The gal has never wanted to live in a country pile (a rural stately home, in English parlance), or an urban palace, or on the set of Downton Abbey – but you can achieve all this, simultaneously, by staying at London’s newest luxury hotel, Rosewood London. A handwritten welcome note from GM Matthias Roeke waited on the silver salver just inside the bedroom door. It said ‘it’s a pleasure to have you with us! Enjoy, discover and feel free to ask for anything’. You feel at home, straight away.
It was not built as a home, this 360-room abode. In 1914 it opened as the headquarters of Pearl Assurance. The lucky workers here had a six-floor stone building in square formation, around a central courtyard. Today, the hotel’s Jaguar, WiFi-enabled of course, glides in to this courtyard, just off High Holborn, and you are greeted by a doorman in hundred-year-old, Downton Abbey gear. You go in, to an outer lobby that runs across the main lobby. This outer lobby is rose-hued bronze, yes really. You know at once that the present owners, the Cheng family, have spent more than a small fortune renovating this, their London outpost.
Designer Tony Chi made his name with restaurants, then ‘modern Asia’, as at Park Hyatt Shanghai. Now he shows he can do ‘modern England’. The main lobby, one-floor high, is separated, by ceiling-high engraved glass bookshelves, into several comfy sitting areas. Ornaments around include sterling silver teasets and books, tomes of the calibre of Bradshaw’s Illustrated Hand Book to London and its Environs 1862, and Wabi-Sabi (the Japanese aesthetic beauty of things imperfect, impermanent and incomplete), by Leonard Koren. You know immediately that the key to Rosewood London is that word ‘aesthetic’.
Real songbirds in black wire cages tweet as you make your way to the elevators (aesthetic interiors, woven seagrass walls..). I took the original stairs, 165 in all, marble the whole way. The original marble is now assessed, apparently, at over £40 million, and is irreplaceable. I check out the gym, a well-equipped Technogym with Arke, and fruit, and return to my heaven, Holborn House, a one-bedroom suite, with Sartre as bedtime reading. There are clever things, in this ‘house’. The throw is Etro, as are the bathtowels, but they are label-free – Mr Roeke, it appears, believes aesthetes are beyond brands.
He believes in simplicity, easy-work light switches, televisions and showers (here, my all-marble wet room is large enough for half a rugby football team, but its integral bathtub only holds one). He believes in generosity. Wifi is instant-click, and free, as are Fentimans and Folkington’s drinks in the minibar, which is, in fact, a hospitality cupboard. Open its mirror-lined doors to find pull-out cold drawers, with pay-for Perrier-Jouëts and Kungfu Girl 2012 Riesling. Above are carafes of gin, sloe gin, vodka and whisky, ‘with our compliments’.
We just manage to find seats in Scarfe’s Bar, for one of its specialities, a Bubble & Shrubs (Sipsmith Gin, St Germain elderflower, homemade berry shrubs, orange bitters, bubbles – pair this with the hotel’s ‘fish and chips’, fish goujons with sweet pea emulsion). Do not miss this bar, it buzzes right through to 1am, with live music and quick-as-lightning dancer-type servers, in black own-clothes that make Fashion-TV look dated. Soon, wall cartoons are coming from Gerald Scarfe. Soon, too, there will be a Holborn Dining Room, with oysters – until then, the Mirror Room (for obvious reasons…) has healthy beet salad, and lovely beef on the bone, and at breakfast its buffet tables, sic, include Marmite. Yes, this is aesthetic heaven, and I forgot to mention that this is the luxury hotel where, on returning to Holborn House, I found a cork-pulled bottle of Dme Serene Pinot Noir 2008 with a note, hand-written of course, from my butler Jose: please enjoy this wine, it was opened by myself at 20:00.