Food & Wine Luxury Hotels

London’s Albemarle Street is anchored by a stylish luxury hotel and its new restaurant

Albemarle Street is fast becoming one of the chic villages of London and it is so convenient – a few steps from Piccadilly and its many buses, and about five minutes’ walk from Green Park Station, on the Piccadilly Line underground direct to and from London Heathrow. From Albemarle Street, you can easily walk to Buckingham Palace, and Green Park and St James’s Park, and the Royal Academy.

Albemarle Street also hosts one of London’s finest luxury hotels, Brown’s Hotel, part of Rocco Forte Hotels. Oh what a history this place has. Ever since it was opened in 1837 by Lord  Byron’s butler James Brown, it has hosted notables.   Rudyard Kipling finished his Jungle Book here in 1876 – see a letter he wrote, from the hotel, now framed in the fabulous two-bedroom Kipling Suite. Alexander Graham Bell made his first  phone call from here, all of four miles to J.J. Ford. In 1886 Teddy Roosevelt married his second wife, Edith Kermit Carow, while staying at the hotel.  FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt honeymooned here in 1905. King George II of Greece, uncle of the current King Constantine, lived here 1924-1935, and Agatha Christie based At Bertram’s Hotel on Brown’s.  There is so much history.

This may be a legacy hotel but boy is it up to date.  After a disaster with an Italian theme, Brown’s opened Charlie’s restaurant on 9th September 2019 and it was an instant success. Outside, in Albemarle Street, there are welcoming orange blinds. There is a street entrance, and go straight into a unique space, a classical room with columns and moulded ceilings but the hand-painted upper frieze, by Adam Ellis, is a lush garden, a cornucopia of Rousseau-type tropical leaves and floribunda. Down at ground level, the 100-seat space is semi-divided by a trellis screen, so one half can host private parties. Wall art includes the unique three-D cut-paper collage of London, by Kristjana Williams (it is shown above).  She has also designed the floral patterns on the menu covers at Charlie’s.

Charlie’s, named for the late Lord Forte, father of Sir Rocco Forte, is traditional English with a twist.  Tables have highly-starched white linens but bread rolls (homemade, warm ciabatta-meets-foccci rolls) come in olive-wood bowls. The menu offers gigantic roasts from gleaming-silver trolleys, and whole sides of Moxon’s smoked salmon also arrive, on trolleys, to be carved tableside.  Chef-Director Adam Byatt, a most charming gentleman who is likely to come out to say hello, is obviously having fun, with finesse. Try his starter of parallel purple sprouting broccolis wrapped in macadamia dressing, and dotted with toasted cashew nuts, and perhaps go on to Brown’s beef tartare, blended at the table, and served with light-as-feather chunky chips (fries). It being lunchtime, sadly we stuck to water but apparently the wine list is deliberately affordable.

This is a hotel that is not only family-owned but family-led. Sir Rocco’s sister, Olga Polizzi, oversees design. One of Sir Rocco’s daughters, Irene Forte, heads the Irene Forte Spa here, while her sister, Lydia, oversees food and drink.

All the 117 bedrooms are unique but pride of place must go to the Kipling Suite, and not only for its framed letter from the author.  Brown’s Hotel is a member of Leading, and GM is Stuart Johnson.