Room Service: The London Edition
Saturday night fever comes to Fitzrovia
Saturday 28 September 2013
You might have noticed that Ian Schrager has opened a new hotel. In fact, the buzz around his latest project has reached fever pitch in its home town of London and beyond. "The king of clubs and hotels is back in town," proclaimed one review. "Schrager is upping the game," chimed another. The Brooklyn-born businessman – who masterminded Studio 54 in the Seventies and gave life to the "boutique hotel" concept in the Eighties – is back on Berners Street.
His first hotel, Morgans, on New York's Madison Avenue, spawned a mini chain that crept across the Pond when The Sanderson opened on this very Fitzrovia street in 2000. The Morgans stable – with hotels in New York, Miami, San Francisco and London – brought Schrager's nightclub background into the hotel setting, with bedrooms playing second fiddle to social spaces. Though Schrager sold the chain in 2005, his name remains synonymous with sleek style. So why, one might ask, has the disco king, daddy of designer hotels, teamed up with Marriott on his first venture in the capital for 13 years?
Apparently, it's all about "reach". Marriott's portfolio encompasses Ritz-Carlton, Renaissance and the Autograph Collection. With Edition, the company brings brand expertise to the table, while Schrager adds contemporary design know-how and pulling power. After an initial hiccup in Hawaii, when the building's owner ousted the first-ever Marriott Edition and rebranded the building as The Modern Honolulu, the second property launched in Istanbul in 2011. Now on a roll, outposts are confirmed for Miami, New York, Bangkok, Abu Dhabi and Hainan, China's well-heeled holiday hotspot.
The London Edition is a bit of a looker. On the street, doormen usher in a young, fashionable crowd beneath a doorway lit by rows of lightbulbs. Years before, the 19th-century building caught the attention of Schrager when he used to walk past it en route to his Sanderson hotel on the opposite side of the street. The building originally held five townhouses before it became the Berners Hotel in 1909 – it had a heritage that had been absent in Schrager's other hotels. Marriott purchased it in 2010 and a £33m makeover ensued.
Today, you enter the London Edition into a combined lobby-bar, with a soaring stuccoed ceiling strung with a stainless-steel orb by the German industrial designer Ingo Maurer. There's a roaring fire in one corner, a billiard table in another. Apple Macs and wingbacks abound.
To the right is the Berners Tavern, with the same lofty ceilings and 185 artworks rising up the walls. There's a landscape here, a still life there, all cast in mock-antique frames. The restaurateur behind it is Jason Atherton, whose flagship establishment is the Michelin-starred Pollen Street Social. A meal at Berners Tavern is a real occasion – whether dining on Orkney scallop ceviche (£12.50) and grass-fed Devon sirloin (£29) for dinner, or brunching on Forman & Son's smoked salmon and eggs (£9.50). There's also a Basement nightclub – nothing new for the Studio-54 founder but fresh territory for Marriott – and a Punch Room bar. The latter is themed on a private members' club, but it was so dimly lit that I could barely see. Still, the cocktails were good enough to bring on a bit of a Saturday night fever.
The hotel is in Fitzrovia, a short walk north of Oxford Street. It's equidistant from the Underground stations at Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road. To the south is Wardour Street, with innumerable bars and restaurants running into Soho. Carry on and you'll hit Theatreland. The British Museum is a short walk east and the chic shops of Marylebone Village wait to the west.
The 173 rooms act as an antidote to the hubbub downstairs. There are eight categories, spanning standard guestrooms to suites and a super-duper penthouse. The look is ski-cabin chic, all wood-panelled walls and faux-fur throws. It's certainly soothing, with caramel-coloured rugs, hanging orb lights and soft, inviting shades, but the Marriott branding does leave you with a slight headache. Want a London Edition notepad? Yours for £15! How about a London Edition candle? A steal at £50!
However, aside from the unfathomably narrow bathtub (best avoided after a trip to Berners Tavern), everything works as it should, with few irritating form-over-function niggles. Schrager's latest hotel, like the man himself, has grown up.
The London Edition, 10 Berners Street, London W1T 3NP (020-7781 0000; edition-hotels.marriott.com).
Doubles from £295, room only.
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