Hotel Review: The Stafford Hotel, St James’s Place in London
The Stafford Hotel in St James’s Place, London is a hub of luxury in the heart of the capital with an award-winning restaurant and cocktail bar to boot. I visited one Friday evening and was offered the opportunity to try out a luxurious suite as well as a visit to the aforementioned restaurant and bar. After checking in to our delightful home for the evening we swiftly got ready to enjoy an evening of fine food, charming cocktails and superb service.
We strolled down to the American Bar (the hotel has strong U.S and Canadian connections as it served as a club and hideout for officers stationed abroad during World War 2) and just about found two seats at the bar on which to sip our drinks. The place was full and had a buzzing atmosphere. Dark wood panels lined the walls and green leather backed low seats and stools are the ideal place on which to rest up. There is barely an inch of space left on the walls for photos of famous visitors and part of the ceiling is brimming with a collection of flags and model planes. I enjoyed a Spitfire Cocktail (each are created by head mixologist, Eric Rychnavsky and relate to a Stafford story) and enjoyed my fruity, juicy and refreshing drink. Chase marmalade vodka and fresh passion fruit are combined with elderflower cordial and vanilla syrup then topped with champagne to create this elegant, citrusy and deliciously fizzy cocktail. My guest, Nick, and I could have happily sat there all night soaking up the wonderful atmosphere but we had dinner to get to…
On the ground floor of the elegant hotel sits 2 AA Rosette holder, The Lyttelton restaurant. Headed up by executive chef, Carlos Martinez and well looked after by head chef, Jozef Rogulski, the classic and comfortable restaurant serves up classically crafted and modern delights that have Mediterranean influences refined through Mr Martinez’s time perfecting his craft at no less than 18 Michelin starred restaurants throughout Europe. He said, “We want to create a savoury dining experience, encompassing not just taste, but the aromas, presentation and the care with which it is prepared.”
We took our seats in the plush dining area and were soon presented with an amuse bouche of sesame tuna with artichoke purée and caviar. This delicate dish was a luxurious start to the meal – the tuna was finely sliced and served rare and was presented on a salty crisp, which sat on a bed of pebbles atop a serving board. The fish was melt in the mouth and overall it was a gentle and elegant start to the meal. My starter soon followed and I had chosen a chicken and mushroom terrine with herb sponge and shallot mousse. Also on the plate sat some thin slices of pickled carrot and a cold cabbage parcel containing pulled chicken leg and ham. The terrine was finely sliced and the green herb sponge added a great crunch and burst of colour to the dish. The shallot cream was the tastiest element as the other flavours were quite gentle but overall the dish was very pleasant. Nick was very pleased with his starter option of duck liver cream, Gressingham smoked duck ham, peach jelly and pickled grapes. This was beautifully presented and also came with toasted brioche rounds to balance the texture of the soft liver cream. Nick described this as a well balanced plate with the sweet grapes, smokey ham, smooth, but rich, cream and light, crisp brioche all working really well together.
Next up was my main course and I was rather excited to sample the braised shin of beef, which came with a parsnip and horseradish purée and black anise carrot. I also enjoyed this with sides of crushed potato and chives and garlic spinach. My eye is immediately drawn to the word ‘braised’ on a menu and my taste buds perk up. I love the texture and delicate tenderness of braised meat, especially a dark meat that can be paired with a rich and tasty gravy and a glass of red wine. I had exactly the outcome I had hoped for here. The meat was served in a smokey sponge, which was quite delicious and the potatoes were thoroughly enjoyed as were the tasty carrots and purée – this dish left me very happy indeed. Nick had opted for the Cornish roasted rump of lamb, which came medium rare and was served with celeriac purée, which was wrapped with a potato crisp. Nick commented that the lamb was tasty and succulent with the right amount of fattiness to it, the soft purée with crispy outer was a good mix of texture and the red cabbage added some sweetness to the dish. Another great looking plate of food, well presented and full of flavour.
The Wine Cellar
Our waiter offered us a welcome break before our dessert, which we accepted, along with an invitation to tour the wine cellar. The large cellar with its low arched ceilings is used for wine tasting events and can hold group dinner parties in the unique setting. The 380 year old cellar holds 7,000 bottles of wine, which are well looked after by master sommelier, Gino Nardella. During World War 2 it was used as a bomb shelter and at one end there are props and posters that act as a mini museum of the era. There is also said to be a passageway behind a bricked up wall, which leads straight to Buckingham Palace.
Back upstairs and to finish off our delightful meal with a peanut butter and chocolate brownie sundae. Vanilla ice cream sat on peanut butter, while chocolate brownie chunks were layered throughout with lashings of toffee sauce. Chantilly cream was perched on top, which was sprinkled with crushed nuts and dark chocolate sauce and the dish was made complete with dark and white chocolate cigarettes. The mixture of the sweet and salty flavours were delicious and it was a great way to end the meal. After the indulgent dessert and some scrumptious petit fours, we returned to our suite feeling fully satisfied.
Our junior suite contained a very large, high, comfortable bed, which gave us a wonderful night’s sleep. Three floor to ceiling windows graced one wall to ensure plenty of light could be let in during the day, there was a table and chairs, fire place, desk and chair and a sofa and coffee table. Along the wall opposite the windows were three built in wardrobes to house plenty of our belongings. The black marble bathroom housed a walk in shower, large bath and two separate sinks – a feature I love! Everything in the suite oozed luxury and elegance and it was beautifully decorated in natural and pale tones with all the extras you could hope for from varying light settings to a coffee machine to a turn down service where your slippers are laid on a mat by the bed.
We awoke the next day feeling well rested and not wanting to leave our luxurious new home one bit. We made our way back to The Lyttelton for a breakfast of Eggs Florentine and Eggs Royale, which were very nice – the hollandaise sauce was the best I have ever tasted. There were plenty of breakfast options to choose from to fuel yourself for the day ahead from waffles and maple syrup to grilled kippers to a West Country bacon sandwich. The buffet also housed a wide selection of fruits, yogurts, baked goods, cereals and porridge.
Origins of the hotel date back to the 17th century where private residences were built on numbers 16 to 18. The houses changed hands over the following centuries and sections were added and evolved to create the hotel that stands today. Located on the edge of Green Park, it is nicely tucked on a side street but close enough to everything you will need from a stay in London; gorgeous architecture, luxurious boutiques, top notch eateries, a picturesque walk in a beautiful park and plenty of cultural retreats.
For West Country dwellers like myself, Great Western Railway offers a fast, comfortable and reliable service all the way from Penzance to Paddington.
IN A NUTSHELL
Neighbouring Buckingham Palace, St James’ Palace and Clarence House and full of stories to tell, a night among the walls of The Stafford Hotel offers the kind of charm and elegance that makes you feel like you are spending the night in a royal residence.
Address: 16-18 St James’s Pl, London SW1A 1NJ