A Mayfair Moment
Brown’s Hotel is London’s oldest – so too its most unique and finest.
‘Be bold. Smile. Be characterful. Know who you are. Know where you’ve come from.’
They’re a set of words a dear grandmother once penned – surprisingly, they come to immediate mind in neatly framing Brown’s London, the city’s oldest hotel, also its finest.
Brown’s is the place one stays when ‘in’ on the capital — a nuanced, refined and layered experience.
Sure, London is cluttered with luxury hotels – a veritable LV trunk stuffed with the best names holding some of the best addresses. But many lack the unique charm and the ease, set within finery and against a deep history, that truly sets Brown’s apart.
Brown’s history is arguably well-worn in its telling – this being where Rudyard Kipling penned Jungle Book, Agathe Christie (so too the Queen mum) came to stay and Winston Churchill and Charles Dickens chose to drink.
To be honest, you could flood the front facing Albemarle Street with names grafted to the property’s history – Theodore Roosevelt, Oscar Wilde, Napoleon III, Arthur Conan Doyle, Alexander Graham Bell (who made the first British telephone call from Brown’s) and onwards.
The building stands somewhat unobtrusively on the aforementioned Mayfair street – easy to pass were it not for unfurled flags (Union Jack; St George’s Cross; Rocco Forte), more so the top-hatted doormen who spring into action on approach.
Into an oak panelled and tiled entrance, past Donovan’s Bar to the right and Charlie’s restaurant to the left and into a wonderous and welcoming reception ‘parlour’ that outs the dance between modernity and tradition that informs co-owner Olga Polizzi’s stunning 2019 hotel renovation.
A 1930s chandelier sits below a glass skylight, walls in floral wisteria (from artist Adam Ellis) stretching skyward, chairs in bold velvet adding to a setting that is stirring (and catnip to a travelling Instagram influencer).
The staff are attentive and engaged – able to parlay a brief history of the property while personally showing the way to a room.
Founded in in 1837 by James Brown, Lord Byron’s former valet, and his wife Sarah, today’s hotel is an amalgamation of 11 Georgian townhouses, offering 115 rooms and suites spread across an entire block — a rear entrance opening to well-known Dover Street.
Given its historic ways, corridors here are lengthy and meandering — far removed from cookie cutter modernity and oh so fun.
Of the rooms, aim for one of the three Forte Suites – Dover, Hellenic, Kipling. The latter is named for the author and is a flurry of pattern and colour, or, as the attached press guff espouses, ‘Mayfair’s finest residence’.
Whist offered as a one-bedroom, like so many rooms at Brown’s, configuration can be seamlessly and easily expanded to accommodate a second bedroom and bathroom (the original lined by Italian Arabescato marble and boasting freestanding bath, double shower, double washbasins) and which takes the wonderfully welcoming and light filled space – with direct nods to Kipling in the form of a monkey statue outside the main door and a framed handwritten letter from the author himself – to 160sqm.
Suites at Browns bring more than just a sumptuous play of style and space, with a heady list of inclusions that run from airport transfer (one way) to personalised concierge, welcome bottle of (decent) champagne, gratis mini-bar and the true wonder that is packing and unpacking services, among others. Breakfast, too, is another suite inclusion able to be taken in-room or downstairs at Charlie’s. Here the walls again abound in floral motifs and frond and colourful birds, the expansive room sharpened with further touches of colour as aligned to velour booth trim in teal alongside wood panelling. Many areas boast monochrome portraits of famous faces — former PM Margaret Thatcher rests atop Barry Humphries, the latter’s art dealer son Oscar said to be a Charlie’s regular — by the photographer John Swannell.
Of the morning menu – opt for colourful seasonal fruits, decadent avocado smash or what is a rich and memorable crab omelette (heavy on its delivery of said crustacean).
Charlie’s swings to cover dinner service with seasonal British menus that are also influenced by the continent and which generally cover fish and fine meats – each elevated by chef Adam Byatt.
Opposite Charlie’s sits the Drawing Room – a step into yesteryear and a heady lure for anyone wanting a wonderfully decadent take on British high tea across ‘traditional’ and ‘plant based’ menus, so too an incredible lengthy tea menu and some welcome stiffer options (hello Dom P 2012).
A further shuffle to the side and you’re into the grey, white and slick confines of The Donovan Bar –a standalone Mayfair institution in its own right and where the likes of Churchill and Dickens took their tipples and repose.
Named for the iconic ‘60s photographer and Mayfair local Terence Donovan (his work adorns the walls – think Michael Caine, Twiggy, Kingsley Amis) here cocktails are devised and overseen by the acclaimed Salvatore Calabrese (and make ours a Breakfast Martini).
Beyond all that Brown’s Hotel provides it delivers the capital on its doorstop. Mayfair is framed by London’s famed city parks (Hyde, Green, St James) and within walking distance of near all — from Buckingham Palace to Soho, Oxford Street, Piccadilly, West End, and beyond.
Opening to both Albemarle and Dover Streets, Brown’s offers direct access to art and fashion (think Dover Street Market, ACNE Studios, James Perse, more), with easy walkable access to the suited goodness of nearby Savile Row, and the luxury of Bond Street. Of the suburb’s diners and bars – we’re always happy to open the menus at Bacchanalia and COYA, so too the refined Japanese KOYN, with historical highlights including Isabels and La Gavroche.
Walk, discover, play. That’s what this area offers – so too one of the world’s few dedicated Bugatti dealerships. And once done meandering come home to Brown’s, a place of warmth, history and unmatched luxury charm.
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