Monday, 6 August 2012

Hazlitt's, Soho, London

Saturday, 17.20
Before today, Monsieur 2 and I have walked past this discreet terrace of Georgian houses on Soho’s fashionable Frith Street dozens of times and always assumed that the name ‘Hazlitt’s’, painted elegantly above the door, was that of a venerable law firm, or private members’ club. But a writer friend of ours has spilled the beans and let us in on the fact that behind the dark green door lies an extremely luxurious hotel, popular with authors, actors and other creative types. Her enthusiastic recommendation was all the persuading we needed and we’ve booked ourselves in for a night.

The reception area sets the tone for the rest of the hotel; grand, formal, but friendly. The concierge beams as he tells us that our room is his favourite. He walks us along a chandelier-lit corridor to the lift, pointing out the residents’ lounge complete with honesty bar on the way.

The thirty rooms at Hazlitt’s don’t have numbers, they’re named after people who have lived at or visited this address (William Hazlitt, the great 19th century essayist, died here in 1830 giving the hotel its name). Our room is the Duke of Monmouth; I say ‘room’, but as we enter and see a staircase to our left we realise that it is in fact a suite!

Checking out the bedroom first, we’re immediately impressed by the gorgeous decor - with tapestries and oil paintings it’s certainly a room fit for a Duke!

The immense canopied bed bears the royal crest, reflecting the Duke of Monmouth’s princely blood; in the bay window, half-concealed by heavy floor-to-ceiling velvet curtains, there’s an elegant antique writing desk. There are some unobtrusive mod-cons though; mirrored panels conceal a flat-screen TV, and the heavy plush window blinds are electric. It’s the perfect balance of old and new.

Most spectacular is the enormous bathtub occupying one side of the room, watched over by a life-size bronze eagle from whose beak the water flows. We’ve never seen anything like it!

We head upstairs. There’s a comfortable lounge area (complete with chess table!), a shower room - the toilet is concealed within an actual wooden throne - and an incredible in-room bar stocked with bottles of spirits, wines and, our new favourite amenity against which all others will be judged, a champagne fridge containing full-size bottles of fine fizz!

As if we could be any more excited by our opulent digs, we open up the French windows and step out onto...our very own private roof terrace. One flick of a switch retracts the glass ceiling and opens us up to the warm evening air. We grab a bottle of bubbly from the fridge, pop the cork and relax. This really is the life.

We’re starting to get peckish. The only thing Hazlitt’s lacks is its own restaurant but this being Soho, we’re absolutely spoiled for choice. On the strength of great word-of-mouth we head for hot new ramen bar Tonkotsu on neighbouring Dean Street, where we slurp delicious bowls of rich pork broth and noodles and wash down the best kara age - fried chicken - and gyoza we’ve had in a long while with craft beers.

It wouldn’t be a night in Soho without taking in a bit of the gay scene, and right opposite Hazlitt’s is cool bar Circa. We stop in for a couple of cocktails and are tempted to stay out, but knowing that the Duke of Monmouth suite is waiting for us across the road is enough to draw us back. We love it so much we want to make the most of it!

That sumptuous bathtub is easily big enough for two; we fill it deeply, splash in some of the gorgeous REN bath oil that’s included in the generous selection, and sink in for a soak...

Time for bed. The covers are beautifully soft, the mattress is just’s not long before we’re sound asleep.

Sunday 09.30
There’s a knock at the door and a maid brings in our breakfast, chosen the night before. It’s a bright morning so we take the tray out to the roof terrace. There’s a bacon sarnie for me  - good bacon, but rather dry crunchy bread - and healthy fresh fruit and granola for Monsieur 2, along with some pastries.

Compared to the supreme quality of everything else about Hazlitt’s, breakfast seems a bit ordinary, but quite frankly where else could you say you ate breakfast on a roof terrace, in morning sunshine, watched over by a full-size marble stag?!

With some reluctance, we bid au revoir to the Duke of Monmouth; it really is a remarkable suite in a hotel full of character and charm. On the way down to reception we notice a writing desk and chair set out on a landing, as if waiting for William Hazlitt to come back one day. We certainly wouldn’t blame him, as we know we will.

N: Hazlitts
A: 6 Frith Street, Soho Square, London W1D 3JA
T: +442074341771
Our rating: ****

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