For a gloriously British staycation, we check in at the Rosewood London in the heart of England’s capital city.
The streets of London have their map, but our passions are uncharted,” wrote Virginia Woolf in Jacob’s Room. “What
are you going to meet if you turn this corner?”
Turning the corner from bustling High Holborn, huge doors at the end of a grand Edwardian courtyard lead into a glowing rose-bronze lobby interior. At this point, that glow seems almost biblical, an entrance into a warm, sumptuous enclave and respite from the chill outside.
The city had just emerged from its second lockdown when I stayed at the Rosewood London. Exchanging the pale four walls of my own North London apartment for the glorious seventh-floor Garden House was pure, priceless pleasure.
Inside this plush, sprawling apartment-like suite, mood lighting reflects off black lacquered wood and the warm, masculine tones of dark leather. Contemporary artwork hanging on walls complements vivid sculptures and ornaments. I take it all in while sinking into the velvet sofa in the expansive living space. A magnificent and characterful suite, perfect for a romantic weekend or entertaining friends, the Garden House’s amenities include a vast, private outdoor terrace and fireplace, a handsome and remarkable combination.
I’m wowed by the lavish Italian white-marble bathroom, with its hammered silver double sinks, a gorgeous tub perfect for a relaxing soak and a shower I could spend half the day in – then sink into that huge, perfect bed in the chambers adjacent to the private dressing room.
It’s not easy creating a space with such eclectic opulence, but the London Rosewood has managed it with charm. Layered with heritage, this imposing Grade-II-listed Edwardian building was once headquarters to the Pearl Assurance Company and it’s a far cry from the proliferation of cold, identikit hotels. Here, the distinctive, luxurious residential aesthetic includes a jaw-dropping, seven-storey, Rennaissance-style Italian-marble grand staircase. Objets d’art, jewel-box corners, rare antiques, rich stylish interiors and a dash of unmistakeable British wit make this one of my favourite city hotels to be sequestered in.
A must at the Rosewood London is supper in the Holborn Dining Room, a traditional British brasserie-style restaurant with red leather booths that’s also home to one of the city’s largest gin bars. The menu is a modern take on elevated British classics, with standouts that include an award-winning rare-breed-pork-and-white-pudding Scotch egg starter, gin-cured salmon and a spectacular baked lobster thermidor, which executive chef Calum Franklin puts his own twist on.
“It’s one of my favourites, as I’m not a big fan of putting things on a plate that you can’t eat,” says Franklin. “It’s almost always served in a lobster shell, but we encase it in pastry. We’re really proud of that dish.”
Another of Franklin’s specialities is rabbit and bacon en croute. “It’s a lot of work,” he says, “but it’s much appreciated, as it’s a technique that all of our chefs can do now – and which not that many people in the world are trained in.”
When it comes to the main affair, we tuck into a succulent 35-day-aged rib-eye steak and a flavoursome hand-raised-pork pie from the famous Pie Room, a concept dreamed up by Franklin after finding an ancient metal pie mould (operated by lock and key) in the building’s vault. The discovery sparked his current obsession for pastries and pies, which has taken the chef on a culinary history that spans centuries. A few years of research and experimentation has culminated in gorgeous recipes and one of last year’s most popular British cookbooks, The Pie Room.
Ingredients are sourced from the best of British, aided by Franklin’s huge list of suppliers compiled when he worked at a restaurant in Borough Market. “It was there that I met all these suppliers of amazing butter, and the most phenomenal artisanal baker from Cornwall. Most of our meat and fish comes from that part of the coast too,” Franklin explains. “And all our suppliers are usually doing just one specific item, such as leaf lard, the rare fat from just around the kidneys that just makes the most incredible pastries.”
The impassioned dedication to British culinary heritage is evident at Holborn Dining Room, making it stand out from its other five-star hotel contemporaries. According to the Rosewood Group’s head of food and beverage, Ivan Suardi, “Traditionally, hotels follow a formula – include an Italian or French restaurant with Michelin-star recognition – but is that what the local community wants? For Rosewood London, we decided to go very British, and that meant the creation of an upscale British brasserie with a gin bar that showcases one of the largest collections in London.”
Mission accomplished – the result is a warm, hip place that’s always buzzy and just as popular with locals as it is with hotel guests.
And then there’s the Scarfes Bar, named for the English cartoonist Gerald Scarfe, whose works of political satire adorn the walls. With a warm roaring fire and live music most evenings, it’s the ultimate destination for inventive cocktails. Large, yet full of intimate nooks and crannies, Scarfes feels like a cross between a sexy upmarket jazz lounge and a gentleman’s club.
It’s also known for one of London’s best whisky sours (the bar offers 500 different whiskies) and its rotation of unique mixology creations is a key attraction. So I eschew my usual glass of Chardonnay or Malbec and head straight into the irresistible array of inventive drinks, a list that changes throughout the year.
Currently available is a personality-driven menu invented by head mixologist Yann Bouvignies. “We created a menu that represents the Rosewood team itself,” he says. “This year’s concept is based on the Enneagram System, which outlines nine main human-personality types.” Thus, for example, there’s the Mediator, the Challenger, the Reformer and the Achiever – and guests are invited to play a guessing game as to which cocktail they’d like, based either on personality types or their corresponding flavour profiles.
“Scarfes Bar is known for one of London’s best whisky sours”
The Individualist (the sensitive type: self-absorbed, temperamental and expressive) matches aromatic, full-flavoured notes with relaxing undertones. Who is Next? is a punchy concoction of Grey Goose, fermented pepper and Hay Vermouth, while Rickstasy is a mix of Remy Martin, Old Duff, sea buckthorn and lavender. That gives you a rough idea, but you really have to be there to appreciate its conceptual cleverness and, of course, to sample these wonderful creations.
As for the sliding menu, it’s a wittily engaging way of picking a drink, while psychoanalysing your drinking buddies. “It’s interactive with a little bit of art,” Bouvignies says, “and it makes your guests feel as if they’re part of the cocktail menu.”
For more information, visit Rosewood London.
This story first appeared in Prestige – Thailand.