Monday, April 13, 2015

Where to Stay Now in London: The Beaumont

Exciting Hotel News in London: The Beaumont, super-chic and ultra-elegant, has just opened in the heart of Mayfair.

I love the location—in the middle of everything I adore in London.

And I love the classic style and grace of this new hotel that was built in a classical Art Deco style in the twenties.

Come with me this week to learn all about The Beaumont—and to meet Jeremy King, the genius 
who dreamed up its concept, it’s spirit, it’s heart and soul.   He is the hotelier whose superb staff offers ultra-professional service, and a sense of privacy and discretion.

I sat down recently for an exclusive chat, published here just for my fantastic STYLE SALONISTE readers. Jeremy King is the striking man who brought us some of London's best and most stylish restaurants...The Delaunay, for example.

Jeremy King and Chris Corbin, famed restaurateurs of The Wolseley and the Ivy and The Delaunay fame, sited The Beaumont in an elegant and tranquil corner of Mayfair. It’s my new favorite in London—just 78 rooms, and very discreet and stylish with lots of old-school stately English glamour and verve.

Springtime in London: It is time to check in to The Beaumont and learn why it’s the new place to stay in London, and the perfect refuge after long-distance travel.

Smart Londoners in the art and design and creative worlds, I hear, are even checking in for a mini-break, hiding away at The Beaumont for a weekend of secret pleasures.

The Beaumont is situated in Brown Hart Gardens, a few steps from Claridge’s, leading art galleries, and all the delights of historic Mayfair mews and street strolling. It has just fifty rooms, thirteen studios, and ten luxurious suites. 

Why I Love the Beaumont

The surprise and delight of The Beaumont is that its elegant, refined exterior suggests it has been standing overlooking Brown Hart Gardens since perhaps the twenties, and was recently refreshed.

The steel and oak Antony Gormley sculpture—public art at its best—suggests, however, that the building is recent. Gormley, one of the greatest contemporary British sculptors, created a dramatic abstract seated figure high up on the building façade. It looks like ‘The Thinker’ or perhaps an Android or cuboid about to leap. The interior of this ROOM is also a room…accessed from a suite. Guests can spend time within the sculpture.

In Conversation with Jeremy King

I recently caught up with The Beaumont hotelier Jeremy King. After spilling the beans on his secret desire for a hotel, he gave me insider recommendations and observations on his favorites hotels around the world, and the delicious and compelling backstory of The Beaumont.

He’s been a successful restaurateur for over thirty years, with Chris Corbin at Corbin+King. The partners were recently honored by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth with OBE medals (Order of the British Empire) for their services to the hospitality industry and voluntary service to the arts and medical research.

Jeremy, charming yet taciturn, seldom courts the limelight. I learned later that Jeremy has not given an interview in thirty years. True.
The exception: a witty ‘lunch’ with his good friend the writer (and Lucian Freud daughter) Susie Boyt, published September 2014 in the Financial Times. To Boyt, Jeremy King said, “I love hotels. They are exaggerated versions of restaurants; I think they are incredibly sexy, and I enjoy being in hotels by myself.”

Come with me for an exclusive chat with Jeremy King: We spoke of its origins, his plans, and 'what makes a great hotel'.  I admire his directness, his personal beliefs about how to take care of guests.

DDS: You said you had been thinking about opening a hotel for some time—and had even first thought of the Wolseley site.
The search for a hotel began soon after we sold our first restaurants in 2000 (Le Caprice, The Ivy & J.Sheekey’s) but every time we closed in on an acquisition we were gazumped (British word for being outbid after a deal agreed) by chequebook wielding conglomerates. The Wolseley space was offered to us in 2003 (at the time a rather strange Chinese restaurant) and we decided to return to our roots whilst the search for a hotel continued… many think that The Wolseley is a hotel and we did investigate the possibility of converting the apartments but just wouldn’t work it out.

DDS: What was it about 'opening a hotel' that appealed to you? 
JK: It seemed a natural extension to what we were doing with the restaurants and an opportunity to broaden our particular form of hospitality. I had always been beguiled and fascinated by hotels as being glamorous, mysterious and sexy.

DDS: Which are your four favorite hotels that you return to year after year?
This is indubitably difficult because the list changes and sadly some of my old favorites have been subsumed by international groups and have changed remarkably. There are many that I adore but don’t regularly patronize, but ‘golden’ favorites have been La Gazelle d’Or in Morocco and La Colombe d’Or in Southern France. Neither will answer a request for great luxury but they have wonderful heart and history. Another recent favorite has been the Villa San Michele overlooking Florence. I also like hotels to capture the spirit of their city or location and that’s why I will never be separated from The Sunset Tower when in LA – to have that history, view, terrace and of course The Tower Bar restaurant with the inimitable Dimitri Dimitrov presiding over some of LA’s most interesting people, make it the essential venue when visiting California.

DDS: The Beaumont: How long in the planning and creating?
Actually six… it was 2008 that we persuaded Grosvenor that we were the best candidate to take the site and of course within months the markets had crashed and money receded. But at least it gave us time to think about what we would do with it.

DDS: You wanted Mayfair.
Yes, although we did consider other areas Mayfair was our prime target for our first hotel. We are always somewhat innovative but within a classic and traditional mode and Mayfair is the home of a large proportion of London’s classic hotels. It is the perfect location for any visitor whether business or leisure. It’s a ‘neighborhood’ with character and authentic life. People live there. One-of-a-kind boutiques and services are all around. 

DDS: The Beaumont now looks as if it has been standing there since the twenties, refreshed and renewed. In fact, it is a brilliant new hotel—for which you dreamed up a storyline.
I have to be careful here because I could talk for hours on this subject! The big question on having acquired the lease was what sort of hotel would we build? Originally built in 1926 as a Garage and Car Park, servicing Selfridges in the golden age of motoring, I had to decide what form the hotel would take as I didn’t want it to join the ranks of some of the recently built or refurbished hotels which somewhat lack character and feel somewhat homogenized.

Heart and soul are essential ingredients for any restaurant or hotel. The building needed history and it was out of this that I dreamed up the fictional James Beaumont. James (Jimmy) Beaumont was born in Michigan circa 1885 and after college at Yale he entered the hospitality profession and moved to New York. Come the early 20’s and after his rise to GM at one of new York’s grand hotels he was to be found lamenting to two wealthy clients how miserable the life of a Hotelier was during Prohibition and was contemplating a move. They persuaded him not to turn his back and instead ply his trade outside the USA and what emerged was that he had enjoyed his time as an attaché to the American Embassy in London after the Great War and the plan was hatched that the clients would ‘bankroll’ him in the opening of a hotel with American sensibilities in the enclave that had developed around the Embassy. From thereon I immediately knew what the hotel would look like – from the arrival in the porte-cochère through the revolving door into the art-deco lobby where through the double doors a guest would enter the American Bar (known as Jimmy’s) and on again sweep into The Colony Grill Room that would evoke memories of both East & West Coast grill rooms such as Stork, ‘21’ and indeed the influential Colony of New York.

In writing the subsequent ‘history’ I had him hosting the American ex-pat society up till his retirement in 1950 and all the characters he would have known from both sides of the Atlantic are featured in the 300 or so period photographs in the bar and the caricatures of The Colony. After Jimmy’s ‘retirement I imagined The Beaumont being taken over temporarily by a hotel group before becoming a hostel for the US Government until they vacated in 2011 and we discovered this dilapidated Art-Deco jewel and restored it to the former glory with all the advantages of early 21st technology. Of course the truth is that we demolished the old building behind the facade and built what you see today.

DDS: Well, The Beaumont and the large-scale Antony Gormley art is a gift to the city. I hear there is a hidden bar only open to guests? What secrets can you whisper?
Well of course your question elicits a dilemma as the hotelier or restaurateur’s essential ‘stock in trade’ is integrity and discretion! But I love you saying that The Beaumont and the Gormley sculpture being a gift to the city - and I hope also to travellers from the US too.

I can confess that my love affair with America endures (exemplified in my American wife!) I have secretly been cultivating that relationship and was delighted when someone told me that “you have created a West Coast Entertainment Industry unofficial clubhouse in London”. I like that very much.

As regards the bar I was struck by how often I had visitors to London lamenting that they often couldn’t use their own hotel bar because of non-resident’s patronage, which persuaded me to turn a designated private dining room into a ‘Residents’ Bar’ (The Cub Room - so named after Sherman Billingsley’s extension to The Stork Club so that he could drink and play Gin Rummy quietly with his friends – you might remember that much of ‘All about Eve’ was set there?)

The Cub Room

DDS: My dream is to arrive in a hotel room—and my favorite papers (The Financial Times, the New York Times) are already on my desk. And the tech set-up is perfection—but discreet and reliable. In the mini-bar, the chocolates and candy and nuts and chips are removed. And instead there is a special selection of loose-leaf Assam teas, fresh milk in the refrigerator, and there's an electric kettle and a teapot, and everything is there to instantly make a fresh cup of tea on arrival.
That’s a cinch for The Beaumont. In this day and age of technology any preferences such as this should easily be accommodated – once established. I remember that pre-computers Claridges had two rooms and permanent staff dedicated to a filing system in order to check on past ‘customer histories’. However what I have been impressed by is how our Reception staff ingeniously, whenever possible, often discover through their contacts guest preferences in advance which never fails to delight an arrivée.

The secret for me though is to know what the guest requires but not being intrusive. I shudder at the gratuitous questions I have been asked in hotels that I don’t want to answer and often the ‘asker’ is not really interested in the answer. Luxury is when it ‘just happens’ – without fanfare or expected recognition of it. Assam tea, everything you like—for us, it’s natural.

DDS: Mayfair is a lovely quiet and private corner of London. The Beaumont is ultra-private and yet wonderfully congenial if you're meeting friends for dinner or celebrating a special occasion, or planning a weekend escape. You're all set to welcome LA film industry leaders in town for business, or a chic San Francisco couple on a honeymoon, or a Santa Barbara artist in town for Frieze.
The secret to a great hotel or restaurant is that it can accommodate the needs of a wide-ranging constituency and whether young or old, traditional or avant-garde, affluent or aspiring, that the guests feels they belong. Gratifying for us is the number of UK residents who use the hotel – including Londoners. We love to greet guests from near and far. 

DDS: I'll be back in London as soon as the weather warms up—and the blossoms and roses are blooming in Green Park, and the lilacs are scenting Belgrave Square. My favorite season in London.
One advantage Europe has over much of the world is those changing seasons and all they entail - whether in the weather, the foods, the blooms or indeed social events. We celebrate the seasons at The Beaumont, menus change, seasons and festive times are enjoyed.

DDS: Thank you, Jeremy. Congratulations and I wish you continued great success.

Jeremy King painted by Lucian Freud, who was a longtime patron of The Wolseley and other Corbin+King restaurants.

The Interiors

The interior design takes its cue from the building, in this case, a Grade II Listed building by Wimperis & Simpson in a ‘stripped neo-classical style with quirky, exaggerated neo-classical mannerisms’, which was featured in the 1927 RIBA Exhibition of Modern Architecture.

The interiors of the hotel appear to have been restored to their former glory, retaining echoes from the different decades of The Beaumont’s life. They reflect a more European Art Deco aesthetic but with distinct, occasional references to North America.

In some respects, in common with the Grand Hotel tradition, The Beaumont has been conceived with the food & beverage areas (The Colony Grill Room and the American Bar) integral to the building (much more so than in most hotels). Aimed at the local community, they atypically form the hub of the hotel. 

The bedrooms and suites have been given a restrained and refined Art Deco treatment, with of- the-period rosewoods used for the high-gloss, lacquered wardrobes and the floor-to-ceiling sliding doors that shut the rooms off from the generous entrance halls and bathrooms.

All the rooms feature wood headboards; bronze mirroring; shagreen detailing on the large desk and bedside table fronts; mohair velvet chairs; bronze Art Deco door and wardrobe handles; bespoke, neutral wool carpets based on geometric period patterns; coffered ceilings; large casement windows with generous, pale silk curtains, to create a comfortable, streamlined look. Original paintings and photographs of the period have been sourced for all the bedrooms. 

When in London: Fine and Fun Dining at Corbin+King Restaurants

The 100-seater Colony Grill Room is quite classical in style, taking its lead from the traditional Grill Rooms originally found both in London and New York. The menu features, as well as grills, appropriately classic dishes from both sides of the Atlantic – whether a Caesar salad, grouse with all the trimmings or The Colony’s ‘do-it-yourself’ ice-cream sundae.

Nathaniel Newnham-Davies captures the spirit in his 1914 ‘Gourmet Guide to London’:

“The modern Grill Room we owe, I think, to the Americans for the travelling American [...] has his own very sensible ideas as to what comfort is […].

The grill-room gives him an excellent dinner, just as long or short as he likes, served quickly, in luxurious surroundings, and he can dress as he likes, to eat it.”

Open 7am to midnight, seven days a week.

“The Beaumont is sheer British heaven.”— Los Angeles hotelier, Jeff Klein, one of the first guests to check in.

Cuisine at The Beaumont 
Highlights from the menu, classic things that are always on the menu:

New York Shrimp Cocktail (starter)

The Colony Club Salad

American Sandwiches (including New York Hot Dog and The Colony Hamburger)

Veal Pojarski

Rib-Eye Steak

Chicken Pot Pie

Ice cream sundaes (very popular)

Breakfast on the menu
The English (full English breakfast - eggs, bacon, sausage, tomato, mushroom and black pudding)

Portobello Mushroom and Spinach Hash

A selection of Viennoiserie including cinnamon buns, croissant au beurre, double chocolate brioche.

At the Bar: Special Drinks and Cocktails
The American Bar is naturally an ‘American Bar’ style prevalent in London and Paris in the 20s and 30s.

Specializing in Bourbons and American Whiskies, nothing new-fangled! Hemingway and Fitzgerald would have felt at home.

Cocktails include ‘The Beaumont,’ a Champagne cocktail of gin, dry sherry, elderflower, pineapple and lemon juices, sugar, Champagne. The Beaumont specializes in the classics from that era—Martini, Manhattan, Negroni.

Special Services and Features

The Beaumont offers a courtesy car, a vintage Daimler to take guests anywhere within a mile of the hotel, on a complimentary basis (subject to availability of course!)

The Presidential Suite on the top floor (fifth floor) can be opened up to include up to five bedrooms, incorporating the entire floor in total privacy. It also features a large terrace overlooking Brown Hart Gardens with uninterrupted views across the city. Some of the rooms also have terraces.

The hotel is a stone’s throw from London institution Selfridges on Oxford Street, as well as the world-renowned Mount Street, which features an array of international fashion and accessories brands including Roksanda Ilincic, Goyard and Céline as well as restaurants and art galleries.

Close-by Duke Street is now a prime retail destination, and Brown Hart Gardens, which sits at the front of The Beaumont Hotel has recently been refurbished by Grosvenor. It also plays host to a monthly Mayfair Market (a monthly food market.)

Grosvenor Square is a few steps from The Beaumont, as well as Berkeley Square, and Hyde Park is not far away.

Ken Fulk's New Favorite Hotel in London

I sat down recently for a chat with international interior designer, Ken Fulk, about his recent stay at The Beaumont.

Ken, based in San Francisco and New York, travels constantly—Paris, Los Angeles, Provence, New Orleans, Miami, and top style spots—and spends a lot of time in hotels.

I asked Ken for his impressions of The Beaumont after his March visit.

Ken told me:

“The Beaumont is a Deco jewel. It's as if you stepped into another bygone era of glamour. You might expect to see F. Scott and Zelda canoodling in a corner at the guest only bar

“On arrival I was greeted by name by the numerous courteous staff - it seemed as if there were three of them for every guest. Without delay I was escorted to my large suite complete with a rosewood outfitted dressing room, a terrace as large as the suite, and a bath swathed in beautiful marble with a large soaking tub and a separate shower that could accommodate four (I was tempted…).

“That evening I was a guest of the proprietors Jeremy and Lauren King for dinner at The Colony, the oh so very swank restaurant in the hotel. We first met in the private bar (for guests only) just off the lobby. Guests included my dear friend Denise Hale, David Downton the renowned fashion illustrator, artist Matt Colishaw and Polly Morgan who is an accomplished artist in her own right with works often featuring taxidermy which she practices herself. Television producer Sebastian Scott and his handsome partner the designer Peter Mikic joined us.

“All of the swell set of London seemed to be on display in the restaurant. Power booths lined the back wall. Charles Saatchi at one table holding court. Kate Moss shimmied by. Jeremy of course was the consummate host. The menu featured all the classics, but with modern twists.

“Early I headed to The Battersea Antiques Fair. To assure I arrived in style I was given use of the hotel car. In true Beaumont fashion this was not just any car, but the Queen Mum's Daimler limousine. A real head turner with a handsome chauffeur to match. Naturally the idea of negotiating any bargains on antiques went out the window so to speak when I arrived in a vintage silver limo complete with driver!

“The Beaumont: I spent my last evening in the room enjoying the bountiful amenities and the delicious room service. True DECOdence!”

Thank you, Ken. 

The Beaumont
Brown Hart Gardens
London W1K 6TF


DÉCOR: The interior design of The Beaumont has been realized by Fiona Thompson and John Lewis of Richmond International, in close collaboration with Jeremy King. Many of the antiques and decorative pieces were sourced by Lauren Gurvich.

ARCHITECTURE: The hotel has been designed by Reardon Smith Architects.

ANTONY GORMLEY: Gormley's work has been widely exhibited throughout the UK and internationally. His many successful projects include the Angel of the North (1995-1998) and One & Other (2009) for the Fourth Plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square. He was awarded the Turner Prize in 1994, and was knighted in the New Year's Honors list in 2014.

All images here courtesy Corbin+King, The Beaumont, used with express permission. Photography by Nick Ingram.


Beauty Follower said...

Love the art-decor style of the hotel.... the food look simply delicious!

Chronica Domus said...

What an absolutely delightful post, thank you! This hotel looks to be chic beyond words, and no detail has been overlooked it seems.

I adore dining at The Wolseley whenever I'm in London visiting my family, and look forward to discovering the joys of The Beaumont when I'm in town next.

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Dear Beauty Follower and my neighbor Chronica Domus,

Thank you.

The Beaumont opened quietly and has become The Hotel for in the know Londoners. My dear friend David Downton, the great illustrator is artist in residence at Claridge's and he often drops in. He is very much at home at all of the Corbin and King Restaurants. Kate Moss is a regular..but it is not a scene and you can get a res. and you won't end up in the is all very discreet.and proper and LONDON at its most polished. Xx cheers DIANE

peggybraswell said...

can't wait to go + I adore London.