Hotel of the week: Brown's Hotel, Mayfair

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The Independent Travel

Where is it?

Where is it?

In the heart of London's Mayfair - 11 town houses turned into a hotel. Address: Albemarle Street, Mayfair, London W1X 4BP (tel: 020-7493 6020; fax: 020-7493 9381).

What's it like?

London's first five-star hotel retains period features from 1837, when it was established by James Brown, Lord Byron's valet, as a "genteel inn". Brown later bought the adjoining houses to create the ultimate country retreat in town, hence the saying, "I don't stay in a hotel, I stay at Brown's".

Queen Victoria met visiting dignitaries there, and most of Europe's royal families have laid their heads on its sumptuous pillows. Chamberlain, Churchill, Thatcher, oh yes, and Major have all been guests, plus an array of US presidents. Alexander Bell made the first successful telephone call there in 1876, Rudyard Kipling honeymooned there and finished The Jungle Book, while Agatha Christie, a regular, based At Bertram's Hotel on Brown's.

Ambience?

Peaceful. We feared it might be a bit stuffy, but didn't see one bow tie. The decor helps: wood panelling, carved pillars, Jacobean-style plasterwork, heavy drapes. Afternoon tea is a world-famous institution.

Service?

Deceptively laid-back.

Rooms?

A total of 118, with nine suites and a selection of family rooms. Plush with elegant furnishings. From £290 (weekend rate £199) up to £750 for the Royal Suite.

Food and drink?

A modern interpretation of classical French cuisine. We grazed gaily through the restaurant's £36, seven-course menu, sampling such dishes as roast Landes foie gras with mango, and tournedos Rossini, the inspiration of chef Andrew Turner. Lunch is available at £19 for two courses.

Awards?

1997: Good Food Guide's Restaurant of the Year and Best Wine by the Glass; Decanter's Wine List of the Year; Harpers & Queen's Award for Best Wine List. 1999: Mondavi Award for the best wines by the glass in the world.

Clientele

American and Continental visitors, plus conferences. Lots of T-shirts and slacks, which the surroundings manage to make look smart.

Things to do

Bond Street, Burlington Arcade and St James's, the Royal Academy and theatreland are all on your doorstep.

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