The restaurant world has experienced a turbulent and unnerving period, from the Savile Row streets of Mayfair to the Wall Street of London, Canary Wharf, none have been spared from the ‘look after the pennies’ mentality.
The shake up has caused even the longest standing five-star names to step up to the plate to give their clientele an unforgettable dining experience. One of those is the unparalleled, Rocco Forte group with their Mayfair based, Brown’s Hotel, which houses their beloved Donovan Bar and new restaurant venture, Charlie’s.
Headed by Sir Rocco Forte, the Forte family’s awe-inspiring story came to life in 1911 when his grandfather embarked from Italy to Scotland, founding the family’s first business the Savoy Cafe. Sir Rocco Forte’s father’s own hospitality talents shone though after he witnessed the cafe’s fortune lead to numerous restaurant success stories in Scotland and London, setting up his own milk bar in leafy Regent Street. The bar’s impeccably timed opening created an empire that gave birth to the Trusthouse Forte; the world’s largest hospitality group. In 2003 the Forte family purchased London’s 1837-born hotel, Brown’s, boasting some of the most illustrious milestones one could dream of and still favoured by all, from European royalty and award-winning authors to blue blooded aristocrats.
The Donovan Bar
No evening is complete without a pre dinner cocktail at the fashionably sublime, Donavan Bar. A bow to its namesake and renowned fashion photographer, Terence Donovan, the walls were adorned with his iconic black and white 1960s photographs, including Lady Forte herself. The leather fronted bar took the star attraction title, whilst the colour palette of vintage green and gold, mixed with grey and white brought a sense of seductive glamour, finished with velvet green armchairs and gleaming glass cast tables with matt bronze finishings.
Studying the cocktail menu, I was torn between the ‘Swinging Sixties’ and ‘Twiggy but I settled for the latter, named after one of the world’s most adored icons in the fashion industry. Heads turned as this beautifully pink/purple creation arrived at my table housed in a slim, extra tall stemmed champagne flute, a playful reminiscent to Twiggy’s slender frame that shaped her supermodel status. The flavours were as fresh and vibrant as Twiggy herself, with vanilla Grey Goose cutting through the sharp sweetness of passion fruit, blending smoothly with a sparkling kick of Champagne and egg white foam.
The cocktail creator was maestro, Salvatore Calabrese; former President of The United Kingdom Bartender’s Guild and one of the most legendary bartenders the world has seen. His perfectly honed mixology skills have earned him accolades from royalty, presidents and movie stars and it gives me great pleasure to be a part of that little golden book.
The evening continued with dinner at Charlie’s, lovingly named after the founding Forte, Lord Charles, as a dedication to his talent of combining rich, British heritage, enveloped with a flair of modernity. Keeping it in the family with Olga Polizzi once again picking up her award-winning design reigns, the restaurant encompassed an exotic, jungle like atmosphere. This was showcased throughout the whole dining space from the glossy, wood panelled walls, tropical bespoke wallpaper, exclusively designed by Adam Ellis, to the green botanical imprinted bone china plates and cream matted chandeliers in intricate, plant like designs.
The restaurant’s 2019 opening had closely coincided with the 125th anniversary of Rudyard Kipling, the celebrated author who gave us Mowgli, Bagheera, and the lovable Baloo from our childhood favourite The Jungle Book; penned and brought to life in this very same hotel and inspired the luxuriously exquisite, £6,500 a night Kipling suite in his honour.
The menu offered up some of the most quintessentially British dishes with a creative, contemporary twist, from the traditional Sunday roast to celebrating the era of the gleaming, lunchtime silver trolley service. The kitchen dream team comprised of executive chef, Adam Byatt and head chef Matthew Starling, together holding some of most esteemed culinary backgrounds from Fera at Claridges, Roganic and the Michelin-starred, Trinity.
I began with a starter portion of linguine cacio e pepe with Wiltshire black truffles, whilst my guest opted for the Moxon’s smoked salmon from the trolley. With orders placed, the restaurant’s sommelier arrived with a grand welcome and request for our wine preference to complement our dishes. Informing him of our love for white but were eyeing up red meat mains, we received a reassured nod and a ‘leave it with me, I like a good challenge.’
The linguine was as delectable as expected, if not more. Perfectly cooked fresh pasta requiring nothing more than butter, black pepper and cheese, generously topped with delicate, black truffle shavings; simple, divine and not a single edible flower in sight. My guest’s smoked salmon brought some dining entertainment to the table, wheeled over on a stone slab trolley and expertly sliced with fine precision, finished off with a selection of garnishing and tissue wrapped lemon. To accompany our meal, the sommelier earned his weight in gold selecting a bottle of Johanneshof Reinisch, Ried Satzing Rotgipfler; floral, earthy, with a satiating freshness of orange peel.
The mains were a beautiful cut of coal cooked sirloin beef, each mouthful perfectly pink and succulent as the last, with a no-frills garnish of marinated tomato and diced black olives as well as a serving of Bernaise sauce. The side orders of silky, buttery mash potatoes, crispy chunky chips and buttered green vegetables served as the perfect accompaniments to the beef, though a niggling thought entered my mind that a peppercorn based sauce may have served better than Bernaise, however this was purely a personal viewpoint.
We concluded the meal with a blood orange and brown sugar custard tart, served with a helping of grapefruit sorbet. The contrast of icy, sharp bitterness of the sorbet and sugary richness of the crème brûlée style tart, whilst an unusual pairing, worked in a harmonious union together. This was perfectly rounded off with a juicy dessert wine with flavours of blackberry, enveloped in light notes of chocolate.
In a nutshell
Family has always been the driving force and essence behind the Forte mission, to provide an unparalleled service in one of a kind surroundings, be they within a tropical paradise or neon lit skyscraper. Fourteen hotels in twelve sought after destinations, the family have firmly kept their feet on the ground, adamant to retain their warmth and soul, which can lack in other chain hotels.
The dining experience at Brown’s Hotel was truly an unforgettable one, treated like royalty and family from start to finish with tantalising cocktails and mouthwatering food, it is an incredible honour to be writing on one of the most illustrious names the world has known and seen.
Address: Albemarle Street, London, W1S 4PB
Phone: 0207 493 6020
Image credit at the very top of the article: Charlie McKay