London Evening Standard

London Evening Standard

The Main Attraction

THE fun thing about staying in a hotel in the same city that you live in is that after you’ve checked in, you can head off to a party instead of eating supper in a stuffy dining room.

And the bad thing? You can drink too many cocktails at the party and find yourself in the early hours standing on the doorstep of your own house before you remember you’re meant to be staying in a hotel.

I don’t know why I ever left The Main House. It is lovely. It seems to have been transported straight out of another continent, another era. It feels wonderfully colonial; a gin-and tonic hangover from Twenties’ Rift Valley Charming and gracious, it harks back to a time when people knew how to look after you properly; who were consummate hosts even if you’d just pitched up, without warning, with a host of ruffians demanding fresh women and song.

And it’s just £65 per person a night. £65 a night! In Notting Hill! Where the stalky bit off a lychee from an organic supermarket will almost certainly cost you more.

In fact, The Main House is actually a B&B. It has just four rooms but they have been stayed in by Japanese pop stars, LA film producers and Russian princesses. The beds are huge and have proper goosedown duvets and Egyptian-cotton sheets. There are shiny, honeycomb-coloured floorboards covered in animal skins, pretty cabinets and old-fashioned drinks trays filled with decanters.

The bedrooms are spacious and elegant, with high ceilings, and the bathrooms are huge, with antique mirrors and old glass-topped urns you can use as side tables. There is even a copy of Kipling on the shelf. It makes you want to lie about and drink lemonade and write to a lover in the Serengeti.
How unusual to meet someone who can be tasteful on a budget. Where you are not charged a supplement for an extra pillow, the sofas aren’t made out of sponge and covered in electric-blue gingham and where the female staff aren’t wearing a highly flammable jacket and tie

Sure, the carpet up the stairs is the colour of an old pink Fondant Fancy but, in the morning, proper full strength coffee is served on a silver tray, with a silver milk jug and a silver sugar bowl.

CAROLINE Main has been running her B&B for more than two years. A one-time commodity trader, horse trainer, safari guide, Mayfair club owner and DJ, she has spent years all over Africa and no doubt has a stack of stories up her sleeve.
At a guess, I would say she has been bitten by a snake and been made love to by a fearsome Masai warrior. Now that she runs this place while living on the ground floor, she will lend you a bicycle, get someone to sort out your ironing, fix a trip to Lambton Place Health Club, or get you a good deal for breakfast at Tom’s Deli round the corner, run by Tom Conran.

When I caught up with her in the morning she was cutting her son’s hair in the sitting room as light poured in from the huge windows.

The one thing Caroline can’t fix is the acoustics. In an old Victorian house such as this one, noise travels. And I have a thing about noise. When I woke up it didn’t take long for me to realise that the banging inside my head was also the banging outside my head.

Nevertheless, The Main House feels like a refuge. I have spoken to lots of people who, having heard about it, had noted down its details for future reference, just so that if they happened to have an argument with their boyfriend they could move in to somewhere perfectly reasonable and perfectly lovely.

When I saw that my husband left me with no keys, no money no means of getting home, I couldn’t have been more relaxed about it. I’ll be happy here, I thought: Caroline will cut my hair and, maybe if I’m lucky, she’ll tell me how to knock a lion unconscious from 30 paces.