiled floors that seem to nod to the Forte family’s Italian origins. Service is impeccable – everyone you meet from the top-hatted doormen to the sommelier are knowledgeable and passionate about the hotel and its history, and offer friendly smiles all round. The overall feeling is of a characterful home-away-from-home; regular visitor Winston Churchill summed it up well when he said, ‘When I come to London I do not stay in hotels, I go to Brown’s.’
No matter which category you choose to book at Brown’s Hotel, you will be welcomed into a light and spacious guestroom, with a sumptuous bed, marble-clad bathroom and plush Colefax and Fowler fabrics from the curtains to the armchairs. As well as a wardrobe, each comes complete with a desk and a bookcase filled with classic novels, fluffy white bathrobes and toiletries by another member of the family, Irene Forte. Then there are the signature rooms, including the 1,800 square-foot Kipling Suite, which feels more like a private apartment with its wonderful entrance hall, drawing room, bedroom and fabulous walk-in wardrobe. Rudyard Kipling wrote his most famous novel The Jungle Book while he was staying at the hotel and there is a letter from him confirming this framed up on the wall.
The latest exciting offering is the new Sir Paul Smith Suite, in which the beloved fashion designer has kitted out the room with his signature colourful stripes, a gallery wall of quirky prints, and pieces from the Paul Smith home collection including cushions and blankets. Further references to his flagship shop which is located just metres away from the hotel are dotted around, such as a Maharam headboard featuring a geometric pattern inspired by the building’s iron façade.
The Little Extras
As well as being within easy walking distance of London’s best shopping spots, including Bond Street and Regent Street, and popular sights like St James’s Park and the Palace of Westminster, the hotel is a stone’s throw from some of the most important art galleries and auction houses in London, including Gagosian, Phillips and Almine Rech. Guests can book an exclusive art tour through the concierge, where you will be led on a fascinating walk through the quiet corners of Mayfair by the charismatic art historian and gallery owner Maeve Doyle. The hotel has also partnered with Pashley Cycles and offers bespoke branded bikes for guest use, along with helpful maps of the area.
Afternoon tea in the Drawing Room is not to be missed, surrounded by original wood panelling, striking contemporary artworks and music from a live piano player. A special Coronation afternoon tea will launch on the 1st May and run until 31st August, inspired by King Charles III’s passion for gardening. There is also a 24-hour gym and a small but excellent spa – a tranquil haven away from the bustling city streets that offers treatments using the Irene Forte Skincare range made from natural, mineral-rich ingredients. The 90-minute Sicilian Earth & Sea Toning Treatment is the perfect way to unwind after a hard day’s sightseeing.
The Food + Drink
From breakfast to turn-down, the food offering at Brown’s is exceptional thanks to yet another member of the family, Lydia Forte, who acts as the group director of F&B. At the flagship restaurant Charlie’s (which gets its name from the late Lord Charles Forte) classic modern British food with a seasonal twist, combines with theatrical touches such as the gleaming trolley including options like rack of lamb, poached chicken and smoked salmon that are carved right next to your table. We love the cosy green velvet booths on each side of the room where you can settle in to sample an array of delicious dishes such as grilled halibut steak with bearnaise sauce, and roast venison saddle with red cabbage and apple sauce.
For a more casual dining experience or an evening tipple, snap up a table in the dimly-lit Donovan Bar, helmed by the world-famous mixology maestro Salvatore Calabrese who has 40 years of experience under his belt. It’s been named one of London’s best bars and for good reason – you’ll find playful cocktails in embellished glassware, hearty bar snacks such as spicy nduja, warm stracchino cheese and crunchy bread or tempura squid with spring onions and yuzu kosho, and a buzzy atmosphere of old-school glamour. Try the Breakfast Martini – a blend of Bombay Sapphire gin, Cointreau, lemon juice and orange marmalade. For a fun private party, book the Naughty Corner, adorned with black and white prints from the 1960s by the celebrated photographer Terence Donovan, after whom the bar is named.
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