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
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.