Stopping to Smell the Rosewood in London

Few hotel lobbies in the world can claim more cooing than the Rosewood London. It’s not because of the rose bronze gallery that connects the courtyard to the room, the glass cabinets of curiosities, the large painting of rolling countryside by Eduardo Hoffmann, or the funky black and white stripes stretch across the floor, but rather, the Golden Retriever splayed on top of it. “Pearl,” dubbed “the laziest dog in the world” by one porter, not only is the hotel’s resident best friend, but also a social media star with nearly 3,000 followers (including me) on Instagram.

She’s also named after the original tenants of the palatial Grade II-listed Edwardian complex—built block by block from 1912 to 1956—Pearl Assurance (now The Phoenix Group), one of the largest providers of insurance in the United Kingdom. Perhaps no greater example of the company’s success and wealth can be found than in the solid Pavonazzo marble staircase, valued at $65 million, that forms the spine of the building, climbing up to a 166-foot high cupola. Indeed, the sheer size and weight of the staircase and surrounding building seem like a challenge for any hotel group to tame, and Rosewood is the third to try, after Marriott International and Chancery Court.

Thankfully, Rosewood was smart enough to hire interior designers Toni Chi and Martin Brudnizki to help renovate the hotel (at a price tag of £85 million) before reopening as the Rosewood in 2013. The two added lacquer, textured wood veneers, and prismatic mirrors to the already installed marble panels and pillars, Cuban mahogany and French walnut fittings, achieving a near seamless dovetail of their own vision with Rosewood’s “A Sense of Place” concept, wherein each property reflects its location’s history, culture, and sensibilities. In the storied Holborn district, once home to Francis Bacon, Thomas More, John Milton, Samuel Johnson and Charles Dickens, that’s a tall order.


In the Mirror Room of the Rosewood London

Their achievement is particularly striking in the Mirror Room, covered—as the name indicates—with hundreds of tiny mirrors on the walls and ceiling, like a diced-up disco ball, giving added sparkle to the Limoges china and crystal on the tables below. The Holborn Dining Room, the Rosewood’s main restaurant, betrays less bling perhaps but is no less handsome in its steampunkish take on an French brasserie, complete with red leather banquettes, aged mirrors, and copper-topped bar, home to London’s largest collection of gins, with more than 400. Combine with the Roast Suffolk pork belly, curried mutton pie, and 50 day aged Cornish rare breed sirloin, and you’ve got yourself a heck of a night, even if not a guest.


In the Holborn Dining Room at the Rosewood London

Just be sure to save some sobriety for the even more impressive Scarfes Bar across the courtyard, named after its chief artist, the legendary Gerald Scarfe, best known for animating Pink Floyd’s The Wall and Disney’s Hercules. His striking, often grotesque caricatures (including the current US president as a steaming pile of shit), cover the walls and flicker tantalizingly to a crackling fire, velvet chairs, shelves of antique books, and dozens more cocktails, usually fingered by customers in suits and ties.


In Scarfes Bar at the Rosewood London

The Rosewood’s 262 rooms and 44 suites are somewhat less flashy, but no less classy. My room, a deluxe suite (starting at a whopping $1,600 per night; regular rooms start at $550), certainly has some size to it (721 square feet) for a London hotel, a trait shared by all rooms. Additional luxuries include super soft Rivolta Carmignani Italian linens, marble bathroom with tub (and TV inside the adjacent mirror), a private bar stocked with complimentary of sloe gin and snacks galore, Czech & Speake toiletries, and under-floor heating.


A deluxe suite at the Rosewood London

To generate more heat, head down to Rosewood’s spa on the ground floor of the property. Here, among bamboo walls, soft lighting, wooden walkways over rippling water, turn up the sweat in the dry sauna and amethyst crystal steam room, or do it the hard way on the ellipticals and treadmills in the fitness center.

Unless living a grotesquely blessed life, there’s no question the Rosewood London bowls over any guest over with its sheer size, sheen, and wealth, that checks all the boxes for a truly special occasion, honeymoon and wedding included. But to those more accustomed to polyester than silk, or counting their pennies than rolling in cash, the Rosewood London can provide at best, an inspiration to achieve, and at worst, a reason for class warfare. Thankfully, Pearl brings everything down to earth with a flop on the belly.

Go to the hotel website to check rates and make a reservation. You can also do the same at the many booking sites such as Hotelopia or

Mike Dunphy stayed as a guest of the Rosewood London

All photos by Mike Dunphy

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