Gently curving towards a terrace that offers views over Buckingham Palace Gardens and Hyde Park Corner, Brooklands bar and restaurant, which sits atop the newly opened Peninsula London, is a celebration of icons of British aviation, motorsport and engineering.
The venture, which dominates the topmost floor of the £1.1 billion hotel, is the result of an eight-year project by architects David Archer and Julie Ann Humphryes, founders of Archer Humphryes Architects. The firm has a proven track record of creating London hotspots – Chiltern Firehouse and KOKO are among their previous successes – and Brooklands has all the makings of another name-to-know.
Brooklands: a first-class ticket to history
The concept originated with Sir Michael Kadoorie, chairman of The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, which owns The Peninsula Hotels.
Brooklands – famous as the world’s first purpose-built racing track, the birthplace of British motorsport and aviation, home of Concorde and the site of Brooklands Museum – offered fertile ground for inspiration.
‘Our brief included a visit to Brooklands the Museum to get an introduction to the collection, a visit to the site and to gain an understanding of the proposed buildings,’ the architects explain. ‘It was as equally important to understand the operational context of the restaurant as the content and provenance of the collection. Once we started work we had a number of meetings with the team and chairman, who fed into the process continually through the development of the design.’
Up, up and away!
The experience begins several storeys below, in an antechamber off The Lobby (in itself a visual feast with its plush red chairs, crystal chandeliers and hand-painted de Gournay murals).
A Napier-Railton – a 1930s racing car which holds the all-time lap record at Brooklands – is spotlighted, car showroom style, in front of a screen where Pathé racing footage plays on a loop. A few steps later and another treasure (this is a pattern that continues throughout): the path to the dedicated lifts is illuminated by wall sconces modelled on Bentley Lucas torpedo sidelights. Above: the nose cone of a Concorde aircraft is suspended above the doorway.
A ‘hot air balloon ride’ (willow encases the lift’s interior and an old balloon burner acts as the ceiling light) gives way to Brooklands’ aluminium-clad lift lobby.
Time for a pit-stop
The bar itself is a sleek blend of leather, wood and – yes – more design flourishes.
The rotating chandelier uses blades from a Concorde Olympus 593 Turbine; the deep red and metallic ‘basket weave’ ceiling draws on the design of a Vickers Welling bomber; the carpet mimics the original colours from the member’s area at the Brooklands Museum.
Seating is a mixture of deep leather banquettes – complete with old-fashioned levers to attract the attention of staff – custom Archer Humphryes designs and classic pieces like the Capitol Complex Chair by Pierre Jeanneret.
Rolls-Royce enthusiasts are spoiled. A windscreen fixing and frame are repurposed as a display case; leather for the banquettes is taken from a Phantom; and the Nero Marquina marble bar forms a petal shape using fascias taken from the body work of a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost.
Yet the work of Archer Humphryes went beyond selecting individual pieces from these classic vehicles.
They note: ‘We responded to the Chairman’s brief finding inspiration within the geometries, technology, beauty and atmospheric exploration defining a space that embodies the simplicity of a modern aesthetic with the comfort and craftsmanship of the extraordinary objects depicted.’
Opening out on the other side of the lift lobby is the Brooklands restaurant, overseen by Chef Director Claude Bosi and Chef de Cuisine Francesco Dibenedetto.
The centrepiece – literally, as it is suspended from the ceiling in the middle of the space – is a 13.6m model of a Concorde, crafted from original hand drawings taken from the archives of Brooklands Museum and Air France.
Yet not even that is enough to compete with the mesmeric swirls of the digital art installation which dominates the back wall. Designed to reflect the atmospheric patterns formed in the wake of the Concorde engines, this ‘wave’ motif ripples outwards along the ribbed aluminium walls.
Reflecting on the scheme, the designers add: ‘We have paid homage to the history of the museum whilst futuristically utilising the architecture to remember the heroic innovation and testing of new technology and advancement of ideas like making Concorde for the first time, or breaking world land and air speed records.’
With the unveiling of The OWO by Raffles vying for bookings from UHNW travellers, the race is definitely on – but Brooklands at The Peninsula promises to more than hold its own.