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London. Browns Hotel

Sir Rocco Forte, more upmarket than Prince Charles, has a cocktail named after him whilst Gordo contemplates smoking opium at Browns Hotel in London.

Written by . Published on July 28th 2006.

London. Browns Hotel

Last year Gordo met the dapper Sir Rocco Forte, owner of The Lowry Hotel, at the Triathlon World Cup in Salford Quays. Sir Rocco looks Italian, speaks like an upmarket Prince Charles and looks at Gordo in a way which says ‘yes, you are a fat bugger aren’t you?’ He had just competed in the over sixties section of the triathlon. This means, folks, that he swam 1500 metres, cycled 40 kilometers and ran 10. He won. No wonder he looked a bit warm when Gordo met him. ‘Fcuk me’, wandered through Gordo’s brain, which was desperately trying to come to grips with eleven o’clock on a Sunday morning. He had got to bed at five thirty.

Sir Rocco had just employed Eyck Zimmer as head chef; Gordo is a fan. Sir Rocco believed he was the right man to get the Lowry Hotel’s River Room restaurant up to scratch. As Gordo writes, Eyck has just been nominated by the Food and Drink awards for best chef and best restaurant. Good going.

Gordo recently discovered that Sir Rocco had bought and completely refurbished Browns Hotel in London, so on a recent trip he decided to give it a go and see how Prince Rocco had got on with it.

Gordo arrived tired and emotional at seven o’clock having been at the Silver Clef music awards all afternoon, drinking with Dave Dee, who is good at that sort of thing. Gordo was thinking that Prince Rocco didn’t mind spending money on staff; there were six behind the reception desk. Then Gordo realised he was seeing double. No problem, closing one eye always sorts that stuff out. Next thing he was being welcomed by a charming bloke called Stuart Johnson, who it turned out was the gaffer. Stuart ignored Gordo’s five minute wink, welcomed him and sensibly retired to get away from the booze fumes.

There is no point going into the evening’s events, it included a pub, a restaurant in Notting Hill (wittily called The Notting Grill - geddit?), a trip to a complete toilet of a pub in Lewisham (!) nattily called The Dirty Southern where Peter Hook, of New Order fame, who had been at the lunch with Gordo was doing a gig. Don’t ask. Drunk or not, Gordo can remember Peter’s wife at the lunch. Wow.

The following morning Gordo decided to have a look around the hotel. It’s situated on the delightfully old fashioned and quiet Albemarle street, a stone’s throw from Piccadilly, some gob smacking shopping in Bond street. It has easy access to the tube system and is a good command centre for the theatres. The place was famous for its afternoon teas, an average restaurant and an interior which whispered fraying aristocracy, pipes and hansom cabs.

Prince Rocco has kept all the good bits whilst getting rid of the plumbing which after 150 years of service used to be temperamental, to say the least. The overall design has created contemporary Victorian, if you know what Gordo means. The room had a bed that was designed with pea hunting princesses in mind. The pillows were better than smoking opium. Beautifully decorated, it was spacious and, most importantly, feeling like home. It was supremely comfortable. A five star hotel, the rooms reflect this with every accessory and service you can think of, from shoe shine to valeting, broad band to flat screen LCD televisions along with video on demand. Simple, elegant, classy furniture.

Then there is the bathroom. The shower could have serviced a rugby team, whilst a polo match went on in the bath. It is magnificent. Loads of goodies to pinch.

The restaurant looks like a serious play, didn’t get to try it but will on the next visit. The English Tea Room has been minted in a lovely way and has built itself a reputation as being one of the best in town with Gordo’s fellow critics in a very short space of time.

Walking through, Gordo was asked how he was by a lady who looked after the room. Three minutes of delightful conversation left him feeling that he had arrived home. Here lies the standard that Stuart, the manager, has clearly set with all his staff. They are the most personable, friendly without being intrusive set of people Gordo has come across since his days at The Lancaster in Paris. Everyone is a delight. Weirdly, Ashley, the Concierge, turned out to be Dave Dee’s son. Not a chip of the old block, this feller was sensible.

The Donovan bar is laid out in subtle greys, a wooden floor and a far from wooden cocktail list. On that list was a Sirocco. £12.00. ‘We created this cocktail as a tribute to Sir Rocco…’ Yeah, whatever you arse licker. Mind, the service in this bar was spot on.

It’s called Donovan’s bar because it has the most astonishing collection of Terence Donovan photographs, one of the sixties crop of photographers who, whilst less well known than David Bailey, was in Gordo’s opinion far better. This is a lovely bar and is now officially Gordo’s bar of choice in town.

All in all a cracker of a hotel. Try it. Save up for the breakfast though, or go to the caff across the road. It’s twenty five quid. Wow.

It’s a Gordo Go.

Email me

Brown’s Hotel
Albermarle Street

020 7493 6020

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