The Stafford Lounge
The bustling, growing, ever-changing metropolis that is London may not strike you as the best place for a serene and restful stay, especially if it's at a hotel that's in the center of everything. However, The Stafford, a five-star boutique hotel just a few hundred yards from Jermyn Street, half a mile from Piccadilly Circus or Buckingham Palace, and a stone’s throw from Green Park — via an (almost) secret passage — is hidden from the hustle-bustle and offers serenity indeed. I recently stayed at The Stafford, as a guest of the hotel, during a recent catch-up with the London food and wine scene.
Arriving at The Stafford, I walked the short distance via the roads from Green Park (the nearest Tube stop) to the front door, but found out from the doorman that I could have saved time by walking through beautiful Green Park itself. The passage to the hotel is unmarked on Google Maps, appearing to dead-end where in fact it scoots underneath a building before emerging 50 yards from the hotel door. (There is also an unmarked mews entrance to the hotel off St. James’s Street.)
From its front door on St. James’s Place to its public areas and guest rooms, The Stafford exudes classic luxury and refinement. Technology is used in abundance, but always serves the guest experience unobtrusively. WiFi reception is strong everywhere; automatic doors to the mews at the back of the hotel open with a subdued "whoosh" as walk up to them; and rooms use a proximity key system so that you don’t have to mess around trying to find your key.
Start the day with breakfast in the Lyttelton Restaurant. It offers a full range of breakfast foods, but the Stafford English is exceptional: two eggs (any style), cured English bacon, Cumberland sausage, black pudding, grilled tomato, hash browns, and field mushrooms. I also took advantage of some things not seen frequently on my side of the pond. Smoked haddock with poached eggs was delicious and lighter than the full breakfast, and Gloucestershire kippers were exactly as I remembered them.
The Lyttelton also serves classic afternoon tea and dinner. The dinner menu offers a wide selection of classic favorites such as lamb shoulder, grilled Dover sole, and coq au vin, all with a strong emphasis on sourcing. The hotel has just hired a new chef, James Durant, whose résumé includes stints at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s, Maze (which earned a Michelin star while Durant was there), and the Plough Inn (which was named “UK Pub of the Year” by The Good Food Guide and won Michelin Bib Gourmand status in its first year).
The Lyttelton wine list, overseen by master sommelier Gino Nardella, is backed by some 8,000 bottles. That cellar, in fact, is a rather special place. Large enough to host wine tastings and private dinners, it is 380 years old, long predating the hotel. During World War II, it was used as a bomb shelter and still contains some memorabilia, including contemporary newspaper pages.
After dinner, head to the American Bar, one of two famous drinking spots of that name in London (the other is at The Savoy). The walls are packed with Americana.
I stayed in a junior suite and found it very welcoming. The king-size bed was sumptuous. The large bathroom was fully equipped with both a bath and a walk-in shower. The dimensions of the room were larger than those of most hotels in London, and the furnishings included a good-sized desk for work. Perhaps most noticeable was what was absent: noise. It was so quiet that I felt as if I were staying in the countryside.