Mrs Smith is certainly taking her time. I’ve been sitting by the oak counter in the Donovan Bar at London’s Brown’s Hotel for about half an hour now, nursing the same glass of wine and trying to look inconspicuous. Everyone around me is engaged in hand-waving and drink-splashing animated conversation, and even the bar staff are chatting merrily to each other as they mix cocktails and pop the corks from bottles of champagne. I silently curse my other half. How can I have arrived here first for our decadent weekend break in our home city? I’ve come in from Smith HQ in Chiswick. She works just around the corner.
Finally, just as I’m contemplating reading the newspaper I rescued from the tube from cover to cover for a second time, Mrs Smith appears in the doorway. She looks fabulous. I can see why it’s taken her so long to get here. All feelings of loneliness and frustration disappear, and I suddenly feel as though I have a right to take my place amid the blur of Savile Row suits and elegant Bond Street dresses that fill the dark and buzzing space. I stand up and lead her into a just-vacated alcove, and we sit, perusing the cocktail menu, surrounded by mildly erotic black-and-white Terence Donovan prints.
Our flat may only be a 20-minute tube ride away, but it may as well be in Adelaide for all the thought we’ll be giving it over the next couple of days. The plants have been watered, the timer on the cat feeder has been set and we’re affecting the air of a couple who regularly frequent this W1 grande dame. Well, Mrs Smith is. I’m still in mildly scruffy work garb. We down our drinks, and check into our Deluxe Suite, leaving instructions for a bottle of prosecco and an ironing board to be sent up.
Our beautiful suite – all subtle design flourishes and antique furniture – feels like the London pad of a fabulously wealthy gay uncle who subscribes to Attitude as well as The Stage. There’s a mahogany table for six over there, beneath an art deco mirror and shelves of what look like well-thumbed books; over there, there’s a B&O flatscreen TV and an enormous wall-mounted photograph of Milla Jovovich in The Fifth Element. The decor is all cream and brown, and the overall effect manages to be both hip and homely. That’s just the living room. The bedroom comes with a bed that’s almost big enough to levy its own taxes, and the pale marble-and-mosaic bathroom with its twin sinks and two-person shower is one of the most decadent spaces in which we’ve ever washed our hands – next to each other. By the time the wine arrives, Mrs Smith is already slipping into the bath to watch EastEnders on the in-tub plasma-screen TV.
Downstairs in the oak-panelled Albemarle restaurant, we take our places on a semi-circular banquette and settle down for a spot of fine formal dining. I’m a big fan of chef Mark Hix’s traditional British cooking, so I’m really looking forward to tucking into the dishes that he and Lee Streeton have created here. So wonderful-sounding are all the options, though, that I’d have been perfectly happy if they just brought me the menu and let me peruse it all evening. ‘You’re being like Homer Simpson,’ Mrs Smith chides me. ‘You’re just reading out the names of dishes then going “Mmm” after them.’
Eventually, I settle on delicious, garlicky baked razor clams and a thick and tender slice of Aberdeenshire sirloin on the bone, while Mrs Smith goes for Dorset crab and a fillet of John Dory. It’s every bit as delicious as I’d hoped. We toy with the idea of dessert – ‘too full’ is the consensus – but decide, instead, to head back to the Donovan Bar for a nightcap. Livelier than when we left it, the bar is now home to a jazz duo, as well as some pretty florid foot-tappers. We find a table among them all and settle back with our single malts. The complimentary nuts and olives that we’re brought, though, remain completely untouched.
Later on, in bed, I call across to Mrs Smith, and ask her what she’d like to do tomorrow. Central London is our oyster: we could stroll across nearby Green Park to see if the Queen’s at home; we could wander into Soho for coffee at one of the last remaining Italian caffs; we could even make our way up to Bond Street and unfurl pieces of cashmere and silk. ‘Breakfast,’ she yawns. ‘In bed…’ And then promptly falls asleep. It looks as though we won’t be leaving in a hurry.
Anonymously reviewed by Rufus Purdy (Word wizard)
Reviews of Brown's Hotel from Smith members
Whenever you book a stay through us, we’ll invite you to comment when you get back. Read the Guestbook entries below to see what real-life Mr & Mrs Smiths have said about this hotel…
Probably my most favourite hotel in London, Brown's really is in a class of its own; it oozes history, style, elegance and brilliant service. The spa is wonderful: it doesn't have a pool or some of the facilities that you would expect to find in a large spa, but for a hotel in central London they really have created a world away from the hustle and bustle. The therapists are, I think, the best in London and really do a great job. Hix's restaurant is fantastic and translates really well to room service. All in all, an exceptional hotel.
Julia, SilverSmith stayed on 30 May 2013