Travel: Time and Again
Peter Mckay, co-owner of the three distinctive London boutique hotels (the Gore, Hazlitt’s, and the Rookery) known collectively as Hazlitt’s Hotels, employs a characteristically British understatement to assess the charm of the properties. “Someone who came from the 18th century would not feel completely out of place in them,” he says. Such a guest, however, probably would have little use for the hotels’ Wi-Fi service and would not know what to make of the Gore’s satellite TVs, which are tastefully hidden in vintage cabinets.
The Gore occupies two six-story Italianate mansions in Kensington on the tree-lined Queen’s Gate, just around the corner from the Royal Albert Hall and within walking distance of both Harrods and Kensington Palace. Once the home of the Turkish Embassy, the property has housed a hotel since the late 19th century, when aristocrats from all over Europe marveled at its then-revolutionary hydraulic elevator, which remains in use today.
Across the long, narrow lobby from the hotel’s restaurant, visitors from the neighborhood and members of the London cocktail crowd enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of the mahogany-paneled Bar 190. (The name references the building’s Queen’s Gate address.)
McKay and co-owner Douglas Blain furnished the Gore with antiques and nearly 5,000 paintings during a $4.6 million refurbishment that they completed last year. “You have to use the old, or it just doesn’t feel right,” explains McKay. Guests will find examples of the old, and evidence of the owners’ experience with architectural salvage, throughout the hotel, including in many guest bathrooms, which are equipped with pull-handle cisterns and regal throne toilets.
The Gore’s romantic and lavishly decorated Venus Room—named for the copy of Titian’s Venus of Urbino that dominates one of the walls—is furnished with a gilt wood bed that once belonged to Judy Garland, one of the many performers who used to frequent the hotel. The Venus Room’s bathroom tiles display a painted depiction of Apollo in his winged chariot. Linen-fold paneled walls, a large inglenook fireplace, and a minstrel’s gallery distinguish another favorite accommodation, the Tudor Room. The guest rooms’ enchanting eccentricities and theatricality have made them among London’s most popular locations for fashion photo shoots.
Both the Rookery, located just outside the financial district, and Hazlitt’s, which comprises three 18th-century townhouses at the top of Frith Street in Soho, have rooms that are every bit as intriguing as the Gore’s. The Rookery’s premier accommodation is the Rook’s Nest, a two-level suite with a 40-foot spire ceiling and views across the rooftops of London.
Each of the rooms at Hazlitt’s is named for a historical or literary figure who at one time lived in one of the buildings or had some connection with it. The hotel itself takes its name from the acclaimed essayist William Hazlitt, who died in the building in 1830. His gravestone, in a nearby cemetery, is inscribed with the words “Grateful and Contented.” No doubt the writer would feel that same sentiment today if he were to come from his era and stay at one of the Hazlitt’s Hotels.