England, Europe and Middle East, Hotel Reviews, London, Newsletter, United Kingdom

The Cumberland. Discover Marble Arch’s transformed Grande Dame.

14/03/2024 by .
The Cumberland

Anthea Gerrie channels Jimi Hendrix at the Cumberland, an art deco London hotel transformed into a musos’ dream.

Touted as the height of modernity when it opened 90 years ago, the Cumberland is unique among grande dame London hotels in embracing the contemporary rather than living on the laurels of tradition.   For that approach credit the pulling power of Jimi Hendrix, who made this once-august institution his unlikely home, an association which, along with the fact that the Supremes created new choreography for their London show in the basement and David Bowie recorded an album round the corner, has prompted the hotel to make rock music its 21st century USP.

Not that you’d know from the elegantly austere exterior; this hostelry with one foot in Oxford Street has retained the gracious old bones of the building designed by prominent art deco architect F.J. Wills.   When it opened in 1933 it boasted 2000 staff and the world’s fastest lifts, shooting from ground zero to the 8th floor in 14 seconds, and went on to host luminaries including the Prince of Wales, Charlie Chaplin and Marlene Dietrich after the opening visit of King George V and Queen Mary.

The Cumberland

For a long time, The Cumberland was where the postwar middle class brought their families for tea, but has since reinvented itself as a musos’ hangout.  After all, Buddy Holly, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Madonna and Lady Gaga followed Hendrix through the hotel’s doors back in the day, so it’s no surprise that virtually the whole lobby has been turned over to live music, American-style dining and drinking Vegas-style.  The award-winning design, awash in bright lights and gold fixtures, is brash and blingy, but nevertheless spectacular.

The rock memorabilia concept continues in the room corridors upstairs, but the rooms themselves are quite variable, ranging from small, plain, almost clinically white standards to larger, more colourful junior suites themed to the max.   While the former proved perfectly serviceable on a first visit, the second was considerably more fun, with a Fender guitar on the floor and, rather surprisingly, its carrycase in the walk-in wardrobe in case I felt like taking it out for a busk outside Selfridges.   All guests can rent a Fender of their own or a turntable with a vinyl selection during their stay.

The Cumberland

What I really wanted to do was play the Queen album laid out on my own in-room turntable, but it was a disappointment to discover Housekeeping had never checked the needle, which jumped across the vinyl and likely scratched the unplayable disc.  A klieg light in one corner would have been a great way to enhance the room lighting, had its bulb been in operation, but at least the dressing-room-style make-up mirror worked, the bed was super-comfortable and the large television fully functioning.

The bathroom had that rare accoutrement, an actual tub, with bath salts, even rarer, a welcome touch alongside other decent toiletries, and a Nespresso machine, bedside alarm clock and mini-fridge packed with complimentary popcorn, crisps and soft drinks were welcome.

SOUND is the umbrella name for the spectacular circular bar meant to resemble a giant disc hovering over a turntable, and beneath it an auditorium-style restaurant facing a stage which features live music daily on a limited basis and a loud recorded soundtrack when the talent is off or taking a break.

The Cumberland

The Cumberland

The food is more enticing in prospect than some of it turned out to be on delivery, though there is a good selection of burgers, and both the crispy fried spicy shrimp(£18) and the vegan salted caramel ice-cream(£5) deserved a shout-out.   A robot delivering the desserts was a fun feature, straight from Hollywood, where we last encountered one bringing blankets on a chilly night.

An All Areas Access pass is a metaphor which clearly could not be overlooked when creating a music-themed hotel which calls its bar a “mixing desk” and its meeting rooms “studios”(at one point the Cumberland rebranded itself as a London Hard Rock), and the Backstage area behind reception is a useful VIP check-in area to make a quick entrance ahead of the queuing crowds.

Snacks and drinks are available here to those with the right wristband in a cavernous, slightly spooky room where you like to think you might bump into the ghost of Hendrix, Bowie, or one of the late Supremes putting themselves through their paces in the basement below.

Tell me more about the Cumberland Hotel in London.

The Cumberland, Great Cumberland Place London W1H 7DL

T: + 44 207 523 5053  E: stay.thecumberland@guoman.co.uk

Rooms from £190




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