The pretty, ramshackle streets of central London hold many secrets.
Even in London’s posh West End, the scattered cobblestones and hidden alleyways bring to mind Charles Dickens, Angela Carter, and Harry Potter. Tucked between the bustling restaurants and shops are little streets full of character and, one would imagine, stories and secrets–maybe even a little magic. You might find all three during your stay at the luxurious Mandrake Hotel, a somewhat eccentric haven of art and mysticism.
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A Hidden Portal Entrance
If you’re expecting a suitably grand façade, beware of walking past the hotel entirely. Perhaps you’ll ponder if you should click your heels three times to reveal a secret entrance, or if there is a hidden brick in the wall to tap. Said portal is, in fact, hiding in plain sight. At the mouth of an unassuming, if unusually clean, dark alley stands a very friendly doorman and the first indication that the Mandrake operates in playful charm. Passing through the dark corridor, baroque music and birdsong soothes the soul and sets the tone for the passing from one world to another.
The Interior Exists in an Otherworldly Realm
Stepping through the main door, beams of light and lavish design engulf the space. The aesthetic is hard to define–hints of medieval castle, occult den, contemporary luxury, and bucolic nature combine to otherworldly effect. The scent of their signature fig leaf candle drifts through the intimate lobby, rich and grassy, lingering on jewel-toned velvet furniture. Views of the atrium contrast with the opulent lobby design. The balconies overhead drip in jasmine and passionflower vines like the lost gardens of Babylon and you may feel somewhat drugged by the mere experience of standing there. Trippy paintings of seemingly writhing bodies in fantastical landscapes do nothing to quell this feeling. The youthful, sunny staff behind the front desk (not surly crones in capes, as one might expect) break the spell in a friendly and helpful way. Enjoy your real key adorned with dreamcatcher-like key rings–nothing so mundane as a keycard here—and get excited to see what treasures it will unlock.
The Rooms Are Sanctuaries of Modern Eccentricity
The Mandrake may be dressed in magic, but it’s still a luxury hotel at heart. The terrace rooms feel clean and modern, while eclectic design details keep the mystical atmosphere afloat. They’re light and airy, but certainly not minimal. This contrast of old and new, occult and luxury, threads through every aspect of the hotel—it’s the lair of the high-end fashion hippy, if you will. The furniture in every room is a mix of modern pieces and antiques which lend the property a personal, almost homey vibe. Well, the home of a very wealthy eccentric explorer, displaying his worldly collection of unusual artifacts.
In the smaller rooms these artifacts act as pointed accents—Venetian masks peering down from atop a stylish wardrobe, for example—while the larger suites offer eclectic luxury on a medieval scale. The beds are heavenly while the deep marble bathtubs provide an almost spiritual experience. Fill your cauldrons with the intoxicating Herbivore Botanical potions provided (non-toxic in beautifully sleek packaging—a lovely manifestation of modern well-being) and cast a spell of deep relaxation upon yourself.
The Plant Life Is Positively Enchanting
The beautiful communal balcony creates a delightful canopy of greenery that lingers throughout the shared spaces. The sweet scent of jasmine from the tumbling vines above, below, around you create a tranquil cocoon. From this angle, the property feels like a luxury jungle treehouse and you would be forgiven for forgetting that you are nestled deep in the heart of Central London–a magic trick indeed! The Mandrake’s commitment to horticultural beauty is a tonic for any anxiety that may have followed you on your travels. Various levels of wicker furniture and hidden bars take you down to the oasis of the ground floor inner courtyard. Two Tasmanian tree ferns preside protectively over the space and their ancient energy feels decidedly bewitching.
A Most Whimsical Restaurant
There are many nooks and crannies from which to enjoy the Mandrake’s food offerings, but taking breakfast in the beautiful Serge Et Le Phoque dining room provides a charming start to the day. The restaurant is an extension of the hotel and looks out onto that omnipresent atrium. The dappled sunlight and pretty greenery of the natural world compliment the contemporary design–velvet banquettes, shell pink tabletops and metallic detailing ensure that the space is eminently Instagrammable.
The menu is inclusive enough to satisfy any health inclined (or fashionable) diet with delicious vegan and gluten-free options alongside classic, if elevated, pancakes and eggs. Choose a spicy ginger shot from their list of healthy juice elixirs and feel nourished and (maybe) ready to leave this beautiful sanctuary for a day in busy London.
You Can Awaken Your Soul With Arts and Herbs
The oft given advice for traveling in big cities is to not waste money on a hotel you’ll barely see the inside of. Well, this place argues for the contrary. Busy days in large cities are inevitably an assault on one’s nervous system. Having a calm, nurturing space from which to start and end your day is essential to well-being.
The Mandrake endeavors to nourish and delight you, body and soul. Its tools are art and herbs. Scattered throughout the property is an eclectic collection of artwork from their rotating roster of in-house artists. Diverse in their style and medium, they all nod to the occult or fantastical in some way and certainly bring personality into the often soulless world of hotel art. This artistic sensibility offers some culture for the soul, while their health-conscious menus allow your body to find equilibrium. The word “wellness” may be irritatingly ubiquitous, but the Mandrake sneaks in “healthy” in a way that feels fun rather than preachy. This is no Spartan detox retreat.
From the Anima Mundi plant medicine elixirs in the minibar, to the organic cotton bedsheets to the botanical infused cocktails this is unintimidating, modern wellness without restriction or punishment. For those for whom the world “wellness” creates a flutter of happy butterflies, staying at a hotel which doesn’t force you to suspend your healthy lifestyle entirely is truly a treat.
There Are Delicious Potions Galore
Another secret to this labyrinth of a property: the curtain of bucolic calm that lingers so pleasantly during the day is pulled back in the evening to reveal, well, a party hotel. The open-plan ground floor crawls from lobby, to bar, to courtyard, to restaurant; milling, in the evenings, with beautiful people dressed to the nines. Take a seat at the beautiful of Waeska and marvel at the creative list of botanical potions (aka cocktails, for those back in the real world). With healing ingredients, such a palo santo (an ancient, smoky wood often burned as incense in spiritual ceremonies) and skullcap (soothing to the nervous system), this is a bar which offers two ancient practices–healing herbalism and intoxication.
Their Spa Treatments Are More Spiritual Wellbeing Than Swedish Massage
In keeping with their whimsical personality, the Mandrake offers a diverse and unusual range of complementary therapies as part of their Spritual Wellbeing program. Led by holistic therapist Slavomir Latko, you can choose to attend one of their weekly gong baths or opt for a private session. Step into the treatment room to enjoy his peaceful energy and soothing magic. The custom combination of Lomi Lomi Nui (an ancient Hawaiian bodywork practice) with sonic acupressure and sound massage is a truly a unique, and sometimes peculiar, experience–this is no cookie-cutter massage. It’s best to leave any skeptism or prudish thought at the door and submit instead to the gentle Hawaiian music. You may not always be able to tell exactly what is going on but know that having three Tibetan singing bowls played on your body will almost certainly lull you to sleep.
It Leaves You With a Lingering Sense of Enchantment
Transition from magical sanctuary to city life can be somewhat jarring but this hotel fortifies you for your onward journey. It’s a rare treat to luxuriate in a botanical wonderland mere steps from the heart of a city. To slip in and out of an eclectic playground of wellness and hedonism is the stuff of fables and fairytales. And for those who enjoy their nature with a side of modern luxury, well, let the Mandrake cast it’s dark and beautiful spell upon you.