Roseate House, London: a model small hotel

Truth be told, I don’t like surprises in my accommodation, much as surprises can be good as well as bad. In London I therefore head for the big chains where I know exactly what I’m going to get and it’s adequate. Heating’s going to work, the wifi will be okay, the beds are often excellent without having to spend a fortune. The rooms in the centre of town will be small but not unworkable.

But every now and then I decide to try out a small hotel and….it’s always been a mistake. Looming large in my memory is an establishment in Kensington with a circular hole in the window, some inches wide, and a room so small that had I been male I could have relieved myself without leaving the bed (assuming a good aim, that is). That after I’d paid for an upgrade to a larger room – I was assured I was in the right place upon asking. Breakfast best left undescribed.

Another time we tried the Montague near the British Museum. They don’t describe the size of their rooms on their site, which should have set alarm bells ringing. Their basic room is, I only discover now from looking at booking.com is 15sqm. We found in practice that if we used the desk where it was located, it was impossible to get out of the room and even upon moving it, this meant that the room could only be navigated by the other person by climbing over the bed. We were really disappointed by this. To be fair, upon writing to the management subsequent to our trip, we were offered a subsequent upgrade should we stay there again, but we didn’t take that up, knowing that we wouldn’t be able to afford to stay in a larger room without a free upgrade. It was never going to be a regular hotel for  us, in other words.

Back to Hilton, Holiday Inn, Pullman, Novotel for a while. We even tried an Ibis. But looking for somewhere close to Paddington Heathrow Express for a one night stay last week, I happened to notice Roseate House. It was time to try a small boutique hotel again. And, for the first time ever I can define the experience in two words ‘no regrets’.

I do have to say that we were upgraded from the basic room to the next size which gave us a couple of extra square metres, but the basic room is still 20sqm, according to their site, which is so much more generous than the Montague’s 15sqm.

When we fronted at reception, we’d been on the road for 36 hours, the long haul from Australia, carrying way too much luggage (five months away) and it was 9am. Would they take pity on us and let us check in early? Very early? Personally I think that if there’s a room available there is no reason for keeping a guest out, but there are hotels in London who expect you to pay extra – let’s avoid those places if we can.

So, here we were faced by smiling staff upgrading us and telling us about the biscuits which we’d find in our room – definitely worth a special mention, we discovered. Along with the ubiquitous Nespresso machine and – three cheers for this, a kettle too. In Europe hotels don’t understand that water has to be boiled properly for tea and that Nespresso machines are not adequate. Say what you like about Brexit, the English ARE different from Europe proper. Knowing how to do tea being top of my list.

Our room was on the lower floor – basement, I guess  you’d say – but it had a window with a lovely garden view and the wifi was good, so being low down was no punishment. Sitting in an armchair with a cup of tea in hand, looking out onto the garden, life was definitely looking up. Shower, clean clothes, and we were starting to feel human again.

To continue the comparison, the Montague’s stylish furnishings are rather flamboyant and lavish compared with Roseate House. Here we have a more true to English nature gentle quirky quaintness. We loved our room, professed by Manny to be the best we’ve stayed at in London. It felt like home. The quality of everything was excellent, the bed, furnishing generally, bathroom products, good shower (over bath, which we did not try). Towels were on a warmer rack. That made me so happy!

Next a visit to the small dining room and bar for a proper pot of tea. And indeed, it was impeccably served, excellent quality tea, pot and china all held up to my stringent conditions. After lunch and an afternoon out, we decided to try the hotel for dinner. There is an excellent cocktail menu. Manny couldn’t resist the idea of a blue cheese cocktail and S-L had to try Breakfast with Granny.

  • Breakfast with Granny £9.50
    Hayman’s Sloe Gin, Lime, Grapefruit, Vanilla, Blackcurrant
  • Say Cheese £12.75
    Blue Cheese, Hayman’s Gin, Parsley

The Hyde Bar is famous for its special whisky collection, to be sampled, perhaps, another day.

Special mention has to be made of the music. I wonder why it is that so many establishments, even if they are five star – or so posh that they are beyond stars – think it’s okay to put on random shuffled music at too loud a volume. The music here fitted the style of the bar and never interfered with conversation. That gives it a very big tick from me.

Overall, we found the food and tea to be better than The Montague, which is not to damn it with faint praise. In fact we didn’t try breakfast at The M. but here we were offered full breakfast for two at the price of £25. The standard of both the buffet and the cooked to order dishes was excellent. We tried the full English and avocado with poached eggs delicately presented on crustless toast. The eggs stayed runny until they were dispensed with. I don’t know how typical that price is for the hotel, but take it if you can as I don’t think you can get a better value breakfast in London.

We’re thinking of London in July and I see these rates come up for three days in their most basic room:

  • Roseate House £600
  • The Montague on the Gardens £747

What are you getting for that? The Montague is fabulously situated for the tourist. You really do step out into the heartland of London sights. Maybe that makes up for the 5sqm you will be missing in your room. It’s also bigger and busier and some people want that.

Roseate House has larger rooms which are finely furbished, different character but at least on a par for quality. Both have excellent service, but simply because it’s smaller – about half the number of rooms – Roseate House is more personal. All the staff were wonderful.

And for us Roseate House is in a great location, uncrowded, untouristy. It’s a walk to Regent’s Park, Marylebone High St and the surrounding neighbourhood for food and Daunt’s Bookshop. The fabulous Satay House is nearby and Kendal St etc a bit further, followed by Hyde Park. London’s so teensy. But in any case, Paddington Underground is a few minutes’ walk away should you prefer. If you know London, I think you’d find Roseate House perfectly located.

In short, we highly recommend Roseate House as a place to stay in London and we are sure to be back.

 

 

 

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Adelaide Fringe 2018: Lutes and ukuleles

I suppose one could fairly say over the last day we’ve gone from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Saturday night it was A Medieval Marketplace. The title piece, performed in two parts, was a haunting experience, as sounds lilted around us. The venue, the Barr Smith Reading Room was used to great effect, the audience in the middle, with the performers all around. Medieval sound surround. It was a generous program of beautiful singing accompanied by instruments of the period. I’d never really listened to anything like it live before and it was especially intriguing that the wooden and thin sounds of the instruments fit so well. I wonder why that is?

Really disappointing that, performers aside, there was nobody there under the age of ancient. I’m mystified by why that would be. And yesterday didn’t get much better. A packed house saw the Ukulele Death Squad at the Grace Emily.  So yeah, a slightly younger demographic, but not by much. Why not???

I had no idea when I bought tickets to this show months ago, that it was the one I didn’t know existed. The only show I’ve seen at the Fringe ever that’s been sold out for every performance well beforehand. It didn’t need promos, reviews, half price tickets. My tickets were an impulse buy – names are everything in marketing? – but it didn’t take long to get why this group has such a big following. High octane ukulele. Who knew?

Well. Ukulele and a sax. Brilliant balance and Reuben Legge is a star. He looks about eighteen, but apparently he’s all grown up. Hard to pick.

Another really generous Fringe experience, we left much happier than when we walked in. I hope that’s compliment enough.

 

Adelaide Fringe 2018: Orpheus

Where would we be if theatre wasn’t something owned by everybody? If it entirely consisted of big companies with big budgets and big issues of safety? Companies that can’t afford to take risks, companies for which every empty seat is a failure measured in dollars.

Fortunately there may never be a need to consider that sad world. The government may try its best to leave theatre with nothing, in the end it doesn’t matter, theatre doesn’t stand or fall on what it is handed out. Rather, by what it gives out. And to see the generosity of theatre en masse we have such events as The Adelaide Fringe where night after night performers pump their stuff for a few dimes.

Orpheus is such a show. Two performers, one an actor and one (at least for this event) more of a singer. They’ve taken the ancient Greek tale and turned it into a modern, but still entirely timeless piece with all the power of the original. Local, Vince Fusco, is the teller of the story and he’s fabulous with the simplest of props – the book from which he reads. Phil Grainger has his guitar. The prop of the book is vital. It balances the guitar. It provides something for the actor to do, so he isn’t just staring us down the whole time. And, of course, it is the story line. Vince is telling a story. One could no more do this piece without the book in hand, as inform your children that bedtime reading tonight will be done bookless. Inconceivable! (I do have to note here that one review of this thought that the book was the other kind of prop – that the actor didn’t know his lines and needed it. This will make me go he-he for a long time.)

That’s all you need for a spellbinding hour of theatre. The rest is all the bravery to have a go. I’ve listened to a couple of performers gutted by poor reviews they’ve received this year. It’s impossible for any show here to have no redeeming characteristics. But it’s certainly possible for them to fail – theatre at the Fringe would be a boring thing indeed if nobody did anything that might not succeed. The success of Flanagan Collective‘s Orpheus, is a win for all of the performers who are putting it on the line here.

How real Vince and Phil have made the myth – I guess that’s why myths don’t die, they have a reality that transcends their fiction. I’m hoping to see this one again before I go, that’s a first for this Fringe. But it is selling well, so make your move soon.

Adelaide Fringe 2018: My Bard

Nicolas Collett is the writer of this one man show – though he enlists the audience from time to time to stand in for the occasional figure. Nothing scary, and don’t even think about sitting in the second row. This is the most intimate theatre I’ve been in and there is only the first row. If you find that really intimidating, maybe you should try thinking of it as the last row. Good luck with that idea.

There probably aren’t many people who go to this show without knowing a thing or two about the subject, William Shakespeare. There is a nice balance between the things you are likely to know – he left his wife his second-best bed is a famous one – and things you might not. But while telling the facts (such as we know them) in an entertaining way, Collett gives his understanding of how Shakespeare wrote and this I especially liked. In particular, he suggests that Shakespeare eventually hit upon the notion of not explaining everything, of the value of ambiguity. Interesting and new to me.

This is an hour’s romp through a lot of material and that was well-handled, it felt remarkably unrushed. Collett has chosen wisely in his decisions about what to leave in…and out. He manages on his own to give a vivid image of Shakespeare’s contemporaries – Nash, Greene, Marlowe and all that crowd – and a sense of how Shakespeare sort of fitted in and sort of didn’t.

The Treasury 1860 is a delightful venue. The drinks are good and our sampling of the bar food made us think we must go back soon to try the restaurant. I’m expecting an excellent meal. We can’t take for granted such venues. The proprietors are experimenting and I do hope that those who love theatre will give them the support they deserve in taking that step.

Well, it isn’t hard to support something that’s such fun.

Speaking of which, one of the other shows on here is How to Drink Wine Like a Wanker. I’m recommending this to many of my friends. Wordshow by Gavin Robertson looks good too.

Adelaide Fringe 2018: The Unknown Soldier

The Fringe has two centres of serious theatre in Adelaide. One is Holden St theatres. The other is The Bakehouse. It’s hard to see without these two venues how junkies like me would survive these next weeks.

Tonight, having seen an early performance of Euripides’ Alcestis, half an hour later we were in for an intense monologue which put us squarely, if at the tail end, of World War One. Nothing could have provided a greater contrast to the exuberant large cast of school actors in Alcestis, than this one person show by a highly experienced actor who is also, we discover, a fine dramatic writer. Ross Ericson is somebody to keep an eye on – I’m surprised I haven’t seen him in London before. Looking forward to his Gratiano later in the Fringe.

The Bakehouse has a WWI theme for several of its shows this Fringe. The Unknown Soldier has been in Adelaide before and started yesterday and today with sell-outs. Easy to see why. There are no surprises, you are going to get exactly what you expect with this show. Monday/Tuesday sell-outs speak for themselves, you need to get in quick for this one.

And after, while you are mulling over the way in which ordinary young boys and older men put themselves to the death for the upper class of the UK, think about getting hold of Ken Loach’s early films on the aftermath of the Great War. Watching what happens when they come home is as disheartening as watching what they suffered in those appalling years.

Adelaide Fringe 2018: Euripides’ Alcestis

School kids doing an adaptation of Alcestis. What could go wrong? Surprisingly, the answer to that is nothing really.

Their director, George Franklin has done a great job of putting together something that suits the troupe. The show moves easily from comedy to tragedy. The music and singing are excellent. A pianist who can act doubles up as Alcestis’ father-in-law. Heracles takes his inspiration from Lord Flashheart (Blackadder).

One can see why it’s considered to be a ‘problem play’; my appetite for the real thing has been whetted. It seems rarely to be put on in the original, though King’s College in London have been performing it and other classics in Ancient Greek since the 1950s. However, if you go to Youtube, you can find a production in Ancient Greek with English subtitles, which looks well worth watching.

There has been a big revival of Ancient Greek drama in London over the last few years. Nice to see it spilling over in this direction.

Fringe/Festival Adelaide 2018

This is a WIP of shows we are going to.

F20 7.30pm Bakehouse 60 minutes
The Unknown Soldier

F24 2pm
Great Detectives

F24 6pm Barr Smith Reading Room
A Medieval Market Place

F25 4pm 90 mins Grace Emily
Ukelele Death Squad

F25 7.45 Band Room Crown and Anchor
Marathon

F26 6pm 70 mins Buckingham Arms Hotel
Dickinson’s Room

F28 6pm Bakehouse
Gratiano

F28 7.30pm 65 mins Bakehouse
Shell Shocked

M1 7.30pm Bakehouse 60 mins
Mengele

M3 2pm Gallery Room National Wine Centre 60 minute
Box and Cox

M3 7.15pm Producers’ Warehouse 235 Grenfell St, Adelaide
The Ballad of Frank Allen

M4 3pm Holden St
Hitchhiker’s Guide

M4 4.30pm Holden St
That’s a Fact

M4 6pm Holden St
Flesh and Blood

M7 7.00pm 65 mins Garden of UD
Fleabag

M9 6pm St Stephen’s Lutheran Church
Another G&S for you

M9 9pm Bakehouse
Between the Crosses

M11 6.30pm Holden St
Once Were Pirates

M11 7.45pm Holden St
That Daring Australian Girl

M12 5pm 4 hours Festival Theatre
Kings of War

M14 Garden of UD 9.30pm
Rich Hall

M15 2pm Banquet Room at Fullarton Park Community Centre
Three Little Sisters Come to Unley – An Andrews Sisters Tribute