Well known and highly respected in the luxury travel community, Jonathan Slater owns Oddfellows Management Company, which runs Oddfellows Chester and Oddfellows on The Park, Greater Manchester. Jonathan was the MD of The Chester Grosvenor for 30 years, where the restaurant, Simon Radley at The Chester Grosvenor, held a Michelin star for 26 of those years. Jonathan was also a founding director of Small Luxury Hotels of the World – he was on the board of the global consortium for 21 years, 9 of which were as chairman.
We caught up with Jonathan lately to discuss his hospitality vision, what makes a truly great hotel stay and which item he never leaves home without.
What was your vision when opening Oddfellows?
After 30 years of working within a very formal environment, I wanted to create a hotel collection where the service, food and comfort are as good as anything in the five-star sector, but with a completely different feel. My team at Oddfellows is friendly, relaxed and confident with the guests. Our service is tip top, but we do it in a style that really makes guests feel comfortable. The interiors are playful; they show that we don’t take ourselves too seriously – so although we are often described as design-led, it is not in a pompous way. As we grow the collection, we keep in mind that the experience of difference is what makes guests return and as such every property should be unique. Chester has been designed around the history of the building and influenced by famous Cestrians. Oddfellows on The Park, soon to launch, is influenced by its equestrian history (it was once a stud) and the stunning environs of acres of British parkland around it.
What do you consider the hallmarks of a truly great hotel stay?
It’s always the people. The connections that you make with the team at the hotel are paramount.
Most memorable hotel experience (beyond Oddfellows and the Chester Grosvenor, of course!):
Every hotel experience has been memorable in different ways – it depends on what you are there for and where you are in the world. A stay at the Bel-Air in Los Angeles or the Peninsula in Tokyo will always be memorable for the right reasons. The place I return to again and again is the Coral Reef Club in Barbados. We have been holidaying there as a family for 20 years and now we go as three generations with the grandchildren. Those are my most memorable experiences – as that’s where my family has made so many memories.
Most exotic dish you’ve tasted during your travels:
Marinated shark brain in Roppongi in Tokyo
What is your must-have travel item, which you never leave home without?
Where do you send first-time visitors to London?
Always The Goring.
Fill in the following sentence:
Life is too short to tolerate: anything less than a can-do attitude.
Next destination on your travel bucket list:
Chile is next on the agenda!
And what about those great hotels Jonathan Slater has opened? Rebecca Recommends is proud to represent both Oddfellows and Oddfellows on The Park. We’ve “interviewed” each to give you a sneak peek at their best qualities and how they can shine for your clients.
ODDFELLOWS ON THE PARK
Tell us about your location: I’m lucky enough to be situated in Bruntwood Park, within the glorious Victorian gothic mansion, Bruntwood Hall.
What’s your favorite bedroom or suite for first-time visitors? I’m particularly smitten with the Playground Suites. These are set in what would have been the master bedrooms of the original Bruntwood Hall and dazzle guests with contemporary four-poster king-size beds, Victorian-style roll top bathtubs and incredible park views. Modern touches include complimentary WiFi, flat-screen TVs and Roberts Radios – and Nespresso coffee machines for that early-morning pick-me-up before breakfast.
What’s your favorite dish on The Galloping Major menu? Named for the second owner of Bruntwood Hall, a bit of a local legend, The Galloping Major has both a la carte and grazing menus. My personal favorite meal? Venison carpaccio with pickled mushrooms, mushroom purée and crispy shallots … followed by pork belly, Scottish langoustines, peas and broad beans. And all topped off with a decadent salted caramel parfait and granola and honey.
What activities are nearby? Set as I am in the midst of a public park, with BMX and archery nearby, I provide a convivial neighborhood feel. Cheadle is just outside Manchester and guests immediately share a village-like community spirit. Walk the park, join a park-based boot camp for a bit of morning exercise, shop Manchester’s designer labels or attend one of the many local festivals, from jazz to food and drink.
Brag a bit – tell us a fun fact about yourself: <blush> I am the only hotel in the UK (outside of London) to be accepted by global consortium Design HotelsTM in the UK. They have incredibly strict guidelines on which properties may join their carefully curated collection of hotels – and my design, cultural authenticity and genuine service landed me on this highly respected list.
Tell us about your location: I’m set in a lovely Georgian townhouse smack in the middle of Chester, on what I believe is the prettiest street, and I’m just moments from the river.
What’s your favorite bedroom or suite for first-time visitors? I adore my Douglas Duplex Suite, a split-level suite with a sitting room and a dramatic mezzanine bedroom with a huge free-standing bath and views up to the heavens. Architect John Douglas inspired this suite’s design, with its clean lines and loads of light.
What’s your favorite dish on The Restaurant at Oddfellows menu? I’m partial to the scallops with black pudding, to start, followed by chateaubriand for two, with onion rings, and a dreamy rice pudding with banana, toffee and passion fruit for dessert.
What activities are nearby? Our historic city and riverside neighborhood is awash in activities, from designer shopping and touring the Roman amphitheater, to dynamic pubs and restaurants, to sailing and canoeing on the River Dee. England’s North West and Snowdonia National Park are an easy jump from Chester for those who crave the outdoors.
Brag a bit – tell us a fun fact about yourself: It’s less of a fact and more of a tip for those seeking quiet, romantic moments, but I love to show off my Secret Garden, a beautifully planted spot brimming with wild flora and fauna and complemented by cheerful garden gnomes and oversized lamps. Guests may gather in this year-round space protected by canopies and warmed by outdoor fires and private heated booths.