Have legendary restaurateurs Jeremy King and Chris Corbin been able to inject the magic they have so memorably created across a London-based restaurant empire into their first ever hotel venture, the Beaumont, which opens its doors in Mayfair next week? Janet Harmer visits the art deco-inspired establishment to find out
Going against what many hoteliers believe is the need to create a separate entrance for their restaurant, the duo have instead put the 100-seat Colony Grill Room right in the centre of the hotel. The intention is that the buzz that will emanate from the restaurant, and from the people passing through the hotel's entrance lobby to reach it, will have a positive vibe that will spread throughout the entire property.
Given the duo's track record in creating restaurants that have quickly established themselves as the places to go for good, simple food, served in a relaxed and welcoming environment, there is no question that their first hotel dining room will exude the same qualities - and hence, the vibrancy and high footfall lacking in so many hotel restaurants.
With its red banquette seating and murals of iconic sporting occasions, the Colony Grill Room is every bit as glamorous as the collection of Corbin and King eateries that are staples of the capital's dining out scene. A menu offering familiar transatlantic favourites underpinned by French classics - omelette Arnold Bennett, New York hot dog and Dover sole béarnaise all feature - will appeal to an eclectic mix of travellers, business executives and arty types. Following its opening next week, it will be a space that is likely to become the capital's new dining hot spot.
Restaurant aside, eyes will be firmly on the rest of the Beaumont, as operators and customers alike who have long been admirers of Corbin and King's restaurant empire - both past and present - check out whether their golden touch in a dining space can be transposed to a larger and more demanding hotel environment. Having cast my eyes over the Beaumont several weeks in advance of the opening, I can confirm that it certainly has. The attention to detail, the authenticity and the quality are all there. And given Corbin and King's talent for bringing together strong teams that run exceptionally busy outlets like clockwork, I suspect a first-class service culture will also prevail.
Headed by general manager Paul Brackley, whose experience stems back more than 25 years when he joined the industry as a management trainee with the Savoy Group, the Beaumont team includes executive chef Paul Bates, who was appointed from the Inter- Continental London Park Lane, and the head chef of the Colony Grill Room, Lee Ward, who joined Corbin and King at the opening of the Delaunay in 2011 and more recently launched their latest standalone restaurant Fischer's.
Brackley, who was previously general manager of the Crowne Plaza London the City hotel, has been working on the Beaumont project for more than a year. It is Brackley who is delivering King's vision of a classic hotel, with a nod to the traditions of grand hotels such as Claridge's and the Savoy. The thought process behind the Beaumont largely stems from King. Corbin, in the meantime, has primarily continued to oversee the restaurant group, although he has been
involved in setting up the Colony Grill Room.
While the art deco facade of the property has been retained, the hotel is essentially a new build, having had two storeys added on top and another two levels dug out below to create a basement.
Given a blank canvas, King has devised a fictional back story to inform the ethos, interior design and style of the hotel. The narrative centres on a fictional American hotelier called Jimmy Beaumont, who left New York during the 1920s, a time that espoused the gilded era of the Great Gatsby, the hypocrisy and decadence of Prohibition and the Jazz Age. Arriving in London at a time when it was calm and sophisticated in comparison with the Big Apple, Beaumont drew on influences from both sides of the Atlantic to create his new hotel. The feel of the property is therefore of an established grand hotel that has undergone a sympathetic refurbishment.
While King has been involved in every step of the design process, it has been renowned hotel interior specialist Richmond that has put his ideas into practice. King has also helped to select the mix of old and new furniture, as well as the art, which has been chosen from the period 1895 to 1940, the time when Beaumont himself would have been collecting pieces.
While non-residents will be able to enter the hotel via the lobby and go through to the Colony Grill Room via the American Bar, which is filled with black and white images of iconic personalities from the 1920s to the 1940s, there are two key areas reserved for hotel guests. The Cub Room is a bar and lounge located to the left of the lobby that will serve food throughout the day, while in the basement there is a spa with two treatment rooms and gymnasium.
Reserving the spa for guests only will ensure it retains a sense of luxury at all times and won't be overrun by outside members. Located over five floors, the 73 bedrooms include 22 suites, among them Room by Antony Gormley and the top price Presidential suite. A night in the 69 sq m room will cost £2,500, while a night in the Presidential paradise will cost £5,000, with the 169 sq m suite able to open up and encompass five bedrooms across a space of 606 sq m.
Bespoke desks, bathroom amenities from DR Harris (a perfumery in Jermyn Street that is supplying a hotel for the first time) and 300-thread cotton linen incorporating a single band of silver are standard in all the rooms.
The Beaumont bed has been specially designed by Sleepeezee for the majority of the rooms, while Naturalmat beds of organic lambswool feature in the suites on the Presidential floor and in the Gormley suite.
Room service is being taken very seriously, with three chefs running a 24-hour operation and ensuring attention to detail will be as focused as in the Colony Grill Room. "We intend to take the restaurant to the bedrooms and suites," explains Brackley.
Bates, Ward and the 45-strong brigade of chefs are currently putting the finishing touches to the menu to provide dishes that guests really want, using simple, well-executed techniques and the freshest produce. Meanwhile the rest of the team, having undergone weeks of training, are keen to put it all into action.
Corbin and King may be about to perform on a bigger stage than ever before, but they look more than ready for their audience.
From restaurateurs to hoteliers: the Corbin and King story
Chris Corbin and Jeremy King have been steeped in running restaurants since the mid- 1970s. Corbin started his career at Langan's Brasserie, after studying hotel and catering management at Westminster College, while King joined Joe Allen's after first dipping his toe into the corporate world of merchant banking.
Their working partnership of more than 30 years began in 1981 with their acquisition of Le Caprice, a stalwart of the London dining scene since it opened in the 1940s.
After a challenging start, Le Caprice became a great success, giving them the confidence to buy another renowned restaurant, the Ivy, in 1990. The Ivy, too, captured the imagination of the dining-out public and consistently topped the Zagat and Harden's guides as the most popular restaurant in London.
Soon after adding and restoring a third faded restaurant, J Sheekey, to their portfolio in 1998, Corbin and King sold the umbrella business, Caprice Holdings, to Signature Restaurants.
It was at this point that the partners were keen to explore a hotel venture, believing that the hospitality they had so firmly embedded in the centre of their trio of restaurants could be expanded into the accommodation sector.
They came close on several occasions, but lost out on prospective sites to parties with larger chequebooks. Then came 9/11, which put a stop to all major hotel development in London.
In 2003, Corbin and King were offered the site in Piccadilly, where they went on to open the Wolseley, an all-day brasserie in the grand European style, and the hotel project was firmly put on hold.
Under their Rex Restaurant Associates vehicle, they then went on to launch St Alban in 2006 (closed three years later after the landlord sold on the premises); the Delaunay, Brasserie Zedel and Colbert, all in 2012; and just three months ago, Fischer's in Marylebone High Street. The development of the group's most recent four restaurants was boosted by a £19m investment from private equity company Graphite Capital in 2012.
Around six or seven years ago, the search for a hotel site resumed, with the focus on the area bordered by Marylebone in the north, Holborn in the east, the Thames in the south and Park Lane in the west, and consideration also given to Knightsbridge.
An opportunity then arose in Brown Hart Gardens, Mayfair, pretty much in the centre of the area being searched and within a stone's throw of Selfridge's on Oxford Street. The site was a distinctive art deco building, dating from 1926, originally intended to act as a town garage and in recent years occupied by the Avis car rental company. Despite stiff opposition for the site from other parties, protracted year-long negotiations and the looming recession, Corbin and King
finally signed the deal on a long lease with the landlord, Grosvenor Estates, at the end of 2009. An undisclosed sum from Grosvenor has underpinned the development cost of the hotel.
The company name was changed early this year to Corbin & King, with an offshoot, Corbin & King Hotels, looking after the development of the Beaumont, which is expected to be the first in a collection of properties of a similar nature and size. The group is already looking at other locations in London, as well as other key cities across the UK and overseas.
The Beaumont: key facts and figures
- General manager Paul Brackley
- Executive chef Paul Bates
- Colony Grill Room head chef Lee Ward
- Director of food and beverage Paul Robinson-Webster
- Director of sales and marketing Kate Dixon
- Head of personnel and development Victoria Lawrence
- Interior design Richmond
- Sales and marketing consortium Preferred Hotels & Resorts
- Facilities Colony Grill Room, American Bar, private dining for up to 48 covers, Cub Room for residents, spa with hammam and steam rooms, 24-hour gym
- Bedrooms 73
- Staff 200 full-time
- Starting rate £395, including Continental breakfast
- Address Brown Hart Gardens, Mayfair, London W1K 6TF Tel 020 7499 1001 Website www.thebeaumont.com
The Colony Grill Room's plats du jour
Monday Kenny's meatloaf £15
Tuesday Chicken Marengo £18.50
Wednesday Brisket and calf's tongue £19.75
Thursday Collar of bacon with bubble and squeak £14.75
Friday Cornish fish stew £22.50
Saturday Shepherd's pie £15.50
Sunday Roast forerib of beef with Yorkshire pudding £26