It’s not often you stay in a slice of history, but the St James Hotel and Club is a London institution that has welcomed Winston Churchill, Ian Fleming and Cher and even Alice Cooper through its refined doors since they opened in 1857, after which he. If only the walls could talk.
Today it’s a luxury hideaway tucked away in a cul-de-sac so quiet you’d never guess it was in the heart of Mayfair. And no matter the story or the guest list – its Michelin-starred restaurant in Seven Park Place is appealing enough on its own.
Here’s our verdict on a one-night stay in the heart of affluent London.
Frankly, Green Park is our favorite resort. It is well served by the Victoria, Piccadilly and Jubilee lines, which everyone knows are the three best underground lines. Plus, you spill out into glorious Green Park, and indeed into affluent Mayfair, home of the St James Hotel and Club.
Within five minutes of the hotel are the park, the train station, the Ritz, the Royal Academy, Burlington Arcade and Fortnum and Mason – and Piccadilly Circus is only a few minutes further.
The bottom line is that the hotel sits discreetly on a cul-de-sac, which means you’re spared the hubbub that usually accompanies this location.
With 60 rooms and suites, you can choose from a variety of room sizes, ranging from the two-bedroom Penthouse Suite with a private terrace overlooking the London skyline, to Superior Rooms with queen beds, Hypnos mattresses and gorgeous Penhaligon’s toiletries. . Even the deluxe room I stayed in was quite comfortable, so if you’re coming for space, it’s worth upgrading to a higher class room.
Aesthetically, the rooms are decorated in rich mahogany and creams – neutral enough to offer gentle relief from the capital’s multi-sensory madness. The bathrooms are classically appointed, although frosted glass doors? No thanks.
The rooms provide a great night’s sleep – everything you would expect from a five star hotel to sleep on clouds is certainly here. This made for a pleasant stay except for the temperature issues in the middle of the night (my fault for not checking that the heaters were off as well as the air conditioning).
Style, staff and stuff
Understated opulence is the name of the game here. Dark walls, plush seating, and subtle touches of grandeur run through the hotel. The art is varied and, often, barking (ranging from portraiture to contemporary to abstract on the same wall), but we love that they’ve injected a bit of personality into their style.
The clientele here is largely rich and time-poor business people, either here for work or for a weekend getaway with their partners (we’re guessing), so expect formal service and operation welded. Most of our experience was flawless, from the minute we walked through the front door to checkout at the end, which made the one time it fell a bit more noticeable (at breakfast, see below).
But overall, it’s a low-key five star all the way: everyone is willing to help you with what you need, but leaves you to your own devices, assuming that’s preferred.
As a Victorian townhouse with only lots of space, there aren’t many amenities, like a gym or living room, but at least that means it’s focus on its bedrooms, living areas meeting, its restaurant and its bar.
The newly renovated 1857 The Bar is a stylish lounge area where quick lunches and business meetings take place during the day, and cocktails and port are served in the evening during lighter conversation.
The bar offers the largest selection of port in London. So it was tempting to ask for a Cheeky Vimto, but the Cosmopolitan I ordered instead was perfect: balanced in acidity and sweetness, with a dangerously sweet sip. It wasn’t a coincidence either. My +1’s French 75 was also precisely balanced, arguably a more difficult feat for such a lemony drink.
Seven Park Place, William Drabble’s restaurant in the next room, is arguably the centerpiece of the whole operation. One of the smaller Michelin-starred restaurants with 26 seats, it’s a beautiful, intimate room with tastefully painted walls and seats to snuggle up in.
Their £105 gourmet menu is very reasonable for what it is, especially as they are happy to swap dishes and ingredients so that customers get the most out of every dish. Flexibility that pays off for this flexitarian and her picky +1 (requests: no tomatoes, no foie gras, like the caviar).
The appetizers came out with different presentations like great art. Next, the scallops with morels, salsify and champagne were by far the best I’ve tasted thanks to careful cooking that must have been tested down to the last second; it was like cutting hot butter.
The main courses were equally delicious, with my +1 delighted with its beef tenderloin and braised blade, served with jus de madeira and delicately presented salted celeriac. The desserts were my highlight, especially the passion fruit and mango sorbet served with coconut sorbet and a delicate meringue for another touch of creamy sweetness. Not having been able to finish our petit fours, we took them away in a metal box adorned with the impressive facade of the hotel.
Each course was served orchestrally by Matteo and Lara, who were suitably formal for most guests, but cleverly read that a more relaxed style suited us – a sign of next-level hospitality skills. Likewise, sommelier Marco paired each course with a chosen wine which was explained with passion and understanding. And not once did he cheat on us.
Dinner service raised high expectations for breakfast. Taken at the refreshed looking 1857 The Bar, this is a £22.50 continental breakfast (clearly business accounts are used to pay for this) and/or a choice of hot food. I had a wonderful apricot pastry and a small bowl of chopped fruit salad with yoghurt topped off with a portion of rich, gooey scrambled eggs (£8). Unfortunately, when a customer came to get food two minutes after the breakfast service closed, the curt waitress told him no flat with her white plate, even though the buffet food was still just there. At least there was no shortage of options on nearby Piccadilly.
All in all, the comfort, class and culinary delights of the St James Hotel and Club have lived up to its weighty history – and that’s no small feat.
If you wished the hotel had a spa, it sort of does! You can book an in-room massage to enjoy all the relaxation of a grand hotel, without leaving your bedside.
For more information, see stjameshotelandclub.com.