In the heart of Marylebone, a stone’s throw from Baker Street, stands an understated building tantalisingly named the Holmes Hotel. True, in this part of town there are more references to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s beloved literary figure than you could shake a deer-stalker at, but while most of them err on the tacky side (think shiny polyester capes and novelty plastic pipes), the Holmes Hotel is a paragon of English good taste, bringing together the very different Londons of the 19th and 21st century in surprising harmony.
Just a stone’s throw from the Chiltern Firehouse, the hotel’s subtle Georgian exterior and understated signage exudes a quintessentially English modesty – while its interior is a tasteful but very modern take on a Victorian town house with moody lighting and a roaring fire on the ground floor immediately making one crave a quilted dressing-gown as sported by the eponymous detective.
Venture upstairs and you’ll find each floor themed around a mystery, left for guests to solve with a range of “clues” which can be be found in bedrooms and corridors. Our floor was artfully adorned with old bicycle equipment and barbers’ tools (combs, razors and the like), as well as the ubiquitous Sherlock Holmes pipes. A framed notice on the wall reads ‘The Barber Shop Mystery’.
“Every month, an old man crosses the border to get a specialist haircut” it read, “He cycles across the border with two large canvas bags of sand. The border officers checked his bags and found they had only sand. As they could not find any evidence they allowed him to cross the border. So what was the man smuggling?”
I’ll leave you to mull that one over…look out for the red herrings.
But, despite the quirky Victorian accents, the overall effect is pleasingly modern, with high-end designer furnishings including strikingly contrasting light fixtures and geometric chairs. This fusion of old and new somehow perfectly reflects London, with its quirky but classic blend of history, culture and cool.
Heading down to dinner, restaurant Kitchen at Holmes, is skilfully manned by Head Chef Stefano Motta. The seasonal menu was cooked to perfection and I enjoyed a delicious courgette spaghetti with pistachio, basil and smoked ricotta. As a carb-lover I often find vegetable pasta a little underwhelming, but these spiralised green noodles were so fresh and juicy, and the pesto sauce so flavoursome, that I couldn’t have been happier with my choice.
Before turning in for the night, I was very excited to visit the library – my friend and I wanted to curl up with some classic Sherlock mysteries – but unfortunately for us, there were more (admittedly fascinating) old artefacts than old books: the ground floor is peppered with cabinets of antiques and curiosities inspired by Conan Doyle. Visually striking and thought-provoking certainly: but as a lifelong bookworm visiting a literary-themed hotel, I would have loved to be able to read the books that the concept relies on so much.
Next time I will bring my own copy of The Hound of the Baskervilles: there are plenty of cosy corners in which to enjoy the perfectly composed stories that inspired this inventive hotel concept. Luckily for us, as Holmes himself said in another perfectly composed mystery, “What one man can invent, another can discover”.