Luxury in the heart of Westminster
MARK LUNDRIGAN visits a five-star hotel that is the jewel in Westminster’s crown – the Conrad London St James
HIDDEN away from the hustle and bustle of tourist-filled Westminster is one of the city’s top luxury hotels, the Conrad London St James.
Located just outside St James Park tube station, and with the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and the Southbank all just a stroll away, the five-star hotel is a perfect location for a break in the city.
The 19th century building was once a war-time residence for lobbyists and civil servants and there are plenty of reminders of its political links throughout, with modern works of art offering an alternative picture of past and present politicians.
One creation that immediately catches the eye in the pristine lobby is a huge metal arena filled with models of heroes and villains from cinema in a scene reminiscent of a session at the House of Commons.
There are 256 guest rooms and suites in the Conrad St James and my wife and I stayed in a King Junior Suite, a luxurious, contemporary design complete with 360-degree swivel HDTV and all the other amenities you would expect of such a hotel (plenty of toiletries, Nespresso machine and complimentary wifi).
The marble-covered bathroom is immaculate with a rainforest shower (as well as a separate bath tub) and Bose ceiling speaker with volume control connected to the TV, so you can listen to your favourite programme or music while taking a soak.
The bed is also luxurious, with soft Egyptian cotton sheets adding to the comfort.
The beauty of staying in a suite at Conrad St James is access to the Executive Lounge on the first floor. Using your keycard to enter, you can enjoy top-class complimentary food and drinks (including alcohol). We stopped by an hour before we were due to dine at the hotel’s restaurant, but we wished we had visited before.
The comfortable lounge is a perfect way to wind down, with beautiful hot food served from the adjoining kitchen.
Succulent confit duck legs and fish goujons were on the menu, but you could also take mini salads as well as snacks like candied nuts.
We had to rein in the temptation to eat too much as we had dinner booked at the Blue Boar, which is connected to the hotel at the ground floor.
The restaurant’s modern wood and black interior perfectly compliments the relaxed atmosphere of the main dining room (there is also a bar adjacent) and its minimalist decor is offset by more works of modern art portraying famous politicians.
For starters I opted for a vegetarian dish, enticed by the chargrilled asparagus, which came with a poached duck egg on top that provided its own luxury sauce when broken. This, when mingled with the truffle hollandaise, tasted like heaven.
My wife loved her scallops, with the garnishes of pea, cauliflower and bacon the perfect bedfellows.
For main we had to try their Josper Grill steaks.
The restaurant prides itself on the grill and it did not disappoint, with our medium-rare rib-eye and fillet steaks juicy and as tender as they possibly could be.
There are a number of side dishes available, but our standout were the spiced onion rings – I could have eaten them all night.
Desserts came recommended with their own wines and it is wise to take the advice.
My peanut butter and chocolate dish was very rich, but accompanied with a vintage port, it was amazing.
Likewise my wife’s sticky toffee pudding with honeycomb ice cream - her glass of Sandeman cut through the sweetness like a knife.
After three courses of amazing food, we popped into the bar where comfy sofas welcomed us with open arms and a few nightcaps were the perfect way to end the day.
After a very comfortable night’s sleep, we returned to the Blue Boar for a delicious buffet breakfast, although the executive lounge also provides hot food, pastries and hot drinks.
Departing the hotel, relaxed and full with beautiful food, it’s easy to forget you are just around the corner from some of the city’s biggest tourist attractions, but a night at the Conrad St James provides you with renewed vigour with which to join the throng.
For details of prices at the Conrad London St James, visit http:// conradhotels3.hilton.com/.
n LUXURY: Top Top, the relaxing Executive Lounge; above above, the Blue Boar restaurant; below below, the King Junior Suite, below left, the grand entrance to the Conrad London St James