There is always something unexpected, something dramatic and theatrical about a hotel from the Red Carnation Collection. It is a result of the personal imprint of Bea Tollman, owner, and founder, whose personal style has influenced all the hotel interiors with her signature range of textures and fabrics.
The Montague on the Gardens is easy to find, conveniently right beside the British Museum. It is in an area called Bloomsbury that is still literary and close to the historical district of London’s university student life. It is also near London’s theatreland and the shops on Oxford Street. Eurostar has excellent transport links at St Pancras International and King’s Cross Railway Station.
With nine connecting Georgian townhouses, it is larger than the typical London boutique hotel. It is beautifully set, overlooking peaceful and private gardens. It is a tranquil hideaway in the heart of the city. As soon as I walked into the foyer, I was immersed in luxury—for above was a pleated blue fabric ceiling surrounding a dazzling chandelier.
The Montague leads you through rooms of different scenes and styles. The adjoining lounge has old-world charm with antiques beneath a highly ornate cornice. Its broad red carpet and chandeliers suggest a lavish life. The drapes, swaggers, and pelmets resemble tapestries and possess a luxurious velvet double-coating. The backing is made of leopard print and can be seen from the street as it announces the hotel’s motif.
The 101 rooms start from $300 per night. The suites are named after Bloomsbury’s literary heritage, such as Virginia Woolf, and as with many of the Red Carnation hotels, the rooms are individually designed. My suite had neutral, muted, natural, earthy colors. There were so many textures that it created its own exciting harmony. There were crown moldings, heavy drapes, crystal chandeliers, and fabric adorning the walls. My tub chairs were plain on one side and multi-colored on the other. The bathroom walls and floor were lined with marble, and top-of-the-range Floris toiletries were available.
The two rooms of the hotel’s Blue Door Bistro felt like a cozy alpine retreat with mahogany paneled walls encasing big, homely carpets and the laid and dressed tables. It is quite a success to combine the warm and comfortable with the light and airy. The menu is confidently selective, the prices reasonable, and the seating hearteningly spacious. The hotel collection’s South African vineyard produces pinot noir, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc.
The leopard theme prevails at this hotel, inspired by Red Carnation’s South African heritage. It is visible on the drapes, the back of the seats, and even the elevator. The theme reaches its climax at The Leopard Bar, which is like the one at its sister hotel, The Rubens at the Palace. The large metal sculpture of the animal and the leopard skin backing are visible on the drink’s menus. Large fans lend a tropical vibe. There’s live music every Wednesday to Saturday flowing from the gleaming grand piano in the corner.
Many public rooms have an indoor-outdoor feel as they look out over the gardens and have light coming through their roofs. One has a black and white motif, which is also played out in the sister hotel Hotel 41. Outdoors in the summer months, there is the ‘Hawaiian’ Beach Bar. It is complete with natural sand, surfboards, and cocktails served in coconuts. There is a thatched beach hut beneath palm trees and in front of an inviting beach backdrop. In the winter, it turns into the alpine-style Ski Lodge, complete with pine trees, falling snow, reindeer, ski racks, lanterns, and snug woolen rugs. At either time of year, you forget you are in Central London.
As always, this hotel chain goes the extra mile in concocting activities. Here there is a sustainable cooking class in which to learn how your food choices can make a positive impact on our planet. In the garden are beehives which encouraged the idea of bee and honey masterclasses. They involve candle making and honey extraction and tasting. The British Museum is too large to see in one outing, so the hotel also offers its own private Ottoman Tour. Escorted by a guide, one can discover different moments of Ottoman history, narrated through an exceptional series of artifacts that date back to the sixteenth century.
The red carnation was worn every day in the lapel of Bea’s late husband, and the staff all wear the flower likewise to honor him. As for the vibe, one American guest confided to me in the elevator: “I just love it here; the staff is so personal.” I must return sometime soon.