Saturday, September 23, 2017
   
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CULTURE, HERITAGE AND HISTORY

ANDREA MCVEIGH visits the Stafford Hotel and finds out why it’s one of the best hotels in London…

WHEN it comes to location in London, the SW1A postcode has the best claim to culture, heritage, history and everything that truly sums up the British establishment.

It’s the postcode of Buckingham Palace, 10 Downing Street, the Houses of Parliament, Horse Guards Parade and The Mall. It’s also home to one of the best hotels in London, the historic Stafford, founded in 1912 and one of the UK’s finest 5-star hotels, rightly famed for its chic luxury and first-rate reputation. If you’re thinking of a shopping trip, or a London break at any time of the year, this is the place to stay.

Other famous hotels such as the Savoy and the Ritz may have better known names, but the Stafford is the real deal, a classy bolt-hole for visitors to the capital who appreciate first class service, delicious food and a famous American bar with a fascinating history.

Walking from Green Park tube station, down Piccadilly and into St. James’s Street, my husband and I didn’t know that there was a ‘secret’ passage which directly links the hotel to Green Park itself, but we were happy to take in the sights of this part of the West End with its exclusive shops nonetheless.

Tucked away in in a quiet street away from the bustle of Mayfair, this quintessentially English hideaway is located in the heart of St. James, nestled amongst royal parks and palaces. You can forget paying over the odds to take a tourist bus around the usual sights, as the hotel’s Executive Concierge, Frank Laino, has created the ‘Secrets of St James's Walking Tour’, which takes in the gas-lit alleyways and tucked-away spots in the area.

Staying for just one night and keen to soak up the atmosphere of the hotel itself, we eschewed any further sightseeing, being keen to visit our room. There are 105 rooms and suites split across the hotel’s Main House and its Carriage House and ours was a beautifully decorated and spacious Deluxe King.

We were itching to get down to the American Bar though, which during WW2 served as a club for American and Canadian officers. We were fascinated to see the bar’s eclectic mix of memorabilia, from the collection of baseball caps hanging from the ceiling to an assortment of ties, donated by guests, to signed photos of celebrities and politicos who have either graced the bar or have some connection to the area, from Paul Newman and Dolly Parton to Margaret Thatcher. You might need a stiff drink to digest the cocktail prices (they were delicious though), but a drink in the bar is as much a London tradition as a visit to nearby Buckingham Palace and a small price to pay to soak up the gallery-like atmosphere, with every wall and surface crammed with trinkets. So famous is the bar that it even has a book written about it – Ties That Bind, A Biography of a Bar.

It was the perfect prelude to dinner in the Lyttelton restaurant, with its beautifully presented, modern British dishes. British ingredients and seasonal food are specialities here, with dishes such as Cornish lamb and Suffolk Pork. Needless to say, the food was excellent. We also had the option to sample a couple of glasses sourced from the hotel’s 380-year-old underground wine cellars, built in the 17th Century by Lord Francis Godolphin and used as an air-raid shelter during the Second World War. After dinner it was back to the American Bar for a digestif before bed. New for winter, and to celebrate James Bond fever, the American Bar recently unveiled its new cocktail in honour of the character. The 'Belvedere 007 Martini' fuses Belvedere Vodka, Dry Vermouth and is garnished with a lemon twist. It is, of course, shaken, not stirred.

FACT FILE: The Stafford London, 16 - 18 St. James's Place, London, SW1A 1NJ. Tel 020 7493 0111 / thestaffordlondon.com. Accommodation is priced from £379.00 per room per night.

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