The revolving doors of the Beaumont, act as a sort of time machine. Crossover to the other side and you are in a lobby that wouldn’t be out of place in 1930s New York, complete with bold chequerboard flooring, cherry wood paneling and era-appropriate portraiture. It’s a striking contrast to the modern chaos of Oxford Street, just a few minutes walk away.
The gem-like ‘American Bar’ twinkles at you from across the lobby, an elegant homage to the legendary American bars of Paris and London, frequented by early 20th century literary titans, such as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Here, walnut panelled walls combine with sleek and cosseting blood-red leather backed chairs and booths, each area topped-off with jazz-café-style tabletop lamps. We sample the Whisky Mac and a Vodka Martini, both served in 1930s style glassware, as we absorb the moody atmosphere and our eyes are drawn to the crisp circular ceiling rose and the chandelier-style light within. The mirror-backed bar is complete with bow-tie-wearing barmen who wouldn’t seem out of place at one of Jay Gatsby’s parties and, if you managed to miss the era-appropriate interior design references (not likely), a glance at the walls, plastered with black and white photographs of the British and American celebrities from the 20s and 30s, places the scheme nicely.
The Beaumont specialises in Bourbon and other American whiskies – the vital ingredients for most popular post-prohibition-era cocktails. Diligently, we sample the Old Fashioned (having moved to recline on the olive green sofas of the tobacco-toned, residents’-only Cub Room) and a sweet berry-flavoured take on the 1930s classic – the White Lady. The Cub Room, named after an exclusive space at New York’s The Stork Club, just needs a light cloud of cigar smoke and a tinkle of Jazz piano and you could forget 21st century London was right on your doorstep.
But there’s something worth mentioning before we go on to dinner: in a curious twist, the Beaumont actually only opened as a hotel in 2014. Although the structure was erected in 1926 (a Grade II listed garage), the interior was, in fact, remodelled in a 1920s style and completed fewer than five years ago. The transformation was managed by legendary London restauranteur duo Jeremy Corbin and Chris King. And Corbin & King’s inspiration for the hotel’s interior was a fictional 1920s character called Jimmy Beaumont. It is photos of Jimmy’s ‘friends’ that adorn the American Bar, The Colony Grill Restaurant and even the lavatories, for example.
The ReardonSmith designed project involved additions and extensions to the existing building, including the removal of the entire interior structure behind the retained façade, which was lifted and suspended. And, atop the south wing of the original edifice now sits, or crouches, an enormous cuboid figure – this is ROOM, a sculpture-cum-suite by Antony Gormley which gives the whole project a 21st century twist.
With this in mind, we return to dinner – 30s-style. Industrial Art Deco murals (original works by American artist John Mattos) fill the wall panels above our leather-benched booth, depicting racing cars, skiers, polo players and other sporting snapshots, and all brimming with the movement and energy associated with the early 20th century boom and build era of US history.
The menu offers upmarket but casual American grill fayre. We enjoy a dozen plump oysters to start, although Popcorn Chicken and New York Shrimp Cocktail are also tempting, in a kitsch sort of way, and follow this with a Grain Fed USDA Prime Rib-Eye Steak with fries. Grain fed beef is known to be particularly tender, and our succulent Rib Eye is prime evidence for that theory. Grilled lobster, with butter and samphire, feels like the right thing to order alongside the steak and oysters, after all, surf ‘n turf was born in the States, no? And they even let you crack the claws yourself – one of the main, visceral appeals of tackling these obscurely encased crustaceans. The Wine List contains an unusually high number of wines from US wineries, as you’d expect, and we plump for a light Californian white.
The mains continue the ‘retro’ theme: Pork and Veal Chops, Macaroni Cheese, Chicken Pot Pie, Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Cajun Spiced Swordfish, and if you want a ‘sandwich’, choose from Grilled Cheese, New York Hot Dog, Burgers or a Lobster Roll. It’s quite the all-American spread.
And to finish? It felt rude not to order an enormous ice cream sundae, after which we headed upstairs to the Terrace Suite (let’s just say, it’s a good thing we didn’t have to walk much further). This spacious setup, all 980 square feet of it, includes a sitting room and a roof terrace, overlooking Brown Hart Gardens. It is the perfect spot for after dinner entertaining. The dark wood and cool subdued tones are again era appropriate, and an entertaining range of flapper-club themed drawings makes an excellent talking point over a glass of late night Champagne, taken on the Terrace.
What a post-prohibition party of a night. Thanks to Corbin & King, you can now immerse yourself in Art Deco Americana for the evening in a carefully crafted vintage world, hidden moments away from the tat and tourists of Oxford Circus.