The Mayfair Townhouse is an open book of tales, from the fictitious backstory of the tumultuous lives of former residents the Renards, to their address’s connections with Oscar Wilde, to a love of Lewis Carroll’s surrealism and even a nod to Cecil Beaton’s gardening prowess. There are clues throughout, in the murals and paintings that hang on the walls, the fox-shaped door knockers and wiley fox portraits in intimate eatery the Den, and a curiouser and curiouser cocktail list that namechecks Wilde’s lover. But, there’s space to write your own stories too, whether it’s a tryst in one of the eccentrically dressed rooms (some with leafy terraces) or a scandalous night in the Dandy Bar.
12 noon, but flexible till 6pm, subject to availability and a charge. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £298.66, including tax at 5 per cent.
Rates don’t usually include breakfast; hot à la carte choices start from £8 and the Continental Club Pantry breakfast is £19 a person.
The hotel’s concierge Dianna Beran is an extraordinarily well-connected woman and one of just three per cent of female concierges in the Commonwealth to join the esteemed Les Clefs d’Or association. If you need a hard-to-book table or last-minute show tickets, she’s your woman.
At the hotel
Gym, lounge, free WiFi. In rooms: TV, minibar with free soft drinks and snacks, a Nespresso machine and tea-making, GHD hairdryer, air-conditioning and Noble Isle bath products.
Our favourite rooms
A London garden is the holy grail, so the Garden Suites, with their leafy terrace are quite the coup. Inspired by the exquisite greenery and flowering beds of Cecil Beaton’s Reddish House gardens, these have intricate Arts & Crafts prints, a headboard shaped like an elaborate portico, a marble bathroom with a freestanding tub and your own little peaceful patch of the city for drinks à deux. And, if you don’t plan on spending much time asleep, the dinky Cabin Rooms have all the poeticism of a garret with a touch more luxury.
There’s no spa here – you’re pampered in many other ways – but the hotel gym is impressive, with TechnoGym bikes and treadmills you can program for sparring, cross-trainers, kettlebells and medicine balls, a rowing machine, and a very snazzy Kinesis machine.
Bring your Crockett & Jones brogues, loudest cravat and a devil-may-care attitude.
The hotel’s public areas are accessible for guests with mobility issues – there’s a lift to each floor and tables are well-spaced. Rooms aren’t specially adapted, but there are two accessible rooms on the ground floor.
Children up to the age of 10 can stay in a baby cot or their parents' bed free here; but, while this is a storybook of a stay, much like the x-rated shenanigans that carried on in this part of London back in the day, this is best suited to adults.
Get cosy in one of the bar’s banquettes for surreptitiously snooping on well-dressed guests, or sequester the den for a larger gathering.
Don your dandy-est – what else?
There’s nothing so staid as a set restaurant – food can be had as and when the whim takes you here. Strut into hotel drinking den the Dandy Bar, just the place for a spot of peacocking and swapping scandalous tidbits over plates of creamy Jerusalem artichoke croquettes, lobster curry, tahini- and miso-enlivened cauliflower and sticky toffee pudding. Or commandeer a table by the scarlet curio cabinets packed with butterfly vitrines, antique books and porcelain birds in the Club Room downstairs. They’re not the only things that’ll draw your eye – here hang portraits of the mythic Renards, the ‘first family’ of the townhouse – rife with symbolism. Artist Svetlana Melik-Nubarova has festooned patriarch Jean with butterflies, sicced drone surveillance on matriarch Madeleine and dressed their daughters with flowers and birds. And, while you’re tucking into a crispy duck wrap or tiramisu made from the recipe the Italian general manager’s mother generously passed along, take a long hard look at Grant Watt’s Wedgewood-esque mural of Green Park – butterflies, foxes, pelicans and more hotel motifs are hidden within. And, set discretely aside, lined with pictures of foxes on rouged walls, is the Den, with just a handful of tables for more private affairs.
The Dandy Bar is the warm bosom of the hotel, which leads on from the lobby. Lined with mirrors up to the ceiling, edged in gilt and lit by chandeliers, it’s the sort of spot where you’d flirt outrageously on one of the plump banquettes, use your reflection to touch up your lipstick and busy the besuited staff with ferrying drinks back and forth. Keep your eyes peeled for Piero (he’s easy to spot in his handsome red-velvet blazer), the bar manager whose recommendations are watertight. Cocktails have been inspired by Oscar Wilde’s flamboyance in both name and ingredients – take, for example, the Mr Bosie (named after Wilde’s lover), a concoction of Bombay Sapphire gin, champagne cordial, Abbotts Bitter Edible Paint and artemisia jelly. Or the Green Carnation (Wilde’s treasured accessory) with rum, lemon, maca ginseng and pistachio soda. Or simply order a coupe of AR Lenoble Brut Champagne, Wilde’s favourite, to toast the writer.
Breakfast is served in the Club Room from 8am to 10.30am (till 11.30am on weekends). Drinking and dining in the Dandy Bar is from 12 noon to 10.30pm Monday to Thursday, 11.30am to 12.30am Friday and Saturday, and 12 noon to 10pm on Sunday.
Have the truffle arancini and lobster curry come to you – order all day till 10pm. After 10pm there’s a limited nighttime menu.
The Mayfair Townhouse is tucked into a tiny corner of London’s most blue-blooded district, buffered by Hyde and Green Parks, mere steps from Buckingham Palace.
Heathrow Airport is the closest international hub, just under an hour’s drive away from the hotel. Hotel staff can arrange transfers from here in a luxury Mercedes E-class for £100 each way, for two. Gatwick, Luton and Stansted are all around a 90-minute journey by car.
From Heathrow, hop on the express train, which takes a fleet 15 minutes to reach Paddington station, then ride the Bakerloo Tube line to Oxford Circus and change for one stop on the Victoria line to Green Park – the hotel’s just a couple minutes’ walk from there. The Gatwick Express arrives at Victoria station in 30 minutes, and from there, Green Park is just one stop north on the Tube. You can zip across the city on the Underground from this central locale, so it’s worth investing in an Oyster travel card if you’re staying for a few days.
Avoid the Congestion Charge and parking woes by taking the Tube instead. It’s faster and more convenient than Londoners’ grumblings might have you believe. And there’s always an Uber waiting in the wings. If you’re planning to explore further afield (say, a jaunt to the Cotswolds) or if you simply must have a hire car, reserve a parking spot in advance at the RCP on Arlington Street (£27 for 24 hours)
Worth getting out of bed for
When you’re not tearing through the cocktail list or getting your move on in the gym, cast an eye over the hotel’s fantastical art collection. Start in the lobby where Miss Aniela’s mixed-media fables hang and Colombian artist Clarita Brinkerhoff’s Swarovski crystal-encrusted peacock is proudly displayed – each of it’s 25,000 gems was applied by hand. In the stairwell, artist Grant Watts chose a similar avian theme, with a mural inspired by James Mcneill Whistler’s Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room. And in the Club Room, painter Svetlana Melik-Nubarova’s heavily detailed portraits of the fictional Renard family of Mayfair and Ant Fox’s anachronistic Byron with an iPad add layers to the hotel’s already embellished story. If you want to learn more about each piece, search for the QR code close by. Mayfair may be one of London’s most lah-di-dah districts today, but in the 1800s, the Grade II-listed mansions the hotel is housed in were home to young bachelors; thus, Half Moon Street came to be associated with dandies, bohemians and ladies (and gents) of the night – there was even a catalogue. And literary sorts, too: Oscar Wilde based character Algernon Moncrieff from The Importance of Being Earnest in a residence on the street, as did PG Wodehouse with Bertie Wooster. A wander along gives you a sense of how it was then – and even further back in time, Shepherd Market, close to the hotel, was where the original May fair was held until Victorian times. You’re sandwiched between Hyde and Green parks here, although the former has the edge for its pedalos, Serpentine galleries and riding trails. Though, the latter does lead to Buckingham Palace, where The Crown fans might want to snoop around on a tour. Aristocratic Spencer House (at 27 St James's Place) has some rather splendiferous interiors too. For the sights of London postcards, you couldn’t be better placed – Westminster, Trafalgar Square and Oxford Street are all within walking distance meaning you can easily dart from Westminster Abbey to the Houses of Parliament to the National Gallery, to Carnaby Street. Shoppers, brace yourself, Mayfair, Knightsbridge and Kensington are home to some of the capital’s most refined – and pricy – boutiques, whether you’re looking for a ballgown, new yacht or attire for a shooting party. The Institute of Contemporary Arts is a showcase for some truly exciting new talents, and due north is the Handel Museum, set in his former residence, which was also home to equally legendary Jimi Hendrix.
Dining in Mayfair requires deep pockets – after all, there are no less than 16 Michelin-starred restaurants in its borders – but for your buck you get beautifully executed food by chefs who’ve rightfully made names for themselves, so screw the budget and see what’s cooking. Kitty Fishers, just around the corner seems a suitable bedfellow for the hotel – and not just because the eponymous Kitty was a courtesan. There’s a shared fondness of velveteen banquettes, low-lit libertine carousing and a menu that’s both cosseting yet creative. Hide, also steps away from the Townhouse, is an ambitious three-tier offering from super chef Ollie Dabbous. Hide Below is the bar, Hide Ground is a laidback eatery with an inventive à la carte, and Hide Above is where Dabbous’ dabbles in the weird and wonderful to create five- and eight-course tasting menus. A little further along is haute Indian Gymkhana whose muntjac biryani is a bowl of game-y goodness, and around Berkeley Square there’s a triple threat of acclaimed, wallet-emptying eateries. Members’ club Annabel’s mixes leopard print, florals and ikat with aplomb, and didn’t meet a tassel it didn’t like. The food is very high-end Italian, and with a million-piece mosaic and pink-onyx basins, the loos are surprisingly Instagrammable. Unfortunately named Sexy Fish serves sushi and seafood that is indeed very palatable and prides itself on showiness, with bedazzled ceilings and floating sculptures. And Hakkasan could be dubbed ‘sexy duck’ for its Peking-crisped, truffle-soused take on it. Beef punched up with merlot and honey-slicked Chilean seabass are also dishes you’ll dream about.
Everbean brews up stiff cups of Climpson & Sons coffee along with other respected roasteries, and their food edit is ideal for light lunching (or heavy, if you simply must sample all the cakes). Ladureé may be best known for their make-up-palette macarons, but their pâtisserie begs to be demolished with a tiny fork – the rose and raspberry religieuse strikes the perfect balance of fruity, creamy, tart and sweet.
You may well rub shoulders with royalty while out on the lash in Mayfair’s upmarket drinkeries. Mahiki is where Harry, Wills et al used to go for treasure-chest cocktails and tiki drinks and still offers a fun kitschy alternative to some of the more stiff-upper-lip establishments. Claridge’s Bar knows it’s the grand dame of the area, but unflagging service and a legacy of being an excellent hostess makes it feel all the more welcoming. And Kwānt (pronounced ‘quaint’) is our date-night pick; its gilded filigree ceiling and liberal use of rattan and palm print give it a chic retro air and cocktails are both slurpable and surprising.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this fop-it-like-it’s-hot hotel that practically neighbours the queen’s London residence and unpacked their little black book and elaborate walking canes, a full account of their gadabout break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside the Mayfair Townhouse in the capital’s most glamorous quarter…
The Iconic group have created some of the UK’s most genteel hotels, including Cliveden, Chewton Glen, 11 Cadogan Gardens and the Lygon Arms, and now they’re expanding their portfolio with playful city stay the Mayfair Townhouse. Set over 15 Georgian townhouses on the already storied Half Moon Street (where the likes of Oscar Wilde and PG Wodehouse painted the town all kinds of colours and set some of their best-loved books), the Mayfair Townhouse didn’t need an elaborate backstory about the former owners, and yet they’ve gone to the trouble anyway of dreaming up the saga of the Renard family, Huguenots whose lives intertwined with the Arts & Crafts movement, the dandy scene, suffrage, World Wars and Lord Byron. It’s quite the yarn, and hotel staff will happily recount it. Ice-breaking ‘portraits’ of the family hang in the dining room downstairs, just part of the art collection amassed by consultant Minda Dowling, that includes heavily symbolic, I-spy murals by Grant Watts and flights of fantasy by Miss Aniela. And, these tall tales might fall flat if it weren’t for the hotel’s commitment in the telling – motifs recur throughout, say the fox doorknobs and paintings that nod to the Renards, pelicans in artworks as a Lewis Carroll aside, the family's twin daughters popping up in unexpected places, curiosity cabinets holding butterfly and bird ornaments, and rooms with William Morris prints and a small library. Staff even wear gold safety pins on their lapels in homage to Alexander McQueen who lived close by. Amid all this theatricality, modern-day dandies will feel very much at home – the Dandy Bar gleams and glitters, promising nights of lively repartee fuelled by cocktails with outré ingredients (gin-washed almond oil, peach wine, wormwood cordial), impeccably tailored staff from the doorman to the bar manager are on the charm offensive from the get-go and interiors by the suitably named Goddard Littlefair are characterful yet not overbearing. The townhouse’s unofficial motto is ‘expect the unexpected’ and whether it’s novelistic origins or free kombucha from the minibar, they live up to it in style.