The Mandrake must have put its alchemic name to good use, because in just a few short months from opening, it is the talk of London town. It was easy to understand why as we stepped through the doors of its understated location in Fitzrovia – it makes quite a first impression – surreal, theatrical and a bit like falling through the rabbit hole, like Alice into a Wonderland of sorts. We love hotels that are like curiosity shops, reflecting their owners’ penchant for commissioning art and collecting artefacts from their own travels around the world. The Mandrake epitomises this – it features stuffed chimeras, African masks, chandeliers, wind chimes, and eclectic abstract art. But as worldly as it is, there’s very much a London feel to it all – it’s like Camden Market meets the Raymond Revue Bar, with a nod to the LSD-induced psychedelia of the city’s Sixties heyday.
On paper, the interior design should not work, but for some reason it does. It’s a riot of colours and textures and each space is as whimsical as the next. Our Junior suite, one of just 30-something private spaces, faced into the atrium bedecked with hanging gardens. It’s a dark and moody space, much like the rest of the hotel, perfect for us nocturnal creatures. However, if you’re the type to rise from your four-poster bed for breakfast (in the second outpost of Serge et le Phoque), then ask for a room that faces the street as it has far more natural night. We loved our marble bathroom complete with freestanding tub and fabulous shower (especially considering water pressure can be a problem in older London hotels). The ultimate party pad is the Mandrake Suite, a storybook of a hotel-room that you have to see to believe, a true London boudoir. If you’re in town to celebrate, then check-in to the Penthouse, an amazing white Carera marble apartment complete with cashmere mattress bed and hot-tub under a retractable roof where you can stare at the night sky.
The Mandrake was designed to be utterly sensorial and throughout our stay, every experience was a master class in sight, smell, taste and touch. From custom scents (it has its own perfumer), to the exotic plants in the greenhouse, to Michelin-starred in-room dining and round-the-world whiskey tasting, to truly experiential arthouse events – part of the hotel’s ongoing, quirky ‘artist-in-residence’ programme. Holistic wellness is also on the agenda here, from full-moon gong baths, to Lomi-Lomi bodywork, to sonic enchantment. There’s a lot going on here for a boutique hotel – sometimes we felt a little lost in it – but it was great to see that among all the minimalism and functionality in today’s luxury London hotel scene, there is someone who dares to dream.