Tamsin Wressell steps into a bizarre cosmos in one of London’s most eclectic boutique hotels
The surreal experience that is staying at The Mandrake strikes me immediately. I enter through wrought iron gates on a relatively sleepy street in Fitzrovia and walk down a dark corridor to the reception; an eclectic mix of rich colours, velvet drapes, candle chandeliers and backlit marble, looking out on a jasmine and passion flower hanging garden. The hotel is inspired by the medicinal properties of a mystical, hallucinogenic plant. Keep this in mind and things start to make a lot more sense: it’s all one big psychedelic trip.
The wellness programme
The focus at The Mandrake is on spiritual wellbeing through sound healing. When I visit with a friend, there are two weekly experiences available (though the programme has recently been extended). Sessions take place in a theatre in the basement — a cosy, candlelit space filled with blankets and cushions. We try sonic enchantment, a mixture of live music mixing and multimedia that aims to restore the body and balance inner calm. We lie down and wrap ourselves up for an hour of electronica and hypnotic melodies. Once it’s over, we feel both deeply relaxed and filled with energy, and float upstairs to the restaurant in an enjoyably dream-like state.
The SERGE restaurant is an overseas venture from Michelin-starred Hong Kong-based restaurant SERGE et le Phoque. The menu is served up tapas-style, with plates divided up into ‘earth’, ‘sea’ and ‘land’ sections, which pay homage to the chef’s Spanish and French roots. We make our way through pulpo a la plancha with tandoori spice, grilled aubergine with a miso and herb salad, seared scallop with peach, artichoke and portague, and suckling pig, orange and patatas bravas, before finishing with a sorrel sorbet with olive oil and fresh thyme. Each dish is wonderfully balanced and as delicious as the last. Our waiter, meanwhile, provides all the friendly chat, and enthusiastically throws in a few of his favourite dishes that we “really must try”.
With appetites sated we move onto the Waeska bar, overlooked by a wall-mounted stuffed half-gazelle-half-peacock creature, for a botanical-based cocktail before retreating to our suite.
We’re in a junior suite with direct access to the plant-draped terraces. First we’re shown the basics: where the light switch is, how to open the door, and then what the button in the rainfall shower is for — the adjacent room has the same, and if both are pressed, the opaque glass wall turns transparent. The bedroom itself is filled with more lush velvet and crystal chandeliers, the king-size bed cocooned in silver drapes, while the bathroom is marble-clad, with a clawfoot freestanding bath taking centre stage. We browse the minibar — just below the lavish leather eye masks — and find a mix of herbal elixirs, but opt for a beer before falling into one of the deepest sleeps.
When we wake, we order room service: a spread of cold brew coffees, smoothies, yoghurt and fruit, and eggs benedict with Cornish crab, and savour the feeling of having our own hanging garden terrace in the city.
It’s definitely unique. But beyond the style, there’s quality and substance too. From the tapas and cocktails to the soothing sound healing and comfy beds, The Mandrake is more than just for show.
Double rooms start at £250 per night
Junior suites start at £850 per night
Group sessions of sonic enchantment costs £35 per person