Opening this month, hotelier Navid Mirtorabi’s elegant property, The Twenty Two, occupies a sunny corner of Grosvenor Square. While it is very much in Mayfair, in attitude and spirit The Twenty Two is decidedly – strategically – not of Mayfair.
“It used to be that there was a very eclectic crowd there,” explains Mirtorabi, whose hotel career comprises 10 years as owner of Blakes. “In the past 20 years it’s become all super-high-end restaurants, super-high-end members’ clubs, and the atmosphere changed. It’s not a place where young people go out.”
The Twenty Two is intent on doing things differently. It’s a 31-room hotel, all-day restaurant and members’ club for the “creative and curious”, and its guests are invited to “come as you are”, says Mirtorabi. “We’re open to everyone, and everyone’s welcome to come, but I particularly want it to feel very accessible for a younger generation. I want older people to feel comfortable and to be part of it but not,” he finishes carefully, “predominantly.”
The focus on youth reflects The Twenty Two’s management: Mirtorabi is 41 and his business partner, Jamie Reuben, is 34, as is the hotel’s managing director Darius Namdar – ex-Chiltern Firehouse, Corbin & King and Mark’s Club. When I visited the property pre-opening, the average age of the staff ironing tablecloths and tapping away on laptops could not have exceeded 30.
Out, then, with intimidating doormen and dress codes – because, as Mirtorabi says, “I shouldn’t have to tell you how to dress! You should know how to dress to feel good” – and in with unisex loos; a seasonal menu of modern dishes (crab salad, salt-baked chicken) by chef Alan Christie that caters to different price points; a members’ club where under-33s pay only £750 a year; “white-glove service without the white gloves”; and spaces that are “non-judgemental, feel-good, playful and easy”.
Thankfully, rather than fashioning The Twenty Two into a trend-led, Gen Z-baiting, Instagram-brag hotspot, Mirtorabi has leant into the old-world glamour of Mayfair and of the building itself – a Grade II-listed Edwardian Portland stone mansion. Interiors are the work of the designer Natalia Miyar in her first hotel project.
“I always thought the building looked very Parisian,” says Mirtorabi, “so I really wanted that Parisian feel: a lot of velvet, a lot of fabrics, a lot of colour.” He and Miyar based the room designs on 18th-century French interiors, playing with multiple tones and textiles to create 31 bedrooms that are jewel boxes of teal and blue, double-height ceilings, foxed mirrors and billowing taffeta curtains. Jaunty pomegranate-patterned runners lead up and down stairs; eight charming fourth-floor dormer bedrooms are wrapped in papers by Pierre Frey based on 18th-century Indian printed cottons. Some rooms are inspired by the decor at Malmaison, Joséphine Bonaparte’s château outside Paris; another, with red velvet-lined walls, echoes Christian Dior’s opulent Parisian apartment.
The interiors are lavish without being intimidating. Luxury is found in materials, colour and bespoke, upholstered furniture in classic styles, while plenty of cosy corners lighten the effect. Stepping onto the black and cream cabochon marble floor of the lobby, where staff are uniformed in suits by Charlie Casely-Hayford and a mirrored ceiling twinkles overhead, feels like the very essence of glamour. The buzz is already building. Out one recent evening, I told a friend I was working on a story about The Twenty Two. Oh, wow, she replied, everyone’s talking about it.
Happily, for those who don’t make the cut for membership, the members’ spaces, including the library-styled living room and a sexy basement discothèque, are open to hotel guests. The panelled living room features a green and blue handpainted wallpaper by Fromental, and – supplying wit – turtle wall lights by artist Marie Christoff. A leopard-print carpet winds down the staircase to the Music Room, a seductive, upbeat zone for live music and dancing where deep red walls add drama to an interior of mirrored tables and fringed slipper chairs. In the dining room beyond, a specialist mottled paint technique creates a night-sky ceiling complete with a scattering of stars.
Upstairs in the Restaurant (which is open to all), Mirtorabi’s fastidious attention to detail is evidenced in a room for which, says Miyar, “we tested 28 shades of blue – Navid’s favourite colour – to achieve what we’ve got there”. Panelled walls hung with botanical mushroom prints, hand-blown glass and brass chandeliers, dark-blue velvet banquettes and dusty-blue walls deliver a softly grown-up space.
“We wanted to be crazy and fun but not ostentatious,” says Mirtorabi. Miyar agrees: “Even though the rooms are really elegant and timeless they don’t take themselves too seriously.” The mushroom prints, for example. “Traditionally in the 18th century people showcased their print collections. We have these great antique mushroom prints: they’re playful, they’re food, but they’re also stylistically appropriate.”
The Twenty Two is a project of such confidence, not to mention expense, it’s easy to forget that Mirtorabi is a relative unknown in the hospitality business. (A Google search reveals almost nothing.) Born and raised in Tehran, he moved to London at 18 to study international business at the European Business School and, by his own account, undertake some early reconnaissance of the nightclubs of Mayfair and Soho. He was working in residential property when, in 2010, he bought Blakes, the Anouska Hempel-designed South Kensington hotel.
“Blakes was my university,” he says. “I learnt so much. I always had an eye for design but I never thought I was going to get into hotels. Still, I think that was my destiny. My background is Middle Eastern; hospitality is part of our blood, we entertain a lot, we have big families, we eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together, so I think it was embedded in me.” Under his aegis, Hempel was brought back to refurbish the rooms and the restaurant became a hot spot. The hotel was closed for two years due to the pandemic and remains shuttered. Mirtorabi, eager for new challenges, sold it in 2021.
Over Zoom and just back from four days in Ibiza, Mirtorabi, in a suit jacket and Henley shirt, is a cool, understated presence. As the proprietor of a freshly minted hotel brand (so freshly minted it’s yet to be named), with a 75-room property breaking ground on Manhattan’s Union Square, he seems deeply unflappable. Nevertheless, he was indefatigable in his pursuit of his idea.
“I started chatting to the Grosvenor guys about six years ago,” he says. “It took me a year to convince the Estate to give me the building. I had to work from the junior agent right up to the Duke’s son [now Duke of Westminster himself, and one of the trustees of the Grosvenor Estate]. I said to them, ‘If you sell this place to a residential developer it’s just going to be another corner of Mayfair where the lights are always off.’” His vision for a new kind of establishment for a new kind of crowd was ultimately persuasive.
“I want it to feel like a neighbourhood place,” he says, “where people come four times a week – breakfast, one or two lunches, one or two dinners, they know the people there, they feel comfortable. It’s not just a place to eat and sleep or party but a meeting point. When I go out I want to talk about art, music, I want to meet people from different backgrounds, have a different conversation. Why not in Mayfair?”
22 Grosvenor Square, London W1; the22.london; double rooms, from £440 per night