Oscar Wilde wrote The Importance of Being Earnest on London’s Half Moon Street, a stone’s throw away from Piccadilly. In the play, this is also where the charming but unprincipled character of Algernon lives. And Wilde’s real-life lover, Robbie Ross, a journalist, art critic and dealer, resided at number 40.
The dandy lifestyle of Wilde, Ross, and their late 19th century contemporaries is the main inspiration for one of London’s newest and chicest hotels, The Mayfair Townhouse. A terrace of 15 Georgian houses, seven of which are listed buildings with protected status, has been combined into an impressive 170 room hotel. The houses retain many of their original features, including their attractive facades, so at least on the face of it they remain very much in keeping with their Mayfair surroundings.
Step inside, however, and not all is as it seems. As reception manager Mitchell Collier explained, the designers looked not only to the dandies but also to the surreal worlds of Alice in Wonderland and Alexander McQueen. Arrivals are greeted in the lobby by a peacock encrusted with 25,000 Swarovski crystals. The staff call him Alfie, a nod to Lord Alfred Douglas, the most famous of Wilde’s many lovers. What looks at first glance to be an oil painting of Lord Byron turns out to be a pastiche by artist ANTFOX. The giveaway is that Byron is listening to something on his iPad.
The heart of The Mayfair Townhouse is the appropriately named Dandy Bar, an atmospheric space which feels like a private members club. The avant-garde cocktails have names such as Mr Bosie (Lord Douglas’ nickname), The Casanova, and The Earl in Mayfair, and they showcase an eclectic array of ingredients, from gin-infused fennel to black walnut bitter. Every one of the cocktails arrives looking like an artwork, and they taste as fine as they look.
Hedonism can be exhausting, but thankfully the hotel’s guestrooms and suites are only an elevator ride away. The buildings’ quirky layout means that every room is slightly different, but all boast lush furnishings, marble bathrooms, and limited edition artworks by award-winning British artist Miss Aniela. A copy of The Importance of Being Earnest appeared by the bed after turndown for some perfectly chosen bedtime reading.