Brown’s, London – a Churchill-approved British institution.
Idon’t stay in a hotel – I stay at Brown’s.” Legend claims these to be the words of Winston Churchill, the wartime British PM who was often spied at Brown’s Hotel, generally in the bar, balancing cigars and drinks with heavy conversations. That heritage informs a key part of the appeal of London’s oldest hotel – history hangs from every corner of the converted 11 Georgian townhouses. It’s where Alexander Graham Bell made the first ever telephone call, Rudyard Kipling wrote The Jungle Book and Stephen King set up Misery (sitting at Kipling’s old desk). Eighteen years ago, it was also the location of a weekly drink for this former Soho barman. I’d nurse a solitary glass on each occasion – such was the need to stretch a cash-in-hand ‘salary’ – but it was worth it, knowing some of those who’d done so before, even if their conversations went further than thoughts of having to shortly board a night bus that doubled as a mobile drunk tank. To be here today as a guest is to feel that same heady excitement in an environment well removed from the elitism that pervades equally notable venues. The politeness that spills from the doorman’s pep to a receptionist pressing us to try the mulled wine (the stuff’s been brewing in its cinnamony goodness a while) gives way to a deluxe king room. The light and lengthy space has a large bed and lounge wrapped in neutral colours, with a bathroom bigger than most Mayfair bedsits. A stumble out of the back entrance leads to shopping at Dover Street Market and ACNE Studios. Bond Street’s luxury and Savile Row’s suiting are a minute away, as are some overpriced chutneys at historic department store Fortnum & Mason. From there, it’s a meander across Regent Street and into what’s now a gentrified Soho, with Palace Skateboards a necessary fashion excursion alongside hidden vintage sellers and boxes to peruse at Soul Jazz Records. While Soho, Fitzrovia, Marylebone and Mayfair offer all and anything when it comes to dining (the Brits have long ago ditched the deep fryer and Wimpy in favour of fresh fare), the inventive British menu at Brown’s inhouse restaurant, Hix, is hard to overlook. Renowned chef Mark Hix delivers seasonal seafood and local meats matched with an indulgent wine list. From there it’s a few steps to Donovan Bar. Aim for the ‘naughty corner’ – a booth over which hang Terence Donovan photos of scantily clad women and body parts – for a cocktail. Might we suggest the Churchill Martini? The tipple may just lead to another, some cigar chomping (on the back street, thanks) and an evening of conversation that likely won’t ever be quoted in print. 33 ALBEMARLE ST, MAYFAIR, LONDON; ROCCOFORTEHOTELS.COM/WELCOME-BROWNS
FROM TOP Brown’s Hotel was opened by Lord Byron’s butler in 1837; the hotel offers iphone city guides, from designer Paul Smith and supermodel David Gandy; contemporary artwork in Mark Hix’s restaurant.
FROM TOP The sitting room of the Kipling Suite, where author Rudyard Kipling is thought to have written The Jungle Book; a double shower and bath feature in the suite’s marble bathroom; the subtle jungle theme continues in the bedroom with Lewis & Wood wallpaper. Rooms from approx. $845 a night.