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Muddy stays: Brown’s Hotel, Mayfair

Elegant, oozing with history and slap-bang in central Mayfair - this impressive five star hotel is a dead cert for a special occasion stay in the Big Smoke.

THE LOCATION

Browns Hotel

With its white stuccoed exteriors and rarified position across Dover and Albermarle St, Brown’s Hotel strikes an elegant note amongst Mayfair’s surrounding galleries, jewellers and fashion boutiques. Brown’s has the accolade of being London’s first hotel, opened by Byron’s former butler James Brown in 1837 to “provide genteel accommodation for discerning people”. Originally a single building, various owners have added surrounding townhouses to it over time to create what sounds impossible to achieve on paper – a simultaneously grand but homely 5 star hotel.

THE VIBE

Browns Hotel front hall

Well, the mood is kind of set when you walk into the jaw-dropping reception, and hear the pop of a champagne cork with your name on it. May I say, nice touch?! The hotel has had a refurb by Olga Polizzi and the public rooms in particular are stunning – running with the more traditional elements of the hotel (oak panelling, high ceilings, elegant cornicing) but updating with modern art, extravagant ‘English garden’ murals and inventive flowers displays.

No surprise that the hotel plays hard on its history – Alexander Graham Bell made the first ever phone call in London from Brown’s, Rudyard Kipling wrote The Jungle Book during one of his many stays and there’s a roll call of royalty, presidents, rock stars and authors who have all opted for the hotel’s discreet charms.

This isn’t the kind of place to let your children run amok, but I’d say definitely describe it as relaxed luxury – I had no qualms, for example, about ambling down for breakfast in my walkabout gear.

SCOFF & QUAFF

First stop: the Donovan Bar, grown-up, stylish and with its neon under-lighting and touches, a tiny bit louche – just the way I like it. There’s a Director of Mixology here (nope, not joking) and some seriously choke-on-your-martini prices – but what price art? Well, roughly £20 for a champagne gin cocktail with ice prism but it really was a beautiful thing to behold.

After cocktails, it was a sashay across the way to Charlie’s restaurant. The big calling card here is Adam Byatt, the Michelin-starred chef who runs Trinity in Clapham and acts as executive chef at Brown’s. It’s no secret that London’s restaurants and hotels have taken a hammering during the last 18 months (30% occupancy is still regarded as strong right now) so I wasn’t expecting many other diners on my Thursday night stay. But actually, there was a buzz in the restaurant – and I can show you why right here:

Salad of Cornish lobster, crab and heirloom tomatoes £20
Pan fried sea bream with dressed tomatoes, saffron risotto £29
Amalfi lemon tart with hibiscus syllabub £12

Presentation, service, and exquisite course after course – it was hard to fault it actually, and the pricing is incredible value, particularly for Mayfair. Also worth knowing that if you’re in London for work or pleasure in the week, there’s a three course set lunch for just £30. Can’t vouch for how busy it will be at lunchtime – at those prices you might not care.

STAY

Belying its apparent intimacy and townhouse vibe, there are actually 33 suites and 83 hotel rooms at Brown’s. Biggest bragging rights are at hand if you plum for the Kipling Suite (above), and the room where Rudyard created Mogli magic – hence the framed handwritten letter from the author and other ‘jungly’ references. It’s a lovely, airy light space with huge sitting room, king size bedroom and marble bathroom and views out onto Albermarle St.

Alas, last time I looked I wasn’t royalty, a rock star or even a famous author so instead I can tell you about the Studio Suite (above) I stayed in – still not too shabby, with walk in closet, two bathrooms (in case I got bored with one), and double aspect views across the rooftops of Mayfair. I wasn’t mad keen on the decor as I’m no fan of lime or aqua in a bedroom and it felt a bit on the traditional side for my taste, but I couldn’t fault the comfort or service. Worth knowing that if you book a suite you’ll get welcome drinks, complimentary spa treatments and personalised concierge services.

Ordinarily prices for accommodation are on the fruity side (think £600+) but until the end of September there’s a fantastic overnight experience with overnight accommodation in an Executive King room, bottle of Champagne to quaff upon arrival, three-course set dinner at Charlie’s (booze is your cost), breakfast for two the next morning, overnight parking if you’re coming from outside London, plus £15 credit to be used in the Donovan Bar as a little token in replacement of London’s congestion charge! Yours for £485 (VAT included), and £395 for additional nights.

 OUT AND ABOUT

Where you fancy heading? Round the corner to Green Park and down to Buckingham Palace (above) and beyond to St James’s Park and Westminster? Through Royal Arcade and over to Old Bond St, Savile Row and the Royal Academy? Or up through Piccadilly to Soho or the craziness of Oxford Street? So much you can do in London from this elegant spot. Still time to make use of our Summer London guide too – your personal Muddy concierge.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: What’s not to like? Good for anyone who loves luxury and enjoys British tradition with a soupçon of modern design. There’s an intimate, family feel to Brown’s that set its apart from bigger, faceless hotels.

Not for: Toddlers with sticky hands (the wallpaper’s far too lovely), although that said families are very welcome with a special programme for children including activities, a special library card and 24 hour babysitting available on request. Prices are not for the faint-hearted so take advantage of the summer offer now if you don’t want to dip into a stay knocking around £1000+.

Brown’s Hotel, 33 Albemarle St, London W1S 4BP. Tel: +44 20 7493 6020.

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