The Landmark Hotel: No longer "The Kremlin"
Our Arts Correspondent Kevin Wilson peels the layers back on one of London’s grand hotels.
Many years ago when money piles were higher, a wealthy art collector put me up at the Landmark Hotel for a few weeks while we shopped London to death to fill up his Bishop’s Avenue house.
Back then I was still as fussy, difficult and hyper critical as I am now. But the suite at the Landmark was perfect: John Burton Race ran the restaurant and the room service was so good it kept me plonked in my room for days.
This huge chunky chunk of a building started life in 1899 as the last of the great Victorian railway hotels that were constructed during ‘the golden age of steam’. Originally named the Great Central Hotel, it was a fancy, fancy place with a huge central courtyard designed to accommodate the carriages delivering the well healed.
Since then it’s had a roller coaster history. The courtyard was roofed to enable a dance floor for the 1920’s flappers, while the craze for this new thing called the motor car began to reduce rail passenger numbers significantly until eventually the hotel became redundant and was forced to close.
For the next 40 years the elegant building sobbed in protest and was dubbed “The Kremlin” by the staff of the British Railways Board who had moved in and headquartered there. Papers were pushed and typewriters bashed. The opulent rooms reduced to housing timetable clerks and lost luggage claims.
Who might you see: residents have included: Katy Perry, Jack Black, Keira Knightley, Natalie Cassidy and Freddie Flintoff and I did have a nice chat with Belinda Carlisle there once.
Hurray for Ritz Carlton who saved the day – the hotel brand kicked BRB out and put back beds and carpets. Once done Ritz promptly sold it on to the Four Seasons group who renamed the hotel The Regent. But this incarnation lasted only two years when Four Seasons sold it onto the Lancaster Landmark Hotel Company in 1995.
The Landmark as we know it now was born.
It is now a sprawling labyrinthine building that uses all of its space well. It has a range of 11 flexible meeting and conference rooms and state of the art technical facilities. It is a big enough hotel to do business in but relax without any friction.
Although it started life as a 700 bedroom hotel, this has been pared down to 300 five star rooms which includes 51 suites.
The hotel’s privacy and general OTT-ness also makes for an ideal wedding venue. (I’ve been to a couple here and they have been seamless affairs; many corners for the bride to cry in and enough ostentatious trappings to make the bride’s father feel he’s got his money’s worth.)
A stay here is suited for the mid to top end traveller, and the large corporate expense account tenant.
In recent years the Landmark has maintained its excellent standards of hospitality in its rooms and this is down to superb housekeeping. My colander head partner left a pricey ring on the floor of the room after we checked out once and, true to form, they rang the next day and couriered its return.
One thing I like about the rooms is the space. Nowadays online it’s the norm to see what room size your money buys. You can get a nice 30 per cent more space for your money at the Landmark. Perfect for swinging a cat or colander headed partner around. Most of the rooms have corridors so you don’t hear the hallway footfall and its walls are thick so you’ll need more than a glass to your ear to hear them next door. They have a very wide range of rooms and prices, the smallest never feel small and the larger suites feel… well, large.
One of the Landmark’s USP’s is the absence of chain memorabilia. There is only one Landmark London, not 246, and you do feel you have landed somewhere unique and special.
Think romance, think opulence. Think the restaurant from the film Brazil and you are there. As for its Winter Garden restaurant, it has to be one of my favourite places in London to dine. Take someone there if you want them to give a small gasp. It’s that sort of place. The food is special. I have had a dozen or so meals there in the last two years and all were consistently wonderful. That’s rare.
On this occasion I had the carpaccio of Casterbridge beef which melted before the knife touched it. I chased that with a whole Dover sole teamed with a duvet of perfect hollandaise; faultless food. My dinning partner (who is notably fussier than I am), knifed into a perfectly roasted quail followed by… fish and chips – I know, I know, but it was three types of fish beautifully battered.
The deserts went perfectly with the palm trees and soft plonkings of the grand piano, lots of bits and pieces of caramelised this and fondant that rounded off a perfect meal. A couple of bottles of a special Sancerre gave everyone in the room a nice sparkly halo.
You leave feeling unrushed, occasioned and you take away a piece of the hotel’s grand origins.
So there must be something to criticise after years of rooming and eating here. I am thinking hard and really the only thing that springs to mind is that when the luxurious swimming pool and spa get a bit busy, the changing rooms can get a bit cramped. I’m not partial to having a strange bloke throw his y-fronts on my shoulder while aiming for his locker; but the answer is to phone down to the spa to find the quiet times.
Despite being central, The Landmark is tucked away in Marylebone and provides an oasis for formal or informal meetings. It would be my hotel of choice for high end clandestine canoodlings, except the secret’s out now, I’ll have to go somewhere else for that.
The Suitometer: LLB’s quick guide to sleeping and dining in the capital
Would a stay at the Landmark London….
- Inspire a productive business meeting? Without doubt. Who could fail to agree to your terms in such an idyllic setting? All the meeting rooms and conference facilities are spot on.
- Impress the boss when everything else has failed? A big yes, but he may think he’s paying you too much if you take him there – so say your mother gets a discount .
- Break the ice with those awkward clients? One of the less formal bars would break a glacier. Try the tucked away Mirror Bar.
- Sufficiently blow your bonus and make you feel like a king? Totally, stay in the Presidential Suite at £4000 a night and enjoy the top end room service.
- Provide the right setting for an all-important first date? At night the palm trees light up and the grand piano kicks in, perfect place to propose - even to someone on the next table.
The Landmark London is located at 222, Marylebone Road, London NW1 6JQ, right outside Marylebone Station. Telephone +44 20 7631 8000 www.landmarklondon.co.uk. Room prices vary greatly with a selection of packages and advanced offers. On average expect to pay from around £250 a night. Regular stayers benefit from e-club discounts.
Kevin Wilson is an international arts consultant, curator and collector. He advises on collections, investments and projects. His clients range from the historical royal palaces, international corporations, to private individuals and collections worldwide.