London might seem spoilt for hotels, but if you’re looking for small-scale, intimate luxury its not so easy to find – especially in Central. This is where St. James’s Hotel and Club comes in with a Michelin-starred restaurant and hands-on masterclasses, as LUX discovers
Tucked in a quiet residential street on the edge of Green Park, almost directly behind The Ritz, St. James’s Hotel and Club benefits from proximity to Piccadilly and Regent’s Street, whilst also offering a sense of relative seclusion. The building itself was originally a members’ club for travelling diplomats, founded in 1857 by English aristocrat and the Sardinian minister. It played host to the likes of Winston Churchill, Henry James and Ian Fleming, among others, until it closed in the 1970s. In 1980, the doors were reopened by Peter de Savary (owner of The Cary Arms in Devon) as a hotel and a club. Now owned by German hotel group Althoff, the hotel has been refurbished with contemporary touches, whilst still preserving a sense old-world charm.
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Our room is the Westminster Suite on the seventh floor. The ambience leans slightly towards the corporate side, but it’s elegantly furnished and features a private terrace, large enough to host a cocktail party. On a less drizzly evening than ours, it would be a very pleasant place for a warming glass of mulled wine whilst admiring the rooftop views. As it is, we have a chocolate masterclass to get attend.
The masterclass is just one of the hotel’s offerings for guests, alongside cheese and wine pairing, and cocktail mixing. Our class is held in a smart basement meeting room and is led by the convivial pastry chef, who shows us how to make and roll truffles whist we sip on glasses of champagne. The class, unlike those at many five-star hotels, is very hands-on, and whilst our truffles come out oddly shaped (some collapsing completely) it’s a lot more fun making than watching. Better yet, our truffles are whisked away to solidify and then returned to our room in ribbon tied bags with a kit containing ingredients and recipes so that we can make more at home. White chocolate passion fruit truffles are a revelation.
Pre-dinner drinks are served in William’s Bar and Bistro – a cosy and eccentric cocktail bar with a particularly impressive collection of paintings. These are part of the Rosenstein Collection, which includes more than 450 artworks in total, many of which are portraits and can be found dotted around the hotel. We thoroughly enjoy discussing the work whilst sipping cocktails and nibbling on British tapas plates. Guests can also dine here if they choose.
Tonight, though, we have a table booked at the hotel’s Michelin-starred Seven Park Place restaurant. The dining room is comprised of only a handful of tables tucked into a curved room with elaborately patterned walls and soft velvet seats. The menu – here and in the bar – is overseen by Head Chef William Drabble with a focus on the best of British produce which means seasonal plates and locally sourced ingredients. During our stay, the emphasis is on fresh fish and seafood, which, as pescetarian diners, suits us perfectly. Our favourites include the poached lobster tail with a buttery truffle sauce, and the seabass with braised Jerusalem artichokes, wild mushrooms and a red wine and tarragon sauce. Since the wine menu is nearly fifty pages long, we’re more than grateful for the sommelier’s assistance who pairs our courses perfectly to suit our individual tastes.
The service, in general, is friendly and relaxed, which makes for a very welcoming atmosphere. It’s perhaps not the most family-orientated hotel as noise levels are kept to a low hum, and the property itself is small, but for a luxurious city-break or staycation, it ticks all the boxes.
Book your stay: stjameshotelandclub.com
Note: Seven Park Place restaurant closed for refurbishment after our stay, but has recently reopened with a new look. For more information visit: stjameshotelandclub.com/en/restaurant-seven-park-place