Before I describe my stay at The Arch London, an establishment steeped in the history and grandeur of London’s ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ era, first a story. My late mother was a lifelong hotel junkie who checked her Lottery numbers every week and plotted her win.
“I’ll move straight away into a 5 * hotel where they’ll indulge my every whim, I’ll never have to pick up bathroom towels or worry about my unmade bed ever again; it must serve the best afternoon tea for my guests and have a fabulous room service menu for when I don’t want to meet other people”.
That fantasy, like many a dream, would remain wishful thinking. But had it come to pass one thing is certain: she could have happily moved lock, stock and barrel into The Arch at Great Cumberland Place, the diaries of Pepys, Samuel Johnson and a lifetime’s reading “London the Biography” to hand.
After a sublimely comfortable overnight stay here at the heart of my mother’s favourite city, I can think of nowhere more perfect for a lottery fuelled permanent stay than this stylish friendly boutique property occupying seven Grade 2 listed Georgian townhouses. There’s even a welcoming portrait of a fine French bulldog, her favourite breed as if by appointment, adorning a wall in the reception lounge.
It says much about the expertise of a reception staff seamlessly handling a dozen Italian men who converge on them all at once, lugging enormous suitcases and talking and gesticulating non-stop. Italian males are assiduously fashion conscious. This group, I assume as a spectator, either carries extended wardrobes for nights on the town or plans to buy up Saville Row, taking advantage of Sterling’s slide against the Euro.
The Arch is a six -minute walk from Marble Arch Tube station on the quiet residential side and I arrive on foot after check-in time. The receptionist apologizes profusely because my room is not yet ready.
Every cloud has a silver lining and a sumptuous suite will be my lot as compensation for the delay. I am invited to wait in the champagne bar (a little too early for bubbles!) where a Barista-brewed flat white coffee and a freshly baked shortbread biscuit are on the house.
The wait gives me time to observe my surroundings, notably the quirky ceiling, decorated with Sarah Fanelli’s graffiti dedicated to the world’s happiest drink. “Why do I drink champagne for breakfast? Doesn’t everyone?” – quips Noel Coward. ” Champagne, if you are seeking the truth, is better than a lie detector”, retorts Graham Greene.
The Arch champagne bar is designer-smart with its funky glass counter, high stools and cosy cubicles offering privacy for groups or discreet meetings. The drinks menu lists signature cocktails from £12. The bar food on offer is interesting and reasonably priced for a 5* star hotel. Norfolk Black chicken terrine with rhubarb chutney, pistachio crumbs and Melba toast at £10 and green and white asparagus with a parmesan-crusted poached egg, tomato and herb dressing for £9 tempt me. A friend is coming to dinner, so gluttony must be suppressed for now.
The Arch has 82 rooms including 11 suites set over four floors individually designed with exquisite hand-painted wallpaper and splashes of bright complimentary colour on curtains and soft furnishings. I am assigned the Abbey suite on the lower floor. Next door is the gym and fitness area which Madonna (her London home is right across the street) has been seen frequenting in the past. I keep a watchful eye for the superstar. Alas, there’s no sighting. My suite is large and beautifully furnished with an enormous bed. Sliding French doors open out onto an artful secluded small terrace, its wall covered in all-weather black and white life-size prints of a forest flanked by a ferny vertical garden on either side. A couple of outside heaters and lighting make for a warm oasis of peace, surprisingly free of any traffic noises on the street above.
The suite also has a kitchenette, a Nespresso coffee machine, a bar with complimentary soft drinks and a large bathtub where I soak next morning in blissful Malin + Goetz salts whilst watching an interesting Victorian ‘who-dunnit’ mystery on the Loewe TV, my head nicely supported on a comfy waterproof cushion.
After a short tour of the main rooms adorned with interesting art and the elegant Martini library where Royal afternoon tea (£31.95) is taken, we adjourn to the restaurant named Hunter 486 – in memory of the original district telephone dial code. With so many top restaurants in the area, we are curious about how Hunter 486 competes.
My guest, a reasonably knowledgeable London-based bon viveur, gives Hunter 486 a high five. Everything is right – ambience, nicely casual but good attention to detail, interesting a la carte and dinner menus, excellent service. The open kitchen concept design with its hanging gleaming pans works well here. Every table, some overlooking the mews courtyard at the rear, are occupied on a Wednesday evening.
We combine dishes from the set dinner and the extensive British themed a la carte menu.
He enjoys a divinely crispy Gloucester pork belly, accompanied by a Bramley apple puree, followed by superb Roast fillet of cod, saffron mussels and clams. My starter of dressed Cornish white crab meat, avocado and pink grapefruit (£12) is a bit meagre but leaves plenty of room for the piece de resistance off the set menu (priced at a reasonable two courses for £24 and three for £29,50 ) The best slow roast shoulder of English lamb with spring vegetables and minted broth, I’ve ever tasted arrives.
We’re both suckers for mega carbs so hand-cut chips are a must add on. The wine here is on the pricy side so we confine ourselves to glasses of Chardonnay from Western Cape and New Zealand Pinot Noir. We manage one pudding between us straying off the set dinner menu for a shared delicious Chocolate fondant and chocolate mint ice-cream.
Did I mention that the Arch is one of England’s leading high-end dog-friendly hotels? Your pooch is spoiled here with a pet’s menu, from poached chicken breast mixed with rice and grated carrot and Salmon cooked in homemade stock with spinach and parsley (both £7,50) or the vegetarian option. “ All our dishes are freshly prepared and require cooling time, therefore to avoid hungry hounds please order in advance” chef advises. Walkers are available to exercise dogs in nearby Hyde Park or dog sit in the bedrooms where they must be supervised.
It’s the icing in the cake for my mother who could not have contemplated life without the company of her beloved Cairn terrier here at the glorious Arch Hotel.
Tell me more about The Arch London
Doubles from £220, excluding breakfast (£24 for a complete full English with the added buffet selection and £10 for pancakes and bacon).