There can be few London hotels with as storied a history as St Ermin’s in St James’s Park. The hotel is widely associated with cold war espionage, and was home to the British intelligence services through WWII, a past it wears proudly on its sleeve.
Knowing this in advance of a visit might put you in a monochrome movie state of mind, but it’s not like that at all.
This four-star deluxe hotel is the recent beneficiary of a £30 million renovation project. It’s bright and dramatic – and a little bit potty. What was once the old haunt of 007 creator Ian Fleming, now wouldn’t look out of place in a modern Bond movie. If Bond were looking for somewhere to staycation while on furlough that is.
What was once the old haunt of 007 creator Ian Fleming, now wouldn’t look out of place in a modern Bond movie…
Don’t hurry too quickly to the automatic doors though. It’s worth celebrating the courtyard entrance when you arrive, as it’s really rather beautiful, particularly after it’s been raining; the black stone reflects marvellously, it’s a photogenic kaleidoscope of coloured lights.
Rather delightfully, the hotel also has its own apiary (cue some rather cute ‘Bee & Bee’ branding), on the third floor wildflower terrace. The honeybees, all 300,000 of them, were in hibernation when we made our visit, but they’re normally gainfully employed providing the hotel with fresh honey.
St Ermin’s Hotel London – Location
St Ermin’s is just a five-minute walk from St James’s Park (home to pelicans, swans, ducks and countless parakeets) and Buckingham Palace. It’s only a marginally longer stroll to Piccadilly and Kensington. With Whitehall, Big Ben, Parliament Square, The Cabinet War Rooms, New Scotland Yard all within striking distance, St Ermin’s makes an ideal London base.
St Ermin’s Hotel London – Design
As we’re told in our briefing docs when we arrive, during the 1930s, the hotel was synonymous with SIS (Secret Intelligence Service) and MI6. Ian Fleming, Kim Philby, and Guy Burgess were all known to have worked from the building during the Second World War. There’s a small celebration of this history, behind glass.
Of course, if you want to go undercover, the Caxton Bar looks a little different these days, although wannabe agents will appreciate its shadowed corners and atmospheric lighting.
The design of the hotel is a treat. Within its grade II listed architecture, it mixes Art Nouveau and Rococo plasterwork, and a positively theatrical balcony dominates the lobby.
LA-based designer Dayna Lee, of Powerstrip Studio, has paid homage to St. Ermin’s original interiors, which were conceived by British theatrical designer, J. P. Briggs. The main staircase is instantly instagrammable, particularly if you frame the lobby’s spectacular chandeliers in the shot.
What we liked is that the refurb hasn’t robbed the hotel of its character. There’s a welcoming mix of antiques and outrageous quirk – look out for the Porta Romana red-pleated lampshade which stands on a pair of webbed feet. One unfortunate casualty of the refit though is the Vivienne Westwood wallpaper, which once hung in the bar, but is now nowhere to be seen.
St Ermin’s Hotel London – Rooms and amenities
St Ermin’s has 331 rooms, including 41 suites (some boasting Louis Vuitton style furniture, and leather-wrapped wardrobes), and 18 Family Rooms. We stayed in the latter, and enjoyed two Queen–sized beds, and a pair of bathrooms, plus an additional sofa bed.
Amenities include free Wi-Fi throughout, multinational plug sockets; and tea and coffee. There’s also a small single desk to work from. There’s also the option of afternoon tea in first floor mezzanine Tea Lounge.
St Ermin’s Hotel London – The Caxton Grill
The Caxton Grill is a 72-seat restaurant, with a private dining room for ten. The menu is modern European. Fruits, vegetables and herbs are picked from the Hotel’s Roof Kitchen Garden. It’s partnered by the Caxton Bar, which offers a good range of cocktails, wines and whiskies.
The overall dining experience ticked all the right boxes. We opted for an Arbikie AK’s G&T, and Lychee Martini in the Caxton Bar before going though and perusing the (QR code delivered) menu.
For starters, we opted for the Harissa marinated chicken thighs, enlivened by a cashew nut chermoula and pomegranate dressing, and Cured salmon with a courgette salad.
For mains it was impossible to resist the pan fried sea bass, with roast pumpkin and braised shallot, and an 8oz rib-eye steak, beautifully grilled. Matching wines were recommended by the house – a 2017 Catena Malbec, followed by a 2019 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough.
After desert, and suitably satisfied, we returned to the bar (well, it was en route), and were diverted by a couple more cocktails, before being turfed out at the ungodly hour of 10pm.
St Ermin’s Hotel London – Verdict
St Ermin’s in London’s St James’s Park is an easy recommendation. Even if you’ve stayed in the past, it’s well worth a return visit to appreciate the latest refurb. The hotel has been beautifully renovated, its theatrical lobby is a particular delight, and the quality of both rooms and service is high. It’s great to see the venue celebrating its past too. The adjoining Caxton Grill is certainly well worth a visit, it’s a stylish eatery with a comforting menu (although its breakfast offering isn’t of the same calibre and can easily be skipped).
Overall, we rate St Ermin’s hotel highly. It’s too good to be kept a top secret.
St Ermin’s Hotel, Caxton Street, London, SW1H 0QW
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7222 7888.
Rooms rates start at £289; suites start from £559 (although check for promotional deals)