It’s not often you get to stay in a slice of history, but 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 were first opened in 1857, after which it. If only walls could talk.
Today, it’s a luxury bolthole tucked away in a cul-de-sac so quiet that you’d never guess it was in the heart of Mayfair. And never mind the history or guest list – its Michelin-star restaurant of Seven Park Place is enough of a draw itself.
Here’s our verdict of a night’s stay in the heart of well-to-do London.
Frankly, Green Park is our favourite station. It’s well-connected via the Victoria, Piccadilly and Jubilee lines, which everyone knows are the three best tube lines. Plus you spill out onto the glorious Green Park, and indeed the well-heeled area of Mayfair, which is where you’ll find the St James Hotel and Club.
In a five-minute radius of the hotel, there’s the park, the station, The Ritz, the Royal Academy, Burlington Arcade and Fortnum and Mason – and Piccadilly Circus is just a few minutes further.
The clincher is that the hotel is discreetly found in a cul-de-sac, which means you’re spared the hubbub that usually comes with this location.
With 60 rooms and suits, there are a number of different bedroom sizes to pick from, ranging from the two-bedroomed Penthouse Suite with a private terrace that looks out over London rooftops, to Superior Rooms with queen beds, Hypnos mattresses, and gorgeous Penhaligon’s toiletries. Even the Deluxe Room that I stayed in was on the cosy side, so if you’re coming for space, it’s worth upgrading to a higher class of room.
Aesthetically, the rooms are decorated with rich mahogany and creams – neutral enough to provide sweet relief from the full-on multi-sensory madness of the capital. The bathrooms are classically kitted out, though frosted glass doors? No thank you.
The rooms offer a beautiful night’s sleep – the whole sleeping-on-clouds thing that you want from a five-star hotel is certainly found here. It made for a blissful stay, save for middle-of-the-night temperature issues (my fault for not checking that the heaters were off as well as the air con).
Style, staff and stuff
Discreet opulence is the name of the game here. Dark walls, velvety seating and subtle touches of grandeur run across the hotel. The art is varied and, oftentimes, barking mad (it runs 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 are largely wealthy, time-poor business people, either here for work or a weekend break with their partners (we assume), so expect formal service and a tight-knit operation. Most of our experience was impeccable, from the minute we walked in the front door to check-out at the end, which made the one time it fell down a little more noticeable (at breakfast, see below).
But overall it’s discreet five-star all the way: everyone is poised to help with what you need, but leave you to your own devices, assuming that’s preferred.
As a Victorian townhouse with only so much space, there aren’t much in the way of amenities, like a gym or lounge area, but at least that means it throws its focus onto its rooms, meeting spaces, restaurant and bar.
Food & drink
The newly refurbished 1857 The Bar is an elegant seating area where quick lunches and business meets take place during the day, and cocktails and port are nursed in the evenings over lighter conversation.
The bar has the largest selection of port in London. It was therefore tempting to ask for a Cheeky Vimto but the Cosmopolitan I ordered instead was perfection: balanced in acidity and sweetness, with dangerously smooth sipping. It wasn’t a fluke 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 along, is arguably the piece de résistance of the whole operation. One of the smallest Michelin-starred restaurants at 26 seats, it’s a gorgeous, intimate room with tastefully muralled walls and seats to nestle into.
Its menu gourmand is £105 is very reasonable for what it is, especially as they’re delighted to swap out dishes and ingredients so guests enjoy each course fully. It’s a flexibility that pays off for this flexitarian and her fussy +1 (requests: no tomatoes, no foie gras, hold the caviar).
The amuse bouches came out with different presentations like high art. Then, the scallops with morel, salsify and Champagne were, hands down, the best I’ve tasted thanks to the careful cooking that must have been tried and tested down to the last second; it was like cutting through warm butter.
The mains were just as delightful, with my +1 raving about her fillet of beef and braised blade, served with madeira jus and delicately-presented salt-baked celeriac. The desserts were my highlight, particularly the passion fruit and mango sorbet served with coconut sorbet and a delicate meringue for another touch of creamy sweetness. Unable to finish our petit fours, we took them away in tin decorated with the impressive façade of the hotel.
Each course was orchestrally served by Matteo and Lara, who were appropriately formal to most of the guests, but smartly read that a more relaxed style was fine for us – a sign of next-level hospitality skills. Equally, sommelier Marco matched each dish with a chosen wine that was both passionately and understandably explained. And not once did he steer us wrong.
The dinner service led to high expectations for breakfast. Taken at the refreshed-looked 1857 The Bar, it’s a small continental breakfast is £22.50 (clearly business accounts are used to pay for this) and/or a choice of hot food. I had a gorgeous apricot pastry and a small bowl of chopped fruit salad with yoghurt supplemented with a portion of rich, gooey scrambled egg (£8). Sadly, when a patron came in looking for food two minutes after the breakfast service closed, the curt waitress gave him a flat no with his flat white, even though the buffet food was all still right there. At least there was no shortage of options on nearby Piccadilly.
Overall, the comfort, class and culinary delights of St James Hotel and Club lived up to its weighty history – and that’s no mean feat.
If you wished the hotel had a spa, it sort of does! You can book an in-room massage to get all the relaxation of a larger hotel, just without leaving your bedside.
For more information, see stjameshotelandclub.com.