Luxury Hotels

Back at Brown’s, that quintessentially English luxury hotel

The drawing room is business meetings morphing into afternoon teas

Brown’s Hotel London is what one could call the epitomal English luxury hotel, with no arrogance and a lot of understatement. It is not even on a main street: its front and rear entrances are on two side roads at right angles to Piccadilly – it started, in fact, as two establishments, Brown’s on Dover Street and St George’s, on Albemarle Street. Go in to what is now one, 117-room, hotel and you are in a theatre of polished wood and glass, and tiles and lots of fresh flowers, says the gal. Go past the drawing room and, day long, local business people are holding meetings here, and, from noon on, the afternoon tea crowd takes over.

Outside of door 218

Generously, they now give you two hours for tea, and as well as the usual goodies on a curate’s stand (delicate crust-free sandwiches, scones and things like that), you choose pastries from a trolley. I did not do tea: I went up to 218, a really lovely suite designed, as with all Rocco Forte hotels, by Olga Polizzi, and I wished I had time to read some of the books, especially the William Shawcross biography of The Queen Mother. I was sidelined by reading an additional room service menu, with health dishes by nutritionalist Madeline Shaw, author of Ready Steady Glow, and then I had a session in the gym, where they thoughtfully offer coconut water and bottled green tea as well as water.

Dover sole, deftly de-boned

I DID do lunch, in Hix, by Mark Hix, and thank goodness we had a reservation, it was full – the draw is the very-English ambience, with modern art by the likes of Tracey Emin, plus the really attentive service, and the food. What better to choose, I thought, than home-smoked salmon, and a Dover sole, which I had chargrilled rather than pan-fried. They had a rib roast on the trolley that day, and as it was wheeled past I thought wow, to make an impact every restaurant should get one of those trolleys, with a bulbous shiny silver top big enough to have a whole roast hog underneath.

Stuart Johnson, enroute to Shanghai

This addictive luxury hotel has been run for the last ten years by Stuart Johnson, as English as the establishment. Our lunch was the proverbial equivalent of a ‘last supper’ as now he has already handed the reins over (to an Italian, Marco Novella): Mr J is on his way, to Shanghai. He is going to open Sir Rocco Forte’s forthcoming hotel, as yet un-named, on the top of a 52-floor tower being built on the West Bund, near the new cruise terminal. Undoubtedly the talented Olga Polizzi – who happens to be Mrs William Shawcross, by the way – will work her design magic there, with a Sino touch. If you want to see what my suite at Brown’s looks like, see the video below.

 

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Luxury Hotels

Yet another divine new-luxury PIG hotel

Local products are well labelled

Local products are well labelled

Luxury hotelier Robin Hutson, who progressed from running Chewton Glen Hampshire to starting the Hôtel du Vin group and, now, Lime Wood Group (owner of the brilliant PIGS hotels), said only this week that  “I prefer to grab a plate of breakfast not piled high with food, then might go up for more, and more again. It’s all down to the individual and their eating preference. Guests must eat what they want however they want to eat it.” The gal headed for yet another of his friendly-luxury properties, The PIG in the Wall, Southampton, to see if he means it. Look at the result, above and left.

The PIG in the Wall

The PIG in the Wall

Yes, as always with a PIG, there are local products, and lots of healthy things and boil-your-own eggs with timers that give you four-, five- and six-minute options. There is a big loaf of still-warm brown sourdough to slice, and toast (and, for health-sceptics, already-sliced white bread in an old-fashioned Hovis tin). As always, there are the PIG croissants, bought in company-wide frozen and cooked to Parisian perfection. But, I must admit, this pig is unique. The others in the family are converted English country house hotels. This one is a converted city-centre public house, the Latimer, literally built into the mediaeval walls of what, to my surprise, is a fascinating city.

A view of room seven

A view of room seven

You are within minutes’ walk of the quay, and cruise terminals, and the main rail station to London, and old Tudor houses and narrow centuries-old lanes as well as today’s city centre, with a big John Lewis store. No wonder this is a relaxing base for pre-cruise and weekend tourism as well as corporate. As always, designer Judy Hutson has done her magic. Room seven, one of 12, is all-over pale avocado, including the posts of the really comfortable bed. Flooring is old rail sleepers, apart from one end, multi-coloured linoleum tiles around the freestanding bathtub (I pampered myself with a Bramley grapefruit bubble bath).

The most divine lemon posset

The most divine lemon posset

And, as with all the PIGS, food is memorable. Since there is no outside vegetable garden here, plants are brought in: a strawberry plant in a terracotta flowerpot adorned my wood table in the bar. At dinner I sat next to a blazing big-log fire, looking across at dozens of named fledgling plants on one shelf of a Welsh dresser, with trays of eggs stored beneath, and logs neatly stacked below. I finished my supper – no ‘dinner’ in this relaxed hotel – with the most eulogistic lemon posset imaginable, with a pig-shaped shortbread biscuit, and a mound of no-sugar stewed blackcurrants. I could have had a glass of local Hambledon Hampshire sparking, or Bollinger, but I stuck with the luxury hotel group’s own-label The Pig Hut Côtes du Rhone M. Chapoutier 2014. On my way back up 17 stairs – more rail sleepers – to room seven, to bed, I noticed framed front pages of The Daily Telegraph, 23 November 1961, ‘Assassination of President Kennedy’, and 9 August 1974, ‘Resignation of President Nixon’. See what I mean about this being yet another memorable PIG?  NOW SEE A BREAKFAST VIDEO, BELOW

 

 

 

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Luxury Hotels

Sybaritic Single wonders if travel concierges can always be trusted

What the travel concierge had called a beautiful courtyard

What the travel concierge had called a beautiful courtyard

The Sybaritic Single makes most of his reservations through his travel concierge who has been looking after him very well for more than a decade. Whether it is Casablanca, New York or Ulan Baator, luxury hotels are always informed of the particular preferences and desires, even when in-room hairdryers in Panama need to be upgraded in advance of his arrival. However, it was one recent experience that left him wondering whether some hotels go a bit too far and a bit too blindly in attempt to accommodate all of the travel concierge benefits.

Enroute to Moscow, the Sybaritic Single made arrangements to stay in a deluxe room that promised “stunning views of Bolshoi Theatre, Neglinnaya Street or a beautiful courtyard”. Upon arrival, he was warmly welcomed, granted early check-in and a generous upgrade to a suite. Expectations grew as the Sybaritic Single went up to his rooftop suite.

Up there, the Sybaritic Single opened the curtains wide. A moment of silence followed as he absorbed the view of what was advertised as a “beautiful courtyard”. What opened in front of him was one of the worst and grotesque inner yard views he had seen in his life – the same picture both from the living room and his bedroom. Who would have imagined that such places even existed at the heart of the Russian capital?

Thankfully, it was only a night’s stay in Moscow and the Sybaritic Single did not have too much time to absorb the view. However, this experience prompted him to wish that hotels were more thoughtful when they look after their most important guests. In case of the Sybaritic Single, the original deluxe room with a great view would have been appreciated far more than a generous upgrade to a suite with a vista which eventually became the main memento of that luxury hotel.

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