‘Mandeville’ is one of those surnames strongly evocative of nobility, much like Cavendish or Montagu, but while the latter two aristocratic names have their own eponymous garden squares in London’s Marylebone, there’s no such Mandeville equivalent.
There is, however, just off Marylebone High Street, the Georgian-era Manchester Square named after the Duke of Manchester, who also went by the title Viscount Mandeville. This name was then given to the adjacent 18th century-built Mandeville Place, and finally to the four-star Mandeville Hotel which takes pride of place on this serene, stately street: a veritable oasis from the nearby Oxford and Bond Streets, which are a few minutes’ walk away but very much out of earshot.
The first thing that strikes you about The Mandeville is its impressive kerb appeal: a converted row of red-brick multi-storey townhouses with large Union Jacks waving in the breeze over the central entrance. An image of imposing Victorian grandeur still holding firm.
Once you’re through the front doors, however, that appearance succumbs to a much more contemporary and boutiquey ambience, encompassing retro furnishings, quirky artwork and a reception centrepiece of a masked bear in an oversized toy car. It all manages to strike just about the right tone of aesthetic contrast, something that other hotels of similar historical ilk can get wrong when attempting to modernise.
However the artistic bravery here gets dialled up to eleven when you take the elevator up to the fifth floor, on which my partner and I are staying for the weekend – the entire floor having been redecorated in a bold partnership with French fashion designer Christian Lacroix.
The corridors and redesigned ‘Riviera Rooms’ are a kaleidoscope of vibrant colours, statement furnishings and elaborate design motifs – it might not be to every guest’s taste but to these eyes it is a welcome divergence from the more prevalent mid-toned feel of so many four and five star hotels.
The room we’ve been allocated – the ‘Jardin Exotique’ – is a dramatic showpiece epitomising the Lacroix touch, themed on the French Riviera: one wall in deckchair and Breton-shirt stripes, others emblazoned in ‘Exo-Chic’ palm tree print, and several striking Julian Chichester pineapple lamps, in a nod to the Botanical Gardens of Monaco. You certainly won’t find many hotel bedrooms like this one in this part of the capital. And on a purely functional level, the Nespresso coffeemaker worked first time and there’s an all-important plug right next to the bed.
Despite the Mandeville’s central London location, the fifth-floor location of the room means outside noise remains minimal, so you can keep your window wide open if preferring fresh air to air-con. Elsewhere in the hotel, the rest of the 142 rooms are decorated and furnished in a relatively more classic and less extravagant style than the Rivieras – you’ll know from seeing the pictures where your preference lies.
And speaking of higher levels, the Terrace Suite, spread over the top two floors, is an exceptional option for celebrities or business guests who would prefer the privacy and exclusivity of a penthouse apartment, with roof terrace views taking in the BT Tower, the nearby Georgian Hinde Street Methodist Church and the rooftops of Marylebone.
On the dining front, the house restaurant – Reform Social and Grill – takes its inspiration from traditional British gentlemen’s clubs, with mahogany tables, copper walls and plush leather banquettes, and a menu that’s more homely and time-honoured than haute cuisine. Expect dishes like slow-roasted lamb shank, flat-iron steak and beer-battered fish and chips served in a stainless steel chip-fryer basket, with chocolate fondant and mixed berry cheesecake for afters.
I liked the retro British touch of framed oversized Dandy comics in the corridor leading from the restaurant to the WCs, and the fact that breakfast is served in the same venue – a welcome way to start the day on your capital excursion. There is also a secluded courtyard patio area outside for the option of al fresco dining, which is a pleasant touch for the warmer months.
Location-wise, The Mandeville is hard to beat in any part of London, with the bustling retail thoroughfares of Oxford Street and Bond Street to one side of it, as well as the popular dining and drinking hub of St Christopher’s Place; and the more trendy and boutique urban village of Marylebone on the other, bisected by Marylebone High Street.
Art lovers will also be in their element in this part of town, with the hidden jewel that is the Wallace Collection only a couple of minutes’ stroll away, plus a plethora of Mayfair’s more contemporary art galleries within ambling distance on the other side of Oxford Street.
In a nutshell
To conclude retrospectively on that note, if you’re of an artistic persuasion but with an accompanying predilection for class and exclusivity, you really will find yourself in your essence in one of the aforementioned Riviera Rooms at The Mandeville Hotel. There is one to suit a range of moods and penchants, from the bold verdancy of this writer’s room to the moodier sophistication of ‘Midnight Blue’, inspired by a clandestine sea-bathing society that met at night on the shores of Monaco.
Or you can, of course, settle for one of the less ostentatious chambers in this imposing from the outside but warmly idiosyncratic within, veteran hotel that bravely marries traditional elegance with a more modish aesthetic, and succeeds in that endeavour where others have fallen short.
Rooms can be booked from £115 per room per night, with the Riviera Rooms starting at £189. The Mandeville is a member of Preferred Hotels and Resorts.
Address: Mandeville Place, London W1U 2BE
Phone: +44 (0)207 935 5599