Classic style with more than a little substance – why Browns should be top of your London mini-break
| 24th May 2019
There’s five star and then there’s proper five star and Brown’s in London, one of only two Rocco Forte hotels in the UK, is the latter. A beautiful, contemporary haven in the heart of Mayfair.
It has numerous claims to fame, including being the first hotel in England, made from a combination of those glorious town houses the capital boasts, bought and run by a butler from one of England’s grand houses, bringing a bit of Downtown to the masses (well not strictly the masses) when it opened in 1837.
Other claims are that Alexander Bell made the first ever phone call there (he said hello and the call was to the hotel GM), Agatha Christie wrote a few of her tomes and based the Betram’s novel on it, Winston Churchill and the Queen have stayed in numerous suites and the Carillion group still meets there. In fact, history seeps through the walls of Browns and boy if those walls could talk, but sadly the wonderful hotel staff are very discrete about modern day celebs and their foibles.
It is in the perfect location for those who want a London getaway and why wouldn’t you with a just over two-hour train journey from Manchester to the capital and great fare bargains to be had if you’re travelling off peak. My first-class ticket was just £40.
Rooms at Browns are from £450 and the stylish interiors are directed by Olga Polizzi, part of Forte family who works with designers to create contemporary, chic and just gorgeous spaces.
My suite had all of Olga’s hallmarks and was frankly sexy and sophisticated. Perfect for what we used to call a dirty weekend or just to pamper yourself. If you have little ones, they even provide toys for them and many bedrooms have adjoining rooms if you want privacy but need to be close. There’s also plenty of activities for them, including child-friendly pamper packages in the spa.
The beds are huge and like falling into a cloud, a mass of white sheets and pillows, the bathroom with a bath big enough to channel your inner movie star, was perfect for a soak and there’s a separate shower.
The sitting area, with all mod cons if you must catch up on work or just stretch out on the huge sofa for an afternoon chill soaking in the ambiance.
You could stay in your room but actually there is so much to do in Brown’s itself and each experience is so different.
We kicked off with afternoon tea, which was so wonderfully British. A pianist tinkled the ivories while we sunk into comfy sofas and started with champers, obviously.
It’s a delightful afternoon tea, the finger sandwiches, scones, cakes, pastries and tea menu, with the heavy silver teapots that that you have to have. You don’t have to be a resident to book it and it’s well worth the trip if you’re in the vicinity. They do a veggie version and vegan/gluten free etc ones are currently being developed.
In sharp contrast, the Donovan bar named after the famous photographer is as contemporary as it gets, in a cool, streetsmarts way with a Britpop soundtrack and a cocktail list originally created by Salvatore, who still overseas it.
We were in the naughty corner, it’s nicknamed that as some of Donovan’s more risqué but beautiful portraits hang on the walls. A wonderful snapshot of bygone glamourous eras and hard to keep your eyes off.
Cocktails are from £19 and I tried the Lady Elegance, a short drink but with a splash of fizz and lots and lots of vodka, just lovely, strident and delicious. My girlfriends all enjoyed similar tipples but theirs turned purple when stirred (I was a little jealous).
Again, you don’t have to be staying at Brown’s to use the bar and you can book a table or pop in on chance.
Beck at Brown’s, is the hotel restaurant and has the Olga Midas touch with a recent refurbishment that has opened the space out and created a wonderful room with its booths and almost fresco style wallpaper that creates a kind of inner garden.
The menu is Heinz Becks and is contemporary Italian, right up my street and very reasonable, especially when you consider the quality of this cooking. In fact, you can get a set menu of two courses for £25 on weekdays.
Highlights of the meal were basically everything I ordered. A carbonara is actually bite sized pasta pockets with the sauce inside where you bite into and giggle a little as the flavour bursts on the tongue. Veal was buttery and silky, delicious and cheeses, a perfect ending to the dinner for me.
You can have breakfast here if you’re a guest or in your room and again this was lovely, with everything from full fry ups to more health-conscious options.
Brown’s is almost like a mini resort with each venue having such a different feel that you feel as though you’ve been on a proper break without leaving the hotel and has everything you would want on hand, including a spa.
And it’s the perfect place to set up home if you’re shopping, Tiffany’s is opposite, Self Portrait, the new ‘it’ boutique to your right, Bond Street and other high brow shopping streets a mere hop and a skip away.
There’s also some beautiful one-off places such as the gorgeous Ormonde Jayne perfumery where you can pick up wonderful unisex perfumes, candles and diffusers. They do a perfect perfume hour for two people, where they will take you through how they make such wonderful scents and find out what suits you best so you can select the perfume or candles that are literally made for you.
In fact, they will even engrave your name or initial on the top of perfume clasp, a great present, experience or something to keep for yourself.
Our whole weekend was just delightful, and Brown’s made it one that will stay in the memory bank for a very long time.
To book and for further information click here.