By Isabel Conway –
Locations in London just don’t come much better than at the Arch, a five-star boutique hotel in fashionable Marylebone, tucked away between the retail therapy bustle of Oxford Street and the green spaces of Regents Park.
I easily conjure up TV series like Upstairs Downstairs, carriages rolling between elegant townhouses, nannies wheeling out baby aristocrats for a spot of air or Sherlock Holmes taking to the shadowy fogbound streets on a life and death mission.
At a distinguished London address this stylish luxury hotel occupies seven Grade 2 listed Georgian townhouses at Great Cumberland Place. It’s a prestigious neighbourhood – Madonna’s London pad is right across the road – one where without a BMW X5 or a Range Rover, parked next to the Porsches and top of the range Mini Coopers outside your door, one simply’ isn’t at the races. Even mews homes go for millions around here.
Not that the ever attentive staff, from smartly uniformed concierges ready to hail a taxi or park your top of the range wheels to the friendly helpful receptionists blink an eyelid when I boast that my journey on foot from Marble Arch Tube Station has taken me only six minutes.
The notion of the guest experience has become ever more central to the worldwide hospitality industry and rightly so. The Arch is one of those which takes that mantra to heart, delivering luxury that’s less about full-blown opulence, more about creating memories with a noticeable attention to every small detail of one’s stay. Many guests are repeat business or word of mouth customers, which speaks for itself.
The Arch is noted for its collection of gorgeous art, much of it contemporary and by up and coming artists so look forward to a feast of colour and an explosion of creativity wherever you look in the public spaces and also the bedrooms.
Its Travel Times lucky day because my room has still to receive the all clear from housekeeping and half an hour and a complimentary coffee later a sumptuous subterranean suite is offered instead.
The wait gives me time to observe my surroundings as I relax in the intimate champagne bar whose ceiling is adorned with famous quotations extolling the merits of bubbles. “Why do I drink champagne for breakfast, doesn’t everyone” enquires Noel Coward. The drinks menu – perch on designer high stools or hide away in a cosy cubicle – lists cocktails from £12. The bar food on offer is interesting and also reasonably priced for a 5* star hotel.
The Arch has 82 rooms, including 11 suites, set over four floors all individually designed featuring beautiful hand painted wallpaper and splashes of bright complimentary colour on curtains and soft furnishings.
Paul Smith lamps, the finest duck down duvets, floating on top of the generous sized bed, ant-steam mirrors and Nespresso machines set the tone. I am assigned the Abbey suite on the lower floor. Next door is the gym and fitness area which Madonna has used in the past.
The large suite has sliding French doors which open out onto an artful secluded small terrace. Giving an illusion of space, the facing wall is covered in all- weather black and white photographs of a forest, flanked by a ferny vertical garden on both sides. Nosy as usual I can’t wait to check – real or fake, and fake wins but understandable, given the subterranean almost sun free setting. Terrace heaters and lighting make for a warm oasis of peace, surprisingly free of any traffic noises from the street above. It’s perfect for receiving guests. Mine stopped off at Waitrose and arrives bearing a welcome bottle of chilled champagne. Another nice Arch touch are the complimentary soft drinks in its alcove ceiling high bar (fresh orange juice for your Bucks Fizz!) and a large bathtub where I soak next morning in blissful Malin + Goetz salts, catching up with the news on the Loewe TV above the bath.
After a short tour of the main rooms adorned with interesting art and the elegant Martini library where Royal afternoon tea is taken, we adjourn to the restaurant named Hunter 486 – in memory of the original district telephone dial code. With so many top restaurants in the area we are curious about how Hunter 486 competes. You’d hardly notice it from the street but the restaurant has a excellent reputation in the neighbourhood and as usual many of its diners are non- residents, we hear.
The ambience is casual smart and the British inspired menus, both a la carte and a well- priced dinner menu of two or three courses offer lots of choice. The open kitchen concept design of gleaming pans and kitchen utensils hanging up and a team of cooks working in the background also works well. He enjoys a crispy succulent Gloucester pork belly, accompanied by a Bramley apple puree, followed by super fresh cod, with saffron mussels and clams. I choose the crabmeat from Cornwall and its delicious but only a couple of mouthfuls in size. Next comes a hearty roast shoulder of English lamb with spring vegetables and minted broth, lovely flavours and pretty as a picture.
The wine here at Hunter 486 is quite pricy so we stick to glasses of Chardonnay from Western Cape and New Zealand Pinot Noir. We manage one pudding between us straying off the set dinner menu for a shared ‘ signature’ chocolate fondant and mint ice-cream.
Did I mention that the Arch is one of England’s leading high end dog friendly hotels? Your pooch is spoiled here with a pet’s menu, from poached chicken breast mixed with rice and grated carrot and Salmon cooked in homemade stock with spinach and parsley (both £7,50) or the vegetarian option.
Walkers are available to exercise dogs in nearby Hyde Park or dog sit in the bedrooms where they must be supervised. Little wonder given the terrain of beautiful carpeting and the last word in soft furnishings.
Marylebone bursts with delightful cafes, boutiques and attractions, all within walking distance of the Arch, though you will have trouble tearing yourself away, as I did, from its so comfortable precincts.
On your walkabout be sure to check out the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221 B Baker Street, a brisk stroll away to step back inside the mind of the super sleuth. I also spend a couple of hours enjoying the alluring array of art through the centuries, antiques and just about any beautiful collectable you can think of – from snuff boxes to jewellery and fans to ornamental cutlery – on display at the Wallace Collection (Its free!) Manchester Square a few minutes away from the Arch.
You will want to walk off this hotel’s extensive breakfast choice – from nutritious healthy options to a full English. You may not yet have room for grazing at Marylebone Farmers Market. But you can always drop by there on Sunday mornings and pick your picnic if the weather is nice in Hyde Park, choosing artisan pates, farm cheeses and Madam Macaroon’s colourful meringues to go.
For more information see www.thearchlondon.com . Doubles from €250 excluding breakfast (€27 for full English with the added on buffet selection)