252 High Holborn, London; rosewoodhotels.com/london; 262 rooms start at $650 (£370) and 44 suites start at $1,700 (£995).
The British are experts at creating a dramatic setting, even when that place is the headquarters for an insurance company built in 1914, which explains the original imposing belle époque architecture, magnificent grand staircase, rare green Swedish marble and the intimate courtyard entrance way. Insurance is all about stability, wealth and confidence, after all. Add an investment of about $140-million, and you’re stepping into a forgotten time of grandeur and elegance. Jeeves, my Glenmorangie, please.
The big news in London these days is the growing appeal of the East End, once the place of Jack the Ripper and bad accents. Rosewood London, a high-end luxury hotel and the first showcase for the company’s planned European expansion, is located in High Holborn, an area with a cool, funky vibe, close to the business heart of the city, halfway between the posh West End and the up-and-coming East End. It stakes out new ground for luxury properties.
I have a thing for hotel bars. But only good ones. And this one hits all the right notes of comfort, elegance and conviviality. You feel that you’re sitting in some duke’s grand sitting room with a magnificent fireplace, art-deco lighting, long bar and shelves full of antique books, old games, a decanter or two and taxidermy of butterflies.
Eat in or eat out?
Oh, stay in and be treated to the perfect combination of casual luxury in the Mirror Room. The food is divine, and the waiter slices off pieces of the succulent beef tenderloin with great reverence and care as if he were separating layers of a delicate work of art.
Hands down, the butler. He presented himself upon arrival in his perfectly tailored morning coat, pressed trousers and bespoke shoes. He stood tall. He had slicked-back hair. He said he would do anything, absolutely anything, madam. I just wish he would have knocked before entering the suite with the morning lattes and papers. Sure, in the home-away-from-home suite we had, it was into a separate room from the bedroom, down a hall, and behind a heavy door. But getting caught in flagrante delicto is not my idea of a luxury experience. Still, servants who act invisible in the thick of private life are very Downton-esque.
Whom you’ll meet
People who like to feel that they’re living in movie set, but don’t need (or want) to adhere to wardrobe rules. There were sweaty joggers in the early 19th century, apparently.
If I could change one thing
You know that Glemorangie I was talking about? Well, there was a lovely bar in the suite, all polished mahogany and silvery bits. There was even a handsome decanter of scotch. Very nice, indeed. But horrors! The tumbler provided was made of heavy-duty plastic! The only consolation was that I felt free to take my scotch to the Little Ship of Ecstasy (my description for great bathtubs), where I watched Les Misérables on the secret TV screen behind a mirrored wall, and wept into my bubbles over Anne Hathaway’s Fantine.
The writer was a guest of the hotel.