Rosewood, London: A new hotel that puts 'Midtown' on the map
Lisa Markwell is the editor of The Independent on Sunday. She was previously executive editor of The Independent, i and The Independent on Sunday and has edited the features pages, and both the Saturday and Sunday supplements. She writes comment pieces for the papers and restaurant reviews for the New Review. Lisa has worked across a variety of newspapers and magazines and can now tick off every publication cycle from daily to quarterly. She is an enthusiastic foodie, mother of two teenagers and drives an electric car. She is writing a book about adoption.
Saturday 23 November 2013
The practice of "rebranding" areas in order to hike up prices (so beloved of estate agents, restaurateurs and hotel groups) can be infuriating. But talk of the rather anonymous pocket of London between the West End and the City becoming "Midtown" does make sense. (It's just a shame that Boris Johnson was the one to coin it.)
Until the term catches on, what we know as Holborn is a brilliant location for a hotel – and the Rosewood group spotted this gap. The ultra-luxury brand last month plugged it with a very stylish destination hotel – the site was, until 2011, a Marriott, but after an £85m refit you'd never know it. In fact, the opulent public rooms look back to the building's Belle Époque past rather than its more recent incarnation. Built in 1914, it has an astonishingly beautiful seven- storey marble staircase and a private courtyard entrance, off the bustle of the street. (Yes, all right, it was the HQ of the unglamorous-sounding Pearl Assurance Company, but they knew how to make a statement in those days).
Once past the carriageway and into the hotel, it's a visual box of chocolates. To the left, a banking hall has become the Mirror Room which – until the more swish Holborn Dining Room opens next spring – is the main restaurant for residents. It is airy and casual, with low-slung chairs that are fatal after a drink or two. At breakfast, side rooms are where a chef knocks up scrambled eggs or where you find a tantalising variety of pastries, cheeses and cold meats. The juice comes in silver goblets, for goodness sake!
Turn right and find the bar. Once there you may never want to leave. Beside a roaring fire, you can have a cocktail and a curry or casserole. This alliterative combo is most alluring on wintry days and evenings. Add Kitty LaRoar and Nick of Time (a chic chanteuse and her pianist partner) to the mix, and shivering in a queue for a trendy no-reservations joint in Hoxton, loses any appeal.
In between the two, no corner is less than elegant. Near the lifts, vast cages house shimmering little birds, who cheep contentedly and (I hear) fly between cages when no one is looking. Those and the 4ft-wide floral arrangements that you want to bounce on like clouds make loitering in the lobby acceptable. There is truly something for every taste, but it doesn't look messy – perhaps that's down to the brisk, authoritative staff, led by Michael Bonsor (late of Claridge's).
This winter, visitors to London for a blowout shopping and theatre weekend will find Rosewood irresistible. Come spring, when the restaurant and delicatessen open, locals will flock through the doors, too. Looks like Midtown has arrived …
Rosewood is close to shopping central Oxford Street in one direction, and the buzzy food scene of Old Street in the other. The delightful British Museum is a stroll to the north, and Covent Garden and Theatreland are to the south. In other words, it's handy.
If your room overlooks the street, coming face to face across High Holborn with office workers might be a little unnerving, but once you've lowered the electronic blinds and pulled the thick felted curtains, you could be anywhere. Sink back on to a pick'n'mix array of fluffy white pillows and fire up the widescreen TV (the branding of which has been removed, a rather fabulous touch). For this guest, the only downside is the knowing certainty that going home to one's own bed will be a major disappointment.
In the bathroom, glorious Czech & Speake products and lighting that flatters to deceive. In fact, sexy lighting is a defining characteristic of the whole hotel. If one were in the mood to have a dalliance – or, as in my case, to have one night away from children pretending to be young, stylish and rich – this would be the place.
At its most dazzling, Rosewood contains the Grand Manor House Wing. To call this a suite would be like calling Buckingham Palace a house. The largest and grandest in Europe, it has its own postcode. If you know Beyoncé or Rihanna, let them know that here they can spread out over 6,100sq ft among groovy books and Hendrix photography, lounge in a 6ft diameter bath and visit their pals in the other six bedrooms. It's the most muted bling I've ever seen, which will appeal to megastars and royalty jaded by other luxe gaffs.
252 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EN (020 7781 8888; rosewood hotels.com/London)
Doubles start at £370, including breakfast and free Wi-Fi
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