The Stafford is an old property with wine cellars dating back almost 400 years and a stable block in St James’s with original timber beams. A hotel since 1912, it has undergone huge improvements in recent years. When I last stayed, in 2006, the bar was being extended and some apartments were about to be opened alongside a general £26 million refurbishment. Since then, Kempinski has taken over and spent another £6 million on renovations, including a refreshed lobby and new restaurant.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
It’s an utterly unique property – a lovely, quiet five-star hotel in the centre of London. The main part was originally built as private residences for 17th-century lords and ladies, and it’s a very British establishment, but one that has a lot of US guests as a result of a long history of catering for them since the Second World War. Nevertheless, the guests are gradually becoming more European under Kempinski’s management. It offers excellent levels of service and accommodation, and the courtyard (Blue Ball Yard) is a real highlight, especially in summer.
WHERE IS IT? The property can be difficult for people to find, though it is only a few minutes’ walk from Green Park tube station and the Ritz hotel. It can be accessed from the back via Blue Ball Yard, off St James’s Street, or from the main entrance on St James’s Place. Here, there is also an alleyway leading directly to the park.
There are 105 rooms in total – 67 in the main hotel, 26 Junior and Master suites in the six-floor Mews, and 12 Carriage House rooms and suites in what used to be the stables. The three types of rooms are very different in terms of décor, size and feel, and it’s worth having a look around a few. Last time, I stayed in the main hotel and found them a little small – while the revamp has not increased the floor area, it has created space with an intelligent layout, flatscreen TVs and new furniture (though still in keeping with the hotel’s history). This time I tried a suite in the Mews, which was large and modern with a lovely bed, Bose iPod dock and a huge bathroom with a separate shower and tub, and Molton Brown toiletries. The sheer quiet was bliss after a noisy day in London. Rooms have free low-speed wifi, or high-speed for £15 for 24 hours.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS The hotel’s American bar is as idiosyncratic as ever, so dimly lit in the evening you have to peer at the menu, and with low green leather banquettes so comfortable you sink back and begin to reconsider ever leaving. The ceiling and walls are covered with flags, rugby shirts, model planes, signed photos, ties, baseball caps, pennants, hard hats and police badges. The short, well-chosen menu ranges from fish and chips (£17.75) to shellfish linguine with lobster, prawns, coriander and chilli (£10.95 as a starter, £16.50 as a main), which was delicious. I was pleased to find Thwaites bitter still on tap. For fine-dining there is the Lyttelton restaurant – I had breakfast here, which was à la carte and a little rushed, with the staff charming but struggling to keep up with serving everyone (or even seating them).
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES
There are four private dining rooms for up to 30 people in the largest. The vaulted wine cellars house about 20,000 bottles, and can be used for events of up to 85 delegates reception-style.
There is a modest-sized gym on the lower ground floor of the Mews. Alternatively, guests can make use of the Third Space, a high-tech fitness centre ten minutes’ walk away, which has a pool.
The Stafford is as good as ever, moving with the times and continually improving while keeping its loyal clientele happy.
Internet rates for a midweek stay in February started from £288 for a Classic room.
The Stafford hotel, St James’s Place; tel +44 (0)20 7493 0111; kempinski.com