st james's hotel

St James’s hotel, London: fine dining and a £1,600 suite

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St James’s Hotel in London might be five-star luxury but thankfully it has none of the formal starchiness you might expect from a super-posh hotel. The staff are so cheerful and relaxed that I found myself having all sorts of random conversations with bartenders, doormen and managers during my stay, which made the hotel feel more like a very friendly club.

st james's hotel
My rather plush suite at the St James’s Hotel in Piccadilly
St James's Hotel
St James’s Hotel in London’s Piccadilly

However there’s no disguising that St James’s is a seriously high-end hotel in one of the most expensive areas in London. While London is hardly famed for its cheap hotel rooms, the £1,600 price tag of my suite managed to top my previous record, the £1,500-a-night Prince of Wales suite at iconic country house hotel Cliveden. However the 300-year old Cliveden comes with 376 acres of Grade I-listed formal gardens, a maze, a spa and two swimming pools (including the famous outdoor pooll), while St James’s, well, doesn’t.

But if you want to stay in a luxury five-star hotel in the heart of London, a mere stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace, then you do have to pay a premium. Tucked away at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac off St James’s Street, the 60-room hotel does have cheaper rooms, with prices starting at £300 a night.

However while I might not typically spend thousands of pounds for a luxury suite, the tasting menu at the hotel’s own Michelin-starred restaurant Seven Park Place was excellent value (£126 for six courses, with a different wine per course) and made for a really memorable evening.

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To book directly with the hotel, go to: St James’s Hotel and Club
To compare prices for St James’s Hotel and Club click on: HotelsCombined – Expedia – Hotels.com
To read more reviews click here to go to St James’s Hotel and Club on TripAdvisor
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st james's hotel
The Seven Park Place is London’s smallest Michelin-starred restaurant
st james's hotel
Cocktails before dinner

The restaurant itself is tiny, just a handful of tables (26 covers) tucked around the back of the hotel bar – ‘We like to say ‘intimate, rather than small’ hinted the manager – and decked out with striking black-and-white wallpaper. Seven Park Place was awarded its Michelin star just a year after opening in 2009 and chef William Drabble‘s modern-French meets British produce style of cooking means it has held onto its star ever since.

Me and my friend Lisa (creative director for the newly-launched events company Fashion on Screen and my dinner companion for the night) had been worried that we wouldn’t be hungry enough for a seven-course menu having been unable to resist the toffee popcorn that came with our pre-drink cocktails.

However each course, while delicious, was so perfectly-sized that we were able to work our way through the whole lot without feeling we would have to be carried out of the restaurant afterwards. Each dish came with a different wine, served with great panache – although I could have done with an abbreviated version of each explanation of grape variety, vineyard, soil type and so on by the extremely knowledgeable sommelier – and we were never rushed or bothered by too many ‘Is everything all right?’s which made for a very agreeable evening.

st james's hotel
Poached lobster tail with carrot and ginger

We started off with scallops with samphire and lemon – the scallops were done ceviche-style, raw and marinated, rather than the usual pan-fried approach, which made them fresh and zingy, and then had lobster tail, followed by ravioli of rabbit with langoustines and girolles.

Each dish was small but exquisite, while the wine was as good as the food – my favourite  was a stunning New Zealand sauvignon blanc which was served with the lobster tail – and there was soon quite a number of wine glasses on the table as I wanted to savour and return to each one throughout the meal.

st james's hotel
The bar and bistro where breakfast was served the next morning

The crowning glory of the evening was the dessert, a bubble-light passion fruit souffle with dark chocolate sauce which, proclaimed Lisa, was ‘the best dessert I have ever tasted,’. She sang its praises to the manager for about ten minutes while I ordered another glass of the delicious  Graham’s fine white port to take with me up to my room as a nightcap.

st james's hotel
The bedroom at in the St James’s suite
st james's hotel
My posh bathroom

Just eight hours in a £1,600 suite – much of which was spent asleep – isn’t really enough to do it justice but it certainly looked the part: a massive lounge with views over to Big Ben, a separate dining area, a large bathroom and walk-in shower (there was also a slightly odd separate loo which had two sets of opaque saloon-style doors, none of which locked) and a bedroom which wasn’t large but perfectly adequate.

st james's hotel
The roof terrace at one of the neighbouring rooms

There were three TVs (in the lounge, the bathroom and one in the bedroom which rose from a cupboard at the touch of a button) and framed photographs and art work everywhere.

At that price you expect nothing less than perfection and so any tiny fault seemed magnified: for example the blinds didn’t completely cover the windows, so I was woken up at dawn by the bright sunrise (not often a problem in London to be fair, but still annoying).

However the bath was massive and filled up within seconds, and there was no shortage of plug points, fluffy towels, magazines and all the essentials of hotel life.

After an excellent breakfast of haddock and poached eggs, I had a tour of several other rooms, some of which had their own roof terraces which was a real treat in London, and one of those rooms is less than a thousand pounds a night. A bargain! But for special occasions, the tasting menu at Seven Park Place was certainly something worth forking out for.

St James’s Hotel and Club, 7-8 Park Place, St. James’s, London SW1A 1LS 
http://www.stjameshotelandclub.com
020 7316 1600

St James’s Hotel and Club is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group

————————————————————————————————————
To book directly with the hotel, go to: St James’s Hotel and Club
To compare prices for St James’s Hotel and Club click on: HotelsCombined – Expedia – Hotels.com
To read more reviews click here to go to St James ‘s Hotel and Club on TripAdvisor
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MENU GOURMAND

Carpaccio of hand dived scallops with samphire and lemon

Poached native lobster tail with carrot and ginger

Ravioli of braised rabbit with langoustines, rosemary, leeks and girolles

Griddled fillet of seabass with braised fennel,haricot coco and sauce vierge

Roast breast of duck with a seared foie gras and summer vegetables confit in Muscat

Selection of British cheeses by Paxton & Whitfield (£13 supplement)

Passion fruit soufflé, dark chocolate sauce

MENU GOURMAND £87.00

MENU GOURMAND WITH MATCHING WINE £142.00

 

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Sarah Bridge

Sarah Bridge

Every review is personally researched and written by leisure expert Sarah Bridge who, when she is not writing about leisure for a national newspaper, spends her time seeking out the best leisure experiences, from city centre boutique hotels to country house estates, Michelin-starred dining to the newest openings.
Sarah Bridge
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