LONDON — Brown's Hotel, which has hosted literary giants, governments in exile, and scores of affluent Americans in search of tea and a crisp cucumber sandwich, is back.
The town house hotel has reopened after a 19 million pound, or $33.6 million, renovation by hotelier Sir Rocco Forte.
The hotel, on Albemarle Street in Mayfair, has lost nothing of its Edwardian charms except, perhaps, for the fraying carpets, faded chintz sofas and poky bedrooms.
Forte has swept off the dust, enlarged the rooms and revived the restaurant, turning it into an old-style London grill, with leather banquettes and waiters serving roast beef from silver trolleys.
On the ground floor, the old wood paneling and doors with their beveled-glass panes remain, along with the marble fireplaces and signature black-and-white mosaic tile floors in the entrance hall. Grand, stained glass windows still gleam from the stairwells, and the original duck's neck wall lamps have been resilvered and rehung.
"Lady [Margaret] Thatcher cut the ribbon," Forte said proudly from behind a glass conference table in his St. James' offices. "She's an institution, as is Brown's. And she got to sign the same visitors' book as Winston Churchill."
Indeed, Brown's was the place where Churchill ordered Pol Roger bubbly for breakfast, where the Belgian government remained in exile during World War II and where Rudyard Kipling, Agatha Christie, Orson Welles and generations of Roosevelts stayed.
There was no shortage of big names at the hotel's opening party this month. Guests at the black-tie cocktail, including Thatcher, Roger Moore, Solange Azagury-Partridge, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson and Vivia Ferragamo, feasted on mountains of oysters, sushi, foie gras canapés and champagne.
Named for its founder James Brown, who was Lord Byron's valet, the hotel began life as four town houses. It still has a homey feel, with long, winding hallways like rabbit warrens, bookshelves stocked with classics, antiques in each of the 117 bedrooms, and black-and-white paparazzi shots of Churchill, Queen Elizabeth, and Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor.
During the refurbishment, which began in early 2004, Forte added two floors to the hotel. While there are still the same number of rooms, the bedrooms and bathrooms are all bigger, and there are more suites.
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