Poetry in (London) Motion

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Before visiting the Rosewood London, I had never in my life seen an establishment elegantly incorporate such a large number of animal references into its décor. But far from being of the creepy cat-lady variety (an offensive stereotype, by the way), these subtle nods took the form of furry creatures, both live and figurative – finches and budgerigars happily chirping away in bird cages, pelican door stops and pug statues sporting Vivienne Westwood collars. All of these are examples of the quirky little things that make the Rosewood London so delightful.

The immediate sense upon entering is of the creative and polished atmosphere one has come to expect of New York City-based architect Tony Chi. But upon noticing the little humorous tokens carefully chosen by the designer, one finally understands the overall character of the hotel – a place that retains a strong sense of professionalism, but doesn’t take itself too seriously.

The hotel, which was designed to perpetuate the Rosewood Group’s Sense of Place philosophy, is very much rooted in a strong awareness of cultural context. Both the public and private spaces bring through the “London in Motion” sentiment that sits at the heart of the hotel.

The building itself, located in Holborn, is a restored 1914 Edwardian Belle Epoque building and retains the Grade II listed street frontage and Pavonazzo marble staircase from the original structure. The restorations were designed to evoke the feeling of a London residency, with modernised manor house style references scattered throughout. Guests arrive through a carriageway and courtyard and are then greeted in the lobby by a space filled with artwork and books.

Matthias Roeke, Managing Director of the hotel, said, “Rosewood London encompasses an element of surprise in its design, which gives this landmark building, steeped in and surrounded by history, the lease of life it deserves. We are honoured to be the stewards of an exciting new chapter in its legacy.”

With its 262 guest rooms and 44 suites, the hotel also houses two restaurants and a bar – The Mirror room, the Holborn Dining Room, and the Scarfes Bar – which are all, once again, inspired by the city of London. While the Mirror room, offering all-day dining and afternoon tea, evokes an elegant salon-style space, the Holborn Dining Room, designed by Martin Brudnizki, is a more casual British brasserie. The restaurant is inspired by classic British design complete with reclaimed oak, antique mirrors, red leather upholstery and dining counters topped with aged copper and patina brass.

The kitchen, which is overseen by Executive Chef Lee Bull, former Head Chef of Le Caprice and Scott’s, and David Burke, previously Executive Chef of Le Pont de la Tour, offers a lunch and dinner menu appropriately suited to the restaurant’s décor – a selection of traditional British dishes made from locally sourced ingredients. Adjoining the restaurant is the Holborn Delicatessen from which guests can choose from an array of local products: teas, coffees, breads, charcuterie, marmalades, sandwiches, soups and salads.

While the Mirror room is the perfect place to indulge in a wonderful afternoon tea and, to be honest, I could probably spend my entire life in the Holborn Delicatessen, my favourite part of the hotel is actually the Scarfes Bar. But it is not the creative menu of cocktails, roaring fire, cosy velvet armchairs or the over 1,000 antique books that so excited me. It was, in fact, the numerous caricatures contributed by renowned British artist Gerald Scarfe that adorn the marble walls of the bar.

Scarfe, longtime political cartoonist for both The Sunday Times and The New Yorker, lent his name and work to the space, and it features the artist’s collection of original and one-off paintings depicting well-known historical and contemporary figures in his signature witty and satirical manner. Scarfe, who also contributed eleven large canvases of over 70 caricatures created especially for the bar, has described the space as being his own personal art gallery, “where you can see my life on these walls.”

One wall displays eight canvasses of well-known British figures, including politicians such as David Cameron, Margaret Thatcher, and Boris Johnson – the latter illustrated as a clown on a unicycle. There are also many caricatures of pop culture personalities – both real and fictional – such as David Beckham, Harry Potter, and Charlie Chaplin. Of the space the artist has said, “I am, of course, tremendously flattered and I reason that, if the Prince of Wales can have a pub named after him, why shouldn’t I have a bar?”

by C J Amore

From the current issue of Glass – Destiny

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