There is a Bentley in London – a hotel, says the gal. It was Kempinski for a time but has now lapsed into anonymity. As far as luxury hotels are concerned, what else is there with an immediate automobile association? Why not a Ferrari hotel, a Lamborghini hotel, a Maserati or a Rolls-Royce? Ah ha. Look at the lines of this Talbot Lago, named for Charles Chetwynd-Talbot, 20th Earl of Shrewsbury, who, in 1903 – coincidentally the same year that Mr Rolls first met Mr Royce – joined with Adolphe Clément-Bayard to found the Talbot marque. This ran, with a hiatus between 1960 to 1978, right through to 1994. A Talbot was the first car to travel 100 miles in an hour, in 1913.
Enter entrepreneur Basil Kromelow, who in 1965 took over a somewhat dubious apartment hotel – for which read ‘ladies of the night’ or what you will – on Chicago‘s East Delaware, two blocks from ‘Miracle Mile‘ Michigan and its great shopping. He saw a Talbot in a vintage catalogue and as part of the repositioning of the property he called the 16-floor building after the car, though at some point an extra T was added. This is Talbott Hotel, sic, and very cosy it is too. There are lots of repeat guests who like the family atmosphere. When he is in town, Basil Kromelow is in and out four times a day, chatting to his long-time GM, Troy Strand.
They have been managing the hotel, and marketing the hotel – they have been through consortia and have recently pulled out of their last affiliation. With only 149 rooms they can rely on regulars, who love the antiques and the friendly staff. Social media pulls in first timers via words like ‘friendly’ and ‘cosy’ and ‘unbranded’. I appreciated being able to jog down, or is it up?, to the beach, only ten minutes away, beyond The Drake. Even less distance away, on Michigan itself, is a massive Bloomingdales complex that includes an enormous Equinox gym. The hotel gives you a pass and you therefore have free access to really serious LifeFitness equipment. Honestly, five minutes on a StairMaster and you can feel yourself, or at least your legs, turning into Elle Macpherson.
Then comes flexibility. This is a luxury hotel that has outsourced all its dining to a Mexican company called Mercadito. The many Chicagoans who live in the hundreds of residential blocks around love it. Breakfast is interesting. The laminated menu’s offerings include three omelettes. Which one you want? I do not want chorizo, or ham-and-cheese, or egg-white, all with a veritable shopping basket of added proteins and vegetable sides. But you know what (Donald Trump, please listen) these Mexicans are the ones with flexibility. I get my omelette, light and fluffy and Girlahead plain, brought me by the chef, personally. I smile as I walk past antiques and orchids to the hotel’s front door, thinking that many touchpoints bring happy guests back, again and again. But what will happen now? It was announced last Friday that Basil Kromelow is selling the Talbott, to two local real estate firms. Perhaps Mr K will be able to cycle more and more, or perhaps he will buy a vintage Talbot.