The best food in Mayfair? Natasha Heard spends a weekend at St James’s Hotel & Club and enjoys Michelin Star dining at Seven Park Place
London is a wonderful place for visitors like myself who cannot wait to immerse themselves in culture, fine dining restaurants and sumptuous hotels. Brimming with bars, rammed with restaurants, with a huge selection of hotels to reside in – and I won’t get started on the attractions and activities there are to partake in – there really is no place quite like the capital to enjoy the finer things. Made up of what feels like a selection of diverse towns and villages, I find it fascinating to travel and around and feel the change in pace and atmosphere within a matter of steps.
One of my favourite areas has to be St James’s – the upmarket area sits between Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace and is flanked by Piccadilly and The Mall and, once off the main road, surprises me with just how peaceful an area it is. Also bordering a couple of London’s most pretty and prestigious parks (Green Park and St James’s), it is easy to see why I, and others, like it here so much… and I haven’t even mentioned the top-notch restaurants and bars.
A place that I rejoice in returning to is the 5-star St James’s Hotel and Club along with its resident Michelin Star-awarded restaurant Seven Park Place by William Drabble. Opened as a club in 1857 (though it has changed premises and style a few times since), St James’s Club has been a place for diplomats to movie stars to host celebrations and reside in throughout the years, and it is easy to see why. Before you even step inside you spot the beautiful façade and you will soon realise that this level of detail and style extends throughout this 60 bedroom Victorian hotel.
I visited here for a couple of days in February on a surprisingly sunny weekend, which saw people in large numbers coming out to enjoy the unexpected warmth and sunshine in the parks and local attractions. I, however, was a little more interested in my stay at the hotel, especially as I had dinner booked in at Seven Park Place.
A pre dinner drink in William’s Bar and Bistro is a must – I loved sipping on a Bellini in the stylish surroundings. The contemporary and upscale décor filters throughout the hotel and, in the bar, consists of black table tops atop a wood floor, shiny yellow-golds and a wall of portraits. The long, glitzy bar leads you through to the restaurant, which has held a Michelin Star for 9 consecutive years. The décor here is sleek and dark, with metallics, dark floral wallpaper, glossy features and illuminated wall panels, all creating a sumptuous, yet, restful atmosphere.
A glass of delicately bubbling Champagne was brought to the table – a gentle, delicious drink to accompany the selection of canapés and breads. My picks of breads were a walnut and raisin option and a lemon rye – yum! Canapés consisted of a cod and potato crispy bon bon; a thin, crispy chicken wing on a cracker, which was a mouthful of gorgeous texture and flavour; and a Parmesan sable with tomato. Then came a chicken mousse with white mushroom amuse bouche, which was a small bowl containing some lovely, rich flavours, and next up – the starters.
I opted for the galette of slow cooked pork with butter poached langoustines, apple chutney and vadouvan (a blend of spices) and it was beyond gorgeous. I’m a big fan of langoustine and this is the best surf and turf I’ve ever had! The lovely fruity chutney alongside the rough textured pork in a crisp patty was a perfect pairing and the buttery, plump langoustine was divine. I savoured every little bite and came close to eating with my eyes closed so that I could really savour it but decided against that in the restaurant! A gorgeous dish matched very well with the glass of Fritz Haag Riesling poured for me, in fact it was so tasty I could have drunk it with, or without, the food.
My dining partner enjoyed the roasted quail with caramelised endive, warm orange with hazelnut dressing, roasted hazelnuts and caramelised orange purée. He liked the sweet sauce with the rich, deep flavours of the meat and complimented the textures on the plate, especially the crisp onion rings. He likened the overall flavours to a ‘sweet and sour dish at the Chinese’ – a compliment I am sure! His wine pairing was from a one hundred-year-old vineyard in Spain near the Atlantic Ocean, hence some hefty, salty flavours, it wasn’t to our liking.
The rich flavours continued through to his main course of an assiette of Lune Valley lamb with calçot onions and thyme jus. Consisting of deep, flavourful and textured shoulder meat, lean fillet and marrow, he described this as “completely divine” with some of the deepest flavours he had ever tasted.
I opted for the roast breast of duck with braised turnips and duck filled pierogi (a crisp dumpling) with a silky Italian red to accompany. The lean duck slices were smooth in texture with a crisp skin and the crispy parcel was filled with a delicious textured confit duck inner. The turnip added a little crunch but, flavour-wise, I would have preferred carrot.
Soon the sweet stuff started to arrive, kicking off with a lovely salted caramel and popcorn pre dessert (we both could have devoured a couple more of those), followed by my choice of dessert – coffee soaked savarin with Gianduja mousse, marscapone and hazelnuts. The intense coffee flavour in the sponge combined with the chocolate and nut mousse and thin and crispy dark chocolate top was a winning combination. Finally, a very generous selection of petit fours arrived including coconut marshmallow, Madeleine, chioux with lemon, ganache and strawberry macarons, and they just about finished me off.
Luckily I didn’t have far to travel to retire – a room in the hotel would do just fine! With silk wallpaper, distinctive artworks, Murano glass chandeliers, soft, velvety furnishings, polished stone in the bathroom and black lacquered furniture, the sleek, contemporary and elegant design through the rooms offered a stylish and luxurious setting to spend a few nights. There was a fully-stocked mini bar, extensive in-room dining options, a Handy phone to take out and make calls, if needed, an umbrella, cosy slippers and robes, Penhaligon’s of London toiletries, and all the other typical items you might expect to see in a hotel room. Services include shoe shining, unpacking and packing, valet parking, dry cleaning, in-room beauty treatments and picnics to take to the park.
IN A NUTSHELL
Elegant, comfortable and classy surroundings offer a welcoming space, the staff are smiling, friendly and make you feel as though they are welcoming into their home, and did I mention the food is pretty good too…?
As ever, I booked my train to the capital via the Trainline app, which I love, not only for the live updates, but also for some hefty savings thanks to me booking in advance – I have previously saved half of my fare by doing this. Also the mobile tickets on the app means I don’t have to queue at the ticket machine at the station or worry about which pocket I have left the paper version in. Anything for an easy life! For more information and to download, click here for Apple and here for Android.
Address: 7-8 Park Pl, St. James’s, London SW1A 1LS
Phone: 020 7316 1600