Dare to Deco: Stylish Hotels in London’s East End Tout Twists on the ’20s

Dare to Deco: Stylish Hotels in London’s East End Tout Twists on the ’20s

The Bloomsbury’s Coral Room

IN AN OLD city, a visitor finds himself torn between the present — what’s the hottest show, the trendiest chef — and the history of the place. In two Central London hotels, you get both: The Beaumont and The Bloomsbury are 1920s buildings with updates that make them au courant.

The structure in the upscale Mayfair district that now houses The Beaumont was, for 90 years, a carpark for the Selfrige’s department store down the street. Although it only opened as a hotel 12 years ago, it’s just gone through a renovation. Gliding past the uniformed doorman into the lobby, over gleaming checkerboard floors and a half-dozen regal oil paintings of stately ladies, you get a vibe of understated Gatsby-era glam, American-edged Art Deco mixed with bold British accents.

It follows in the Colony restaurant, ringed in red leather banquettes, lit by lamps with red shades, with the likes of Count Basie providing background tunes. How could you not have a Manhattan? The menu leans to steak, but buttery Dover sole deboned tableside works well, too. Off the lobby is similarly wood-paneled and crimson-hued Le Magritte bar. Here, the décor’s American fascination leans Old Hollywood, with black-and-whites of the Rat Pack and a young Shirley MacLaine. The Prohibition-era “Attempting the Impossible” cocktail has gin, vodka, tea and lemon; Cuban cigars are on offer.

Guest rooms are quiet, comfy and refined, with unfussy neutral color schemes, lots of dark wood touches, and beautiful books and splashy fashion mags as knickknacks. (Plot twist: You can also book the bare-bones room inside the large-scale sculpture out front that looks a bit like a cartoon robot.)

All the must-hit touristy things — Buckingham Palace, et al — are close. Closer still, just behind the hotel, is charming North Audley Street. There’s a food hall in an old church building. And spiffy locals queue for the fish, chips and mushy peas at the Mayfair Chippy, set in the ground floor of an elaborate brownstone.

Elsewhere in the East End, near the British Museum, there’s a former YWCA behind an old theater — the Bloomsbury. The women’s club where Queen Elizabeth is said to have taken swimming lessons as a girl became a hotel in the 1990s and was recently renovated.

Vintage-y-cool “Studio Suite” guest rooms are carefully quirky and bit daring, with walls of gunmetal blue, red headboards and a hanging lampshade rimmed in long fringe. Bonus spaces throughout the property include a chapel, a fireside sitting room off the check-in, and, in the basement, a dim and cozy jazz club, but the most special is the soaring Coral Room bar.

The former grand lobby of the building has been lacquered to high heaven in peachy-pink. The drinks menu looks like an old children’s book, highlighting sips such as the “Finnegan” with Irish whiskey, Guinness, Cadello and licorice. It’s not unusual to see a frisky couple canoodling for hours in the corner, as international business travelers, on-trend locals and assorted half-casual sophisticates come and go.

A dinner of “Sunday roast” on the adjoining Dalloway Terrace is lovely, its name inspired by Virginia Woolf’s high-society party hostess in yet another literary nod. In warm weather, the terrace is alfresco; when it’s cooler, it’s enclosed and festooned artfully with flowering vines making a canopy overhead.

The bustling, fun neighborhoods of Covent Garden, Chinatown and Soho are an easy walk, as is tons of classic East End theater. Stroll to Cabaret or Phantom, or maybe live a little and do Magic Mike Live instead (there will be lap dances). A bit more afield, but worth it, is afternoon tea at The Bloomsbury’s sister hotel, the stylishly traditional Kensington, carved from what once were a collection of sunny, neighboring 19th-century townhomes in South Kensington. The ritual here is enchanting, with all the little sandwiches and scones with clotted cream presented with a glass of bubbles and a vibrant, almost whimsical air.

And why not have Champagne, enjoying an old city with so much new to toast.

Cocktails and cool at The Beaumont’s Le Magritte bar

The gate of Buckingham Palace

Tea at The Kensington

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