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Written by root. Posted in FEATURES

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Published on September 02, 2016 with No Comments

Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair is as English as it can get, but with a contemporary twist.

Words ANIS RAMLI
Images ROCCO FORTE HOTELS

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Had it not been for the telltale trace of turpentine wafting through the air as the elevator doors open to the first floor, no one would have guessed that a massive renovation work was underway at one of the most important suites at Brown’s Hotel – the Kipling Suite. Workers in white overcoats, pockmarked with paint, their faces covered with masks, walk with measured precision as they navigate the room that, while it measures 190 sqm, is now a narrow maze of bunched up bespoke furniture and antique furnishings.

One worker had his attention on the ceiling, applying plaster to enhance the antique Alabaster chandelier. Another was busily polishing the new oak floors. And while the two-bedroom suite doesn’t quite reflect its massive size presently, one can tell that everyone was eager to get the works done sooner rather than later.

All these efforts – which were unveiled in April – was more than just to honour the celebrated British author who was thought to have penned The Jungle Book at Brown’s (his handwritten letter on Brown’s writing paper is framed and takes pride of place at the suite’s entrance lobby). The attention to detail, the classy mix of old and new – they are all a reaffirmation of Brown’s Director of Design’s, Olga Polizzi, ethos in creating a home-away-from home feel for the hotel while never letting its history slip away.

Located in the heart of London’s most Royal district, Mayfair, guests will never find a more prestigious address than Brown’s, with key shopping streets such as Bond Street and Regent Street within walking distance, as well as the major theatres. Brown’s Hotel is also part of the Rocco Forte family of luxury hotels, each tailored to the city it’s in – from dining to service to design – creating a unique blueprint that guests will remember for a long time.

Kipling was just one among a long list of distinguished guests that have stayed at the hotel. Another frequent visitor was Agatha Christie, who referenced the hotel in her book At Bertram’s Hotel. Alexander Graham Bell made his first test phone call in the UK from the hotel to the then general manager’s home, Henry Ford. And yes, you would be right to guess that this was the same Ford that gave the world its first car. Theodore Roosevelt, who would later become the 26th US President, stayed at Brown’s in 1886 and walked to his wedding from here.

Brown’s also became the official court of the Greek Royal family when, in 1924, King George II of Hellenes went into exile as Greece became a republic. Incidentally, the Hellenic Suite, named in his honour – a combination of a large living room and separate sleeping area – has a comfortable yet elegant loft feel to it, making long-term stays ideal. The angora throws are there not just for props, but placed purposefully; as are the books with classic titles (think Kipling, Dickens and P.G. Wodehouse) that make for easy reading.

Perhaps it is this classy contemporary interpretation of a classic historical hotel that has endeared Brown’s to many of today’s guests. The hotel itself is a glorious amalgamation of 11 Georgian townhouses, expanded throughout the years from just a one-house hotel back in 1837. So while Steven the doorman may look like a character straight off a Jane Austen novel, in his handsome tailcoat and Beaver hat, the look comes together as it gives guests the sense of place that they are in London and this is England.

Just like the interior design of the rooms and suites, guests experiences are very much ensconced in the best of British and local hospitality. Those who stay in the top suites – the Kipling, Dover or Hellenic Suites – have the privilege of the staff help in arranging say, a personal tour of the Paul Smith boutique on Albemarle Street or an appointment with the manager at Peter Harrington Rare Books on Dover Street. Other nice touches include complimentary garment pressing, packing and unpacking service, a one-way airport transfer and a treatment at their spa.

The spa though small, with only three treatment rooms, nonetheless succeeds at providing an intimate service. At the forefront of its treatments is the Rocco Forte Rituals using Forte Organics, the company’s new branded bio-cosmetic line. Made in Italy by Effegi Lab, the products feature organic, natural and active Sicilian ingredients – many of which have been hand-picked from Brown’s sister resort, Verdura in Sicily. The Back Ritual treatment is a further example of how Brown’s continue to focus on authentic experiences while remaining true to the traditional essence of relaxation. The treatment begins with a foot soak, then you lie down to receive an apricot back scrub to smooth the back, before a rich herbal compress cream is applied and the treatment finishes off with a luxurious back massage.

Of course, no stay at Brown’s would be complete without sampling its legendary Afternoon Tea at The English Tea Room. Don’t risk being on the wait list, especially on the weekends, as every other Londoner and tourist will make a beeline for this fabled pastime. Settle into a vintage wingchair upholstered in bright-coloured fabrics and select from a list of 17 tea selection before tucking into an array of sandwiches, scones, cakes and pastries. The scones here are baked to perfection, made even more divine paired with real Cornish clotted cream – so thick, it tastes almost like ice cream!

Back in the Kipling Suite, there is a sense that the past and present have come together. And this is where Brown’s shines best: celebrating English culture and design while embracing its history to forge forward.

Royal Brunei Airlines flies London daily via Dubai.

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