A radical hotel that wants guests to feel like they are still very much at home has just thrown its doors open in Notting Hill. The Laslett, named after Rhaune Laslett, legendary community activist and founder of the Notting Hill Festival, precursor to the modern day Notting Hill Carnival is hoping locals and tourists will fall for its numerous quirks and references to the popular neighbourhood and its history. The hotel’s main bar and hub of activity is named after Trinidadian musician Russell ‘Russ’ Henderson, widely acknowledged as one of the founding fathers of the Carnival. In a further homage to the Carnival which takes place over the August Bank Holiday, The Laslett is exhibiting a series by local photographer Brian David Stevens, titled: Notting Hill Sounds Systems, captured before crowds arrive at the Notting Hill Carnival in the summer of 2004
Guiding spirits: Rhaune Laslett and Russell Henderson were pioneers of the Notting Hill Carnival
The 51-bed hotel in Pembridge Gardens is the brainchild of Tracy Lowy who founded the Living Rooms hospitality chain in 1993 as the anti-thesis of the standard hotel. Lowy felt there was a need for an alternative to London’s traditional hotels and conceived a new concept – combining the service of a hotel with the style, comfort and space of a home. Since then she has opened similarly themed spaces in Mayfair, Marylebone and Little Venice.
The Laslett has also managed to rope in some of west London’s larger-than-life figures across food, art, design and fashion. Famed restaurateur Sally Clarke will provide food for The Henderson Bar; the first time her signature dishes have been available outside her eponymous Clarke’s restaurant – favourite haunt of painter Lucian Freud – bakery and shop on nearby Kensington Church Street. A selection of her award-winning pastries will be delivered fresh from the bakery for breakfast, with kedgeree for weekend brunch. Salads, sandwiches and soups at lunchtime will change seasonally, and there’s comfort food on the room service menu with shepherd’s pie.
There is also a nod to the neighbourhood’s eclectic offerings on Portobello and Golborne Road. Curiosities displayed throughout the hotel come from another local, Jerome Dodd’s Les Couilles du Chien. The eccentric Golborne Road interiors and curiosity store established some twenty years ago has been a source of inspiration for countless designers. With his background in retail design and a passion for collecting all things unusual and decorative, Dodd has a reputation for creating and curating stylish and innovative interiors.
Barbara Hulanicki, fashion designer and founder of the iconic clothing store BIBA which was at the forefront of London’s fashion scene in the 60s and 70s is displaying a range of her vivid artwork as a lesser known illustrator. Lowy says The Laslett is a work in progress and promises more to come. She hopes this heady mix of nostalgia, strong community ties, local fayre and unspurn surroundings will keep the punters amused and interested for a long time. And see it as a second home.
Rise of the Unhotel
OneFineStay.com is a UK-based apartment rental or ‘un-hotel’ site, set up in 2010 with six apartments available for short-term rental when the owners are away. It has grown rapidly on the back of its overwhelming success in London. OneFineStay began with just six apartments and has grown to over 600 in London alone with a network that stretches to New York. Prices for the apartments depend on desirability, location and size just like room rates are calculated at a top-notch hotel.
Airbnb.com is a San Francisco-based hospitality chain also akin to the OneFineStay business model but with a far more ambitious reach across the world. Travellers register online and are matched with suitable lodgers in their city of visit. It has been blamed by traditional hotel chains in major tourist hubs like Paris for cannibalising hotel revenues without the overheads or tax liabilities. Unorthodox travel accommodation arrangements seems here to stay.
UPDATE: Russell Henderson has sadly passed away aged 91.
The Laslett, 8 Pembridge Gardens, London W2 4DU