The Mandrake Hotel
That you enter through a dark corridor off a quiet street in Central London is the first indication that you're not at the typical come-one, come-all hotel. The next clue is the two-story lobby, dominated by a Gothic, dominatrix-y chandelier of candles. The third should have been obvious: The hotel is named for a hallucinatory plant rich in folklore. Well then. Are you in for a trippy, surreal experience? Let's say they've engineered everything — the sumptuous jewel colors, the striking artwork, the hanging jasmine gardens, the boudoir-style bedrooms — so that if your stay isn't memorable, it's not the Mandrake, it's you. With less than a few dozen rooms and generous common spaces arranged around a serene, plant-filled atrium, the hotel, which opened in time for London's Fashion Week last fall, is London's new bolthole for the hot and stylish, please-look-at-me crowd.
At a Glance
Vibe: From the textiles and the marble finish to the rich colors and the notable artwork and objets, the Mandrake is anything but subtle. (The hotel commissioned custom-designed scents.) But in its sumptuousness, the Mandrake is harmonious, tasteful, and luxurious. Beirut-born owner Rami Fustok came to make an impression with his first hotel project, and he has.
Standout Detail: Regardless how you feel about taxidermy, the creature at the center of the Waeska bar — half peacock, half kangaroo, with horns and deer legs — is unforgettable. The atrium at the center of the hotel, filled with hanging jasmine and passion-flower vines, is gentler on the senses.
This Place Is Perfect For: An intimate escape in the middle of the city, as well as a discreet and memorable affair — or at least an ill-advised and inspired flirtation.
Rooms: There are 30 rooms, three suites, and one penthouse. Rooms are divided into styles, and all bathrooms have rainfall showers and Grown Alchemist amenities. The Mandrake Rooms are minimalist, dark, and moody. The Newman Rooms are decorated in earth tones and vintage furniture. The bright Terrace Rooms open onto the courtyard. Two junior suites have free-standing tubs and vintage chandeliers. The all-black Mandrake Suite has a tented bed, while the all-white Penthouse is an apartment with an emperor-size bed and a feather-frond gold "tree" in the bathroom.
On Site: The Mandrake doesn't talk about its spa so much as its "soul retrieval" program and its in-house massage and sound therapist. Experiences on offer include vibro-acoustic massage, full moon gong baths, and lomi lomi temple bodywork, to name but a few. The hotel has one of only 100 bespoke three-dimensional YAR sound experiences, available to guests at no charge. The artist-in-residence program invites interesting creatives — tattoo artist Mark Mahoney, painter Peter-John de Villiers, sculptor Bushra Fakhoury, photographers Studio Prokopiou — for interactive stints. Many leave pieces behind. The multi-media theater can be used for any of a number of functions.
Food + Drink: The restaurant, Serge et le Phoque, is the outpost of the Michelin-starred Hong Kong original. The primarily French menu has international accents and is served, in keeping with the theme, with elaborate plating. Tasting menus begin at a modest-for-London £45 per person for three courses. The red lacquered private dining room has a separate entrance, useful when discretion tops the agenda. Serge Bar is the spot for natural wines and champagnes. The Waeska cocktail bar specializes in small-batch spirits. The Jurema bar on the first floor, designed by landscape architects Bureau Bas Smets, is a tropical watering hole for hotel guests only. A greenhouse filled with exotic medicinal plants on the second floor is also available as a private dining space.
Rates from $450. Click here for reservations.
What to Do Nearby
The hotel is located in Central London within walking distance to countless attractions. Within a ten-minute walk are the lively Soho eateries Hoppers (Sri Lankan street food), Barrafina (Spanish worth waiting in the inevitable line for), and Cây Tre (tasty Vietnamese). Heading toward Hoxton, you're a stone's throw from The British Museum and Sir John Soane's Museum — one famous, the other lesser-known, both magnificent collections. If you want to avoid the throngs on Oxford Street (and you do), take Henrietta Place to make your way to the tony Marylebone and Mayfair neighborhoods.