A city break at the four-star St Ermin’s Hotel in London is one worth seeking out, for behind its grand façade hides a captivating history of espionage and intrigue…
It’s a strange world we live in at the moment. Those small things that we used to take for granted – a quick coffee with a friend, dressing up for a party – now seem such a treat. When I am invited to experience a night at St Ermin’s Hotel, I am beside myself with excitement at the prospect of ‘going away’.
The 331-room hotel in Westminster is part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. At the head of its grand entrance the two griffins have both been fitted with masks, a humorous touch and the only reminder that I have chosen to come away in the middle of a pandemic. But apart from the obligatory wearing of a mask while walking around the hotel, and numerous sanitisers discretely dotted about, it’s business as usual and London is very much open at the time of my visit [unfortunately, with the announcement of lockdown three, the hotel is now closed until 1 March 2021].
The four-star hotel was built in 1899 and its grand façade hides a captivating history of espionage and intrigue. During the 1930s it was used by secret intelligence service MI6, which was located nearby. Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond series, was one officer to have frequented the hotel’s Caxton Bar and a small but fascinating exhibition can be seen just off the hotel lobby. Children staying here receive their own secret agent package and trail to test their sleuthing skills.
The lobby is dominated by large chandeliers, and the sweeping staircase and balcony designed by British theatrical designer JP Briggs harks back to a bygone era. The hotel’s eclectic styling, part of a £30m refurbishment, gives the hotel a well-travelled feel, with hints of the Orient, elephant bookends, and splashes of colour in rich, jewel tones, including a deep red lampshade on duck legs.
Our room, a junior suite, is tastefully furnished in dark wood and decorated in hues of burgundy and greens. The marbled bathroom is stocked with White Company toiletries and the large walk-in shower gets a hearty approval from my husband. I have forgotten how wonderful the luxury of crisp white hotel bed linen feels.
‘The sweeping staircase and balcony designed by British theatrical designer JP Briggs harks back to a bygone era’
We enjoy cocktails on the terrace overlooking the courtyard. In the summer, when it’s open, I imagine it is the perfect oasis in the city. Tonight the terrace is cosy and we sink into the Chesterfield sofa and enjoy cocktails – a French martini for me – shaken not stirred, of course.
The Caxton Grill offers a British-led menu, which caters for most tastes. I choose the beetroot Tarte Tatin, which is delicious and comes beautifully presented. The hotel prides itself on using fresh, seasonal ingredients and even has its own hives, home to 300,000 bees that you can see on the third floor.
The staff at the hotel are friendly and attentive, and I feel that they would give the same level of service at any time – the hotel was awarded four AA red stars for its outstanding hospitality.
Although tucked away, its proximity to famous landmarks makes it ideal for sightseeing. It’s near to St James’s Park, Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey, but equally close to some of the theatres.
As we adjust to a new normal, now more than ever is the time to relish those weekend breaks.
2 Caxton Street, Westminster SW1H 0QW; sterminshotel.co.uk
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