The Mandrake, London / by Rami Fustok and Tala Fustok

Once in a blue moon a very special hotel might come along, that breaks the status quo and tests our expectations of hospitality. 2017 saw the creation of one very such hotel; The Mandrake, fiztrovia.

This boutique hotel is the brainchild of Beirut born Rami Fustok, son of world renowned sculptor Bushra Fakhoury. This family affair also enlisted the help of Rami’s sister Tala Fustok who designed the interiors.

The building was formally a RIBA award winning office block, in the heart of Fiztrovia, and its new life as a 34 bed boutique hotel sees it completely transformed from its previous life into parallel dimension full of surprise and intrigue. The name after all is from a hallucinogenic plant favoured by the druids.

The undiscerning entrance off Newman Street is marked with the Mandrake brand eye, like some kind of ruins symbol to another world. The dark passage acts as a purging space, that relieves guests of their day to day identity in preparation for sensory and spiritual journey they will embark on as they enter the hotel

The hotel is laid out around the central courtyard with all the major spaces wrapping around one side, then stepping up in a series of external terraces and walkways to the guestrooms. Vegetation and creepers cascade down the atrium from the upper levels in a scene not dissimilar of an Incan ruin being taken back by the jungle.

The ground level courtyard is home to two giant Tasmanian ferns, and the glass bi folds that encase the garden of delights are fully openable on all sides, giving tremendous freedom as to what activities can take place, or can be opened to completely change the dynamic of one of the food and beverage offerings. On one side is the double height reception space, the two long lengths are taken by Serge et le Phoque restaurant and the signature Waeska bar and to the rear is private dining.

Serge et Le Phoque is run by French team Charles Pelletier and Frédéric Peneau. Having all ready received a Michelin star for the Hong Kong property, I sure when the judging comes around again this year, The Mandrake will also be on that famous list.

Tala Fustok creates a clever collage of contrasting elements in the restaurant to provide the comfort expected from such a culinary marvel while still adhering to The Mandrakes unkempt darker image. Rough concrete and exposed brick walls jar with the opulent velvet seating. Exposed conduit and industrial track spot lighting opposed with lush tropical planting. The dark parquet floor balances out the large expanses of cream ceiling and white drapes that cover the bifold wall.

The space is actually relatively simple in its layout, simple rows on tables and chairs flanked by banquets, but as with all the interiors in the hotel it’s the art that finishes the space. Artwork is by Francesco Clemente and depicts scenes of eating and food themes.

Linked to Serge et Le Phoque is the Serge Bar which is much more of a lounge type affair and has a strong synergy with restaurant experience, ideal for pre or post dinner drinks. The fantastic corbelled ceiling leads your eye down to the gold ribbed bar & curtained Windows that create a centre piece to the room.

The other major space on the ground floor is the Waeska Bar. Perhaps the most iconic of all Mandrakes instragramable interiors. Adorning the back bar is a mythical sculpture made from a dead gazelle (which I should point out died from natural causes and therefore isn’t taxidermy) and peacock / insect inspired elements.

Similar to the restaurant, the base elements to the bar a simple with splashes of evocative and thought provoking art pieces appear through out the space and are from Fustok’s personal collection. Tribal masks, a lion skull and other foreign artefacts line shelves and wall space.

The dark stained parquet flooring, and ebonised bar is brought to life with brass accents and detailing. It’s the dynamic people and art that make this space so interesting, the interiors are just a facilitator to set the scene.

The hotel also hosts a basement theatre space that can double up as a club in the evenings, but is also fundamentally important to the operations of The Mandrake as it undergoes it’s spiritual journey of discovery through its mindfulness classes. When we visited the space had just held a full moon gong bathwhere patrons are immersed in a sensory massage of sound and vibrations. Other get togethers include vibro-acoustic massage, sonic enchantment, lomi lomi temple body works and 3D YAR sound experience.

One of the other core beliefs of the hotel is it’s Art programme. Fustok gives the hotel over to a different artist / creative each month. This month renowned tattoo artist Thomas Hooper has taken up residence above reception, with even charismatic general manager Dean Culpan getting inked live on the internet.

Past artists have included Adam & Eve inspired nude compositions (involving hotel guests) by Iris Brosch, guest photo shoots by Zoobs and live mural creation by Herakut to name but a few.

With the incredibly diverse and exciting art programme combined with the outstanding food and beverage offerings it’s easy to forget there’s also guest-rooms at the Mandrake.

There are 34 guestrooms in total, with a range of types, including the smallest terrace rooms, the Newman & Mandrake rooms, as well as two iconic suites, the dark and mysterious Mandrake Suite and the white heaven like Penthouse Suite. Each with their very own and unique interior design.

The standard guestrooms are pure in their composition. Depending which type they have neutral coloured walls, and simple built in joinery. All generally have full height windows draped in thick tonal curtains. The furniture is simple with some interesting retro inspired loose furniture and bohemian rug.

Again it’s the art work and collection pieces that give the rooms some Mandrake grunge. Each room also features their very own masks that the guests can use for the monthly masquerade party.

The bathrooms also continue the simplistic approach seen in the bedrooms. White marble wall & floor tiles, nickel sanitary ware and lighting and a heavily veined marble vanity are not in your face but just give off the air of quality. The WC and shower are screened with opaque glazed doors to give a little privacy for even the most exhibitionists of guests.

Finally we must talk about the Mandrakes two suites, two very different spaces that could easily have come from a Hieronymus bosch painting, depicting heaven and hell. The penthouse is in the east of the hotel where the sun rises and is white, adorned in quarter matched Veronese marble and with a horned animal throne by Pernille Otze.

And the Mandrake suite in the west of the hotel is black like its evil step brother.

The penthouse is commonly hired out as an after party venue and with the oversized bed and huge jacuzzi bath with openable sky light above you can see why. Every space in the hotel has a multiple identity and can be used for any number of purposes. It’s this forward thinking attitude that is one of the hotel’s biggest successes.

What Fustok and the Mandrake team have created here is something very special, never have I been been more excited to see how a hotel grows and evolves, something tells me it can only get stronger as it sets its self apart from any of its competitors. I foresee some silver wear for this years ahead awards for sure.

R/T

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