Travel: Chiltern Firehouse, London
Fittingly for a former fire station it’s both London’s hottest and coolest hotel, restaurant and bar, and celebs are falling over themselves to see and be seen in this latest playground of the belle monde. Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Gerry Butler, Philippe Starck, the Clintons, Tom Cruise, Bono, Carrie Fisher and Cara Delevingne have all been spotted at the latest offering from American hotelier André Balazs. With a stable that includes the Chateau Marmont, where Led Zep once rode their Harleys through reception and John Belushi died of a drug overdose, to The Standard in New York, where Solange Knowles whacked Jay Z in front of her sister Beyoncé in the lift, Balazs’s hotels have an air of anything could happen.
Built in 1889, the decommissioned Marylebone Fire Station was bought by Balazs in 2011 and opened last autumn after renovations extended it into a hotel of 26 rooms and suites with a restaurant, bar and terrace. Victorian gothic red brick with soaring arches and crenellations on the outside, inside it’s part white-tiled brasserie, part louche Palm Beach lounge and glitzy cocktail bar and part yer granny’s, with its antique light fittings and ceramic knick-knacks.
BUDGET OR BOUTIQUE?
It’s five star with personal concierge service that ranges from running your bath to calling an ambulance, to smuggling you in and out the back door to avoid the paps. There’s a sense of anything goes, and when it does, discretion is guaranteed, with the chatty concierge nonetheless disappointingly shtum about the shenanigans of their famous guests.
In my loft suite, where the thick purple paisley carpet and double glazing muffle any after-party sounds into silence, the look is mid-century chic, with long velvet benches in front of the windows, calm creamy walls and retro light-fittings. There is a mini-bar, 24-hour room service, TV, free wi-fi, top notch toiletries and robes, and separate dressing and seating areas. The WC is separate from a bathroom with slab marble floors, bespoke handmade tiles and a huge claw foot bath that makes you long for Johnny Depp and 122 bottles of champagne. On a pad next to the bakelite telephone is a handwritten message: “Dial 0 for anything.” I sink back on bespoke pillows to think of something suitably racy to demand and promptly fall asleep on the drifts of Italian bedding.
WINING AND DINING
In the dining room, Michelin-starred chef Nuno Mendes orchestrates a mid-Atlantic influenced menu from a theatrical open kitchen. Starters include crab-stuffed donuts and mains chargrilled Iberico pork followed by pumpkin and brown butter pie. The decor is all pendant lamps, cream panelled walls and strategically placed mirrors, while the light from the large fire station doors makes the room seem endless. A nice touch is the table speared by the fire station’s original pole, but unless you’re Naomi Campbell, dancing around it is discouraged. Dinner was above my influence grade, but as a guest I qualified for breakfast and a highly recommended Eggs Royale and Hansen & Lydersen smoked salmon on a toasted brioche.
In the Ladder Shed lounge bar, which is large enough to accommodate a palm and two fig trees, trailing vines and hanging baskets, the deep wicker chairs and cashmere banquettes are the place to pose under flattering beams thrown out by kitschy pineapple lamps. Knock back a vodka, Chambord and pomegranate cocktail and soak up the sounds from whoever is hitting the decks. Guests can have a go too, and Bill Clinton has been known to give the vinyl a whirl.
WORTH GETTING OUT OF BED FOR
Forget it. Stay in, dial 0 and have a ball.
Ask the staff nicely and they’ll lead you behind a discreet door on the fourth floor, up the twisting staircase to the top of the look-out tower. A table for two provides the perfect eyrie to drink up cocktails and views across to the London Eye.
There’s something in the air at the Chiltern Firehouse, and it’s not just the heady whiff of moss, leather and tea scents that perfumier Azzi Glasser created to waft around the interior. It’s the crackle of anticipation, the buzz of excitement and the smell of success.
Classic rooms from £495. Chiltern Firehouse, 1 Chiltern Street, Marylebone, London, W1U 7PA (020-7073 7676, www.chilternfirehouse.com)