The Churchill: a London hotel fit for a prime minister
Chris Carter checks in to a posh retreat in Marylebone with sumptuous décor and splendid food
Sitting outside at the elegant Churchill Bar & Terrace, part of the “Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill” hotel, in Marylebone, I couldn’t help but notice, out of the corner of my eye, somebody watching me. I played with my Thousand Islands cocktail, a heady mix of Zacapa rum and Barolo Chinato, pretending not to notice, my lady companion all the while absorbed with her Air Safari of gin and corn liquor, parcel-tied neatly in a corn husk. Was it me?
The folk at other tables chatted happily on this spring evening in Marylebone, the smart end of town just round the corner from Hyde Park, Marble Arch and Oxford Street. Finally, I looked over. There, to my left, sat the likeness of the great Winston Churchill, rendered in metal and clutching a brandy and trademark cigar.
The statue is a far cry from the famous bulbous figure facing Big Ben. Here, Winston looks slim and relaxed, as if midway through some jocular anecdote, surrounded by happy memories, some featuring his wife, Clementine, framed and fixed to the white marble walls behind him. The sweet smell of cigar smoke was even hanging in the air, thoughtfully supplied by a gentleman at another table.
Following our drink with Winston, we moved off to The Churchill’s restaurant, The Montagu Kitchen. It’s dinner with a show. Possibly the chefs, beavering away, don’t see it quite like that, but the lack of a wall between kitchen and tables makes for a spectacle.
The menu takes its inspiration from the gardens at Chartwell, Churchill’s home in Kent, sourcing simple, seasonal British ingredients. It’s not complicated food, but its sophistication lies in its simplicity. I opted for a deliciously creamy Cornish crab, followed by a weighty pork chop with a buttery herb dressing, cooked to perfection. No tricks, no foams, no smears, no kitchen wall or magic curtain – just traditional British food nicely done.
And the service was attentive and informed. It seemed only fitting to take their advice of a glass of Graham’s 40-year-old tawny (a drink with British origins after all) to round off the meal. It wasn’t Winston’s favourite Johnnie Walker, perhaps, but I think he would have approved.
Clean and contemporary
Churchill never got to stay at the hotel – it opened in 1970, five years after he died. But the Churchillian theme runs throughout, from the artwork curated by Thompson’s Gallery to the names on the doors, a pair of which lead to the grandest set of rooms.
This is not the presidential suite (although I am told the Obamas stayed here during the 2012 London Olympics), but the Churchill Residential Suite – a four-bedroom, self-contained, newly renovated apartment in the centre of London, with kitchen, study (with ginormous desk), terrace, lounge (with grand piano), dining room (with a table long enough to seat the Cabinet), and let’s just say several bathrooms, with Molton Brown products.
The décor is clean and contemporary, with flashes of yellow in the cushions, lamp shades and fireplace. Naturally, there’s a Warhol-esque picture of a young Winston looking like Sgt. Pepper on the wall, taken from an old black-and-white photo of Churchill in cavalry uniform – smart, but fun, much like the rest of the hotel.
You’re probably wondering how much it costs. The answer, I’m told, is around £3,500-a-night for a suite that is, after all, fit for a prime minister. No doubt Winston would have stayed here.
Chris was a guest of The Churchill. Nightly rates start from £218, room only. For more information, visit hyattregency london.com.