‘As soon as I stepped onto the premises the space spoke to me,’ Rami Fustok tells us as we step through The Mandrake’s mysterious entrance on Newman Street, in London’s bohemian Fitzrovia. Rami was attracted by the architectural qualities of the building, which had won the prestigious RIBA award in 2002. ‘I knew I should trust it and it was the place where I could create a haven in central London.’ As we emerge from the Dantesque entrance-passage, the exact nature of Rami’s haven becomes clear. ‘The objective was to create a journey for the guests,’ Rami says. ‘A journey that would ensure the guests experience something really special, through the interior design, the food, the cocktails… the idea is that the hotel touches all the senses.’
To fulfil this objective, Rami worked on the interiors with his sister Tala, the lead designer for CINA in Paris. The result is, in Rami’s words, ‘a beautiful sanctuary with hanging gardens and mysterious artwork that creates a surreal environment.’ For Rami, the devil really is in the detail, telling us that ‘Every part of the hotel has special items that will surprise you.’ It’s true, the décor is a surrealist wonderland filled with psychedelic scupltures and enigmatic artworks, such as Peter John de Villiers’ stunning mural dedicated to the mandrake root, which has long been celebrated in esoteric circles for its psychoactive properties. If the playful surrealism throughout the hotel looks familiar, it may be in part due to Rami’s own heritage. His mother is British-Lebanese sculptor Bushra Fakhoury, best known for her unique Dunamis sculpture on Park Lane of an elephant doing a trunk-stand on a child’s outstretched palm. While the décor is certainly eye-catching, Rami returns again to the theme of sanctuary. He motions towards the hotel’s signature open-air courtyard. Lush with hanging plants, it’s a real oasis, and Rami’s favourite spot. ‘You feel a sense of being taken away from the urban city into a tranquil haven of beauty,’ he explains.
The hotel is visually stunning indeed, but the other senses are not forgotten. Frédéric Peneau, the chef behind Chateaubriand in Paris and Serge et le Phoque in Hong Kong, has brought his expertise to the Mandrake’s restaurant. For Rami, the partnership makes complete sense: ‘He shares the same passion, professionalism and vision as me to create progressive food that wasn’t just a copy and paste of fusion restaurants.’ No meal would be complete without a devilishly delicious digestif at the hotel’s Waeska bar, one of the most stylish in the city. ‘It’s one of the most special parts of the hotel,’ Rami says, ‘we have created beautiful objects d’art, antiquities and curiosities for guests to talk about and enjoy from all around the world.’
It would be a mistake to think that the Mandrake prioritised style over substance, however. Rami sees the hotel as fitting perfectly into Fitzrovia’s long history of bohemians, poets and artists. ‘It is truly a creative hotel,’ he tells us. ‘We built it to attract creative types and the arts and fashion crowds,’ although, Rami is quick to point out that guests ‘from all walks of life’ are welcome. Just a short walk from some of the hottest cultural spots in the capital, guests at the Mandrake can experience world-class culture without ever leaving the hotel, Rami says. Guests can join us for one of our specially curated experiences such as Sound Massage, Sonic Enchantment or MUBI night down in the theatre.The Mandrake also runs a resident-artist program, which sees acclaimed creators take over sections of the hotel to produce immersive experiences; recent artists include photographers Studio Prokopiou, German artists Herakut, and the legendary tattooist Mark Mahoney.
Seductive and enigmatic in equal measure, the Mandrake certainly appears to live up to Rami’s initial vision. Is he proud of what he has created? ‘Of course,’ he replies, laughing. ‘I have built a surreal, mystical world of wonder.’