The St. James’ Ho­tel and Club is not to be missed

Haunt of the A-list and well-heeled vis­i­tors to the UK cap­i­tal, the St. James’s Ho­tel and Club is not to be missed. Vir­tuoz­ity tries one of the suites on for size

Virtuozity - - LIFESTYLE -

The calm washes over me as I en­ter the lobby of the St. James’s Ho­tel and Club, leav­ing the hub­bub of Lon­don’s fash­ion­able St. James be­hind. In fact, the calm ac­tu­ally came over me as I turned into the street, as the ho­tel is sit­u­ated at the end of a small, mews-like al­ley.

Lo­cated right in the heart of one of the world’s great cities, the St. James’s is about as Bri­tish as tea and scones, but with­out the prob­lems that usu­ally come with old build­ings in the cen­tre of an old city. It feels ‘just right’ as you en­ter.

The ho­tel and club also has an in­cred­i­ble his­tory, with a guestlist of fa­mous names other hotels would die for. It was orig­i­nally founded by an English aris­to­crat and a Sardinian Min­is­ter in 1857, fol­low­ing a dis­pute at another club. The club grew in pop­u­lar­ity, at­tract­ing im­por­tant mem­bers of the Bri­tish up­per classes, in­clud­ing Lord Ran­dolph Churchill and Baron Fer­di­nand de Roth­schild. The club’s pop­u­lar­ity peaked just be­fore the First World War, at­tract­ing writ­ers and com­posers in­side its walls.

Sir Win­ston Churchill was of­ten seen at the St. James’s, and James Bond cre­ator, Ian Flem­ing briefly lived at the club, us­ing the apart­ments re­served for mem­bers. The club even­tu­ally closed in the 1970s, but was re­opened by in­ter­na­tional sports­man and fi­nancier Peter De Savary. It soon be­came known as a good place to party, at­tract­ing a lot of stars of stage and screen. Sir John Mills was at one time the chair­man of the club.

Mem­bers in­cluded Liza Minelli, Dud­ley Moore, Pete Town­shend, Sir Michael Caine, Tim Rice, Sir Sean Con­nery, Michael Parkin­son and Lord At­ten­bor­ough. The vis­i­tor book re­veals names like El­ton John, Tom Sel­leck and Christo­pher Reeve. If you were on the A-list in the ‘80s, you went to the St. James’s.

The club and apart­ments then re­ceived a com­plete makeover in 2006, turn­ing the apart­ments into a con­tem­po­rary ho­tel, but still re­tain­ing that gen­tle­man’s club feel.

All of the ho­tel’s rooms, which in­clude two pri­vate suites and a pent­house, ac­cessed via a key in the lift, fol­low a sim­i­lar tone. I stayed in the frankly stun­ning St. James’s Suite, which in­cludes a large lounge, with din­ing area, a dou­ble-door bath­room and a large bed­room, all sump­tu­ously fur­nished to per­fec­tion.

The rooms have been de­signed to avoid feel­ing like ho­tel rooms. The grey, white, chrome and mar­ble pal­ette has been brought to­gether to give you the feel­ing of home, rather than an anony­mous room tasked with sleep­ing a range of weary trav­ellers.

It works per­fectly, feel­ing more like your Lon­don week­day apart­ment than a ho­tel room. It’s neat, per­sonal and well thought out, some­thing other hotels could do well to em­u­late.

The ground floor hosts the restau­rant and ex­cel­lent bar, whilst the base­ment is home to a wide range of meet­ing rooms, with sizes to suit al­most any cal­i­bre of meet­ing. They even hold wed­dings there.

In 2009, the ho­tel opened its restau­rant, Seven Park Place, with multi-award-win­ning chef Wil­liam Drab­ble. The venue then gained a Miche­lin star af­ter just one year of op­er­a­tion. Un­for­tu­nately it is closed on Sun­days, the day I stayed at the ho­tel.

The ho­tel con­ve­niently backs onto St. James’s Park (which hand­ily con­tains the tube sta­tion). It’s also right next to Buck­ing­ham Palace, The Ritz, May­fair and a short stroll from Pic­cadilly and the the­atre district.

You re­ally are right in the hub of things, with­out the as­so­ci­ated noise, traf­fic and gen­eral city noise. That’s per­fect for vis­i­tors look­ing to ex­plore the wealth of sites Lon­don has to of­fer.

The staff are ex­tremely friendly and ul­tra-help­ful, with­out be­ing fawn­ing or creepy. When you leave you have to stop your­self giv­ing them a hug. I had to pinch my­self to re­mind my well-rested brain that I didn’t live there and they weren’t my long-lost rel­a­tives.

The only down­sides are that the ho­tel isn’t well suited to kids, but for a ro­man­tic city break or a haven for a fam­ily with older kids it’s spot-on, with the ser­vice to match. There’s no on­site gym, but guests who want to work out do get the com­pli­men­tary use of the nearby Fit­ness First out­let. Park­ing is also an is­sue, but that’s the same for most cen­tral Lon­don hotels.

But with stun­ning rooms, a great bar and a restau­rant with that all-im­por­tant Miche­lin star, the ho­tel and club is cer­tainly one of the city’s top places to stay. If you need fur­ther proof, re­cent guests in­clude such names as Sa­muel L. Jackson, Cher, Alice Cooper, Elle Macpher­son, Robert Red­ford, Dita Von Teese and Damian Lewis, to name just a few.

To put it into one, short sen­tence, the St. James’s is ev­ery­thing that’s good about Lon­don. It’s cool, it’s sleek and it’s re­served, all rolled into one. If you’re look­ing for a top lux­ury ho­tel that’s not one of the life­less big chains then this is prob­a­bly as good as it gets.

Just one tip: treat your­self to a suite up­grade. It’s well worth the ex­tra money for the feel-good fac­tor alone.

The pri­vate apart­ments for mem­bers were con­verted into a ho­tel in 2006.

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