Capital’s Best Kept Secret
About as unwanted as a jury summons in August is the demand from a public relations firm that you actually acknowledge, in print, the services provided by one of their clients. But that would let the cat of the bag! I protested. And your point being? The icy reply, anyway, they’re threatening to call in your bar bill. Never fall into league with these people.
Tucked away in what is the Royal elbow, formed by Piccadilly to the north, St James’s to the west and the Royal Green Park – Okay, swing a right out of Caprice, through the alleyway and there she blows. The St James’s Hotel and Club has become LUSSO’s number one destination for a pre-Caprice luncheon aperitif /post Wolseley dinner nightcap (very often on the same, decadent day). Whilst the bar may not be large enough to swing the proverbial feline, being of the long, elongated disposition, pulling up a stool almost guarantees unsolicited conversation, a rarity for London’s watering holes these days but if you don’t want someone chatting up your latest squeeze, you can always retreat to the seats and admire the eclectic art collection.
The drinks aren’t bad either. Joel Lawrence, inventor of the worlds most expensive cocktail, the undrinkable 30k Ocean Sky cocktail (I haven’t met anyone who can quaff down the included private jet yet), is the St James’s head barman and highly skilled in the dark arts of cocktail creation he is too. Has this really got alcohol in it? is the refrain most often heard by the uninitiated, shortly before they descend gracefully from bar stool to floor.
Not that such an eventuality should end ones evening. It is just a short ascent in the hotel lift to the sumptuous luxury above. Having just enjoyed an extended 18 month renovation under the watchful eye of Anna Maria Jagdfeld, the design guru behind Berlins exclusive private members China Club, the hotels sixty rooms and suites have been carefully whip-lavished into veritable Aladdins caves. Walnut, cashmere, silks, chrome and leather have been fused to overwhelm the unwary traveller with opulence. While some of the guest rooms may be spatially compromised, the building was originally a Victorian gentleman’s club and the overall effect is that of the golden days of the great ocean liners (but without the trauma of icebergs, death by hypothermia and Celine Dion). True, the Teutonic overtones of the black and white chrome bathrooms may not be everybody’s cup of tea but you certainly enjoy your Earl Grey while wallowing in the bath watching TV, surfing the net or attending to your iPod playlists while working off the side-effects of a Mr Lawrence inspired evening.
The beds are huge and comfortable, stadia of sleep, the mattresses handmade Hypnos – by Royal Appointment, with pillows of differing density, curtains that seal and walls that are padded with the most succulent silks, so no matter what time you rise, nothing other than choice disturbs your slumber.
Head in the other direction in the lift and you end up in the Club part of the Hotel. Originally a gambling den of some ill repute, it gained international notoriety as the location of one of the first ever-recorded dawn raids, in 1889 no less. Presumably the local constabulary turned up in horse and cart before kicking in the front door. Among those arrested, according to a report in The New York Times at the time, was a whole host of ruffians, card sharps and other such undesirables And there I was thinking PR companies were a creation of the 20th century. Don’t go! But, if you can’t resist, don’t tell anybody.