Claridge’s and The Connaught have always been Old Favorites in Lonon. Now I’ve added a New Favorite to my List: The Beaumont.
Remember Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, where its nostalgic screenwriter Gil Pender is picked up in a Peugeot and time travels to Paris in the 1920s?
I couldn’t help it, but I find myself channeling that film, except I'm in London, checking in to The Beaumont. I'm at its American bar, nicknamed Jimmy’s, comfy in a brown leather booth, sipping a martini after my flight. I look around —vintage black-and-white photos of luminaries line the walls. An elegant Art Deco chandelier casts a dim, sexy glow over the space. A handsome marble top bar stands across the room.
At the Beaumont, 1920s Art Deco meets the 21st century. A sense of nostalgia, of turning back the clock, is how co-owner Jeremy King would like his guests to feel about his or her Beaumont experience. That’s also why King created a fictional character named Jimmy Beaumont to inspire and personalize the hotel's design. I love stories, so I go with it. Once upon a time there was an American named Jimmy Beaumont who ran New York’s legendary Art Deco Carlyle Hotel, during the dreary Prohibition era. But London is where he longed to return—he was stationed here during the war—to open his namesake dream hotel. Ok, got it, love it.
Jimmy is clever branding for this five-star luxury hotel. And one would expect smart branding on this first hotel venture from King and business partner Chris Corbin. The duo are famous for flair at their wildly successful, glam London restaurants: The Wolseley—one of my favorites—as well as The Delaunay, Brasserie Zédel, Colbert, and Fischer’s.
A historic Art Deco building— a former garage from the 1920s that’s been rebuilt—houses the Beaumont. It’s located on a quiet street, off a pretty garden square in posh Mayfair, yet only a block south of busy Oxford Street. Though opened in 2014, the hotel possesses the air of history. The elegant lobby sets the mood, with classic black-and-white geometric-pattern floors; sleek creamy Art Deco sofas and armchairs; and elegant 1920s-era portrait paintings.
Everything about this hotel is beautifully executed. And it overflows with exquisite artworks from the 1920s and 30s, with many pieces from King’s personal collection. I also love touches like the monogrammed deck of cards each guest receives. We're obsessed with our cell phones these days, but Jimmy thought all travelers should have playing cards; there’s even a delightful little book of his favorite games. And service? The staff, led by the charming Jannes Soerensen— can’t do enough for you.
The American Bar leads in to the Colony Grill Room, a throwback to 1920s American and British dining rooms. With small tables and cosy red leather banquettes, the room recalls the vibe of the iconic Bemelmans at the Carlyle. More vintage black-and-white photos, and also murals, line the walls. Comfort food dominates the menu.
And it doesn't get any chicer than having your very own private club at its guests-only Cub Bar.
Art Deco motifs continue in the hotel’s 73 rooms, studios, and suites. The look of the rooms is very masculine—dark wood and subdued color palettes; the walls are also hung with black-and-white photos and art. Maybe it’s the particular room I stayed in, but I longed for more light. The spacious bathrooms, however, are bright, with black-and-white tile floors, a deep marble tub, and Dr. Harris of London products. My first night, I drew a bath, and turned in to Sleeping Beauty.
Another Wow factor is a far cry from Art Deco. "Room," a contemporary public sculpture by the much lauded Antony Gormley, towers over the hotel; inside is a hidden suite. It was occupied during my stay, so I didn't get personal peek inside, but from photos it looks very cave or womb-like.
Make sure to slink down to the snazzy, serene spa—it’s all chrome, marble, and white with black tiles. Start in the hammam. Get a massage. Or put yourself in the capable hands of a facialist using its new line of Pai products, developed especially for sensitive skin. There’s even an old fashioned barber chair for shaves and haircuts.
Ah, the Beaumont. I think our nostalgic screenwriter Gil Pender would love this hotel as much as I did. If you stay—and you really should—you may never want to leave. immy will make sure you feel right at home.
My List: I got to a lot of restaurants this trip, but here are my favorites.
The Beaumont wasn't the only former parking garage on my trip. One of the hottest restaurants in London right now is located in a former garage, albeit one on a smaller scale than the Beaumont. 108 Garage is a gastronomic place that I’d gladly park myself in for a meal any time.
Helming the stoves is Chris Denney. Prominent critic Giles Coren described Denney as “…the kind of chef who comes along only once or twice in a decade.” No way was I going to miss a meal here.
Opened just a couple of months, the West London eatery flew under the media radar, unbelievably with no pr agency, it was all word of mouth. Stories had just started appearing in several major newspapers and blogs when I was there. It’s booked out till April, but fortunately my friend Jane, a former Editor of Tatler magazine, brilliantly snagged a lunch reservation. And I’m grateful she did, as Denney sure can cook!
“Scaled up nouvelle cuisine” is how the chef has described his cookery, which shows British as well as Asian and Italian influences. The dishes we ordered were original, the ingredients locally sourced, and everything was delicious. And light—Denney tends to use broths for stocks instead of cream— as well as artfully presented on the plate. Nothing muddled; each dish possessed two or three distinct flavors.
What to Get
Take the octopus starter, superbly roasted over coals, with a chewy but tender texture, a lovely flavor, served with a soft tahini, and topped with a thin slice of golden turnip for kick. The Isle of Skye scallops were slightly sweet, with a silky texture, lightly sauced with Yuzu, and topped with a a tangle of fennel and crisp nashi pear. The knockout? Jacob’s Ladder—or short ribs— from a cut of beef not readily found in the US. Blackened on the outside, but pretty-in-pink rare inside, the meat's so tender I could have cut it with a spoon, and served with a surprising very green crunchy dill pickle. I jealously eyed the agnolotti stuffed with hand chopped lamb hearts. Another time, another tripI’m not much of a dessert person, but a taste my friends’ brown butter ice cream, with toasted white chocolate, was simply divine.
Kiln is as hot as the fiery curries coming off its stoves.
We put our names on the list—it takes no reservations—and wait it out over tasty house ginger and tequila cocktails. Kiln has downstairs seating, but we’re determined to sit upstairs. We insist on sitting at the long stainless steel counter that runs the length of the room, and in the rear, so we can watch the theatre of its open kitchen.
Kiln is owned by Ben Chapman, of the popular Thai eatery Smoking Goat. At Kiln, the food is regional Thai, with some influences from Yunnan and Burma. Seated, we look on to a huge grill that holds wood embers with woks and stock pots on top; on first glance, the stove area looks like a rural roadside food stand. The restaurant's name comes from the clay pots used to hold the kitchen's hot, hot, hot curries. Great attention is paid to sourcing ingredients. The menu notes Kiln employs its own grower for Chinese herbs and vegetables. Only whole animals— pigs and hogget (sheep)—it notes, are used, and the animals are bred specially for Kiln, and dayboat seafood is delivered daily.
What to Get:
Order all three of the grilled starters, but if I had to pick just one, it would be the aged lamb on skewers, dusted with the tastiest cumin topping. But the grilled chicken—thigh meat—with soy ; and smoked sausage with turmeric. The langoustines are pretty on the plate, delicate, with kaffir lime and sweet mint. The jungle curry tonight features monk fish; it broke the thermometer for my tongue.
I love the glass noodles, baked in a clay pot, with pork belly on the bottom; the dish was so good we scraped the pot clean. Even the sides are delicious: cornish greens and the most tasty Isaan mushroom salad. All washed down with a tk Alsace Pinot Blanc.
A highlight of my trip of London last year talking my way in to a seat at the counter of the wildly popular Palomar. So we queued for its new sibling, Barbary (No reservations, countertop seating, and small plates were restaurant trends this trip). Finally we took our seat at its small horseshoe shaped bar— only 24 seats—that looks on to a small open kitchen in the center.
The placemats, which also serve as menus, show a 1770 map of the Barbary Coast; the menu showcases dishes from North Africa to Jerusalem. Grilling and baking dominate the cookery, with menu items categorized by baking; land; sea; and earth.
What to Get
Start with puffy naan—the signature bread—accompanied with tahini, hummus, and baba ghanoush. The grilled octopus mashawsha comes with yogurt and amba, a tangy Israeli mango pickle condiment. But lamb cutlets, presented in a copper pot ringed with sage that’s set aflame, is reason in itself to eat here.
And there was one other category on the menu: heaven. I had never tasted the Middle Eastern dessert knafeh. Here it arrives as a nest of shredded vermicelli, with a center that oozes with goat cheese and mozzarella, drenched with syrup and orange blossom, topped with grapefruit slices and pistachios.