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By Alex Martin | January 27 2020
With Piccadilly Circus to my left and Buckingham Palace to my right, I am standing in the beating heart of London, England; but a warming ‘Bonjour’ from the doorman at Sofitel London St James instantly transports me to Paris.
The luxury hotel group always aims to bring a touch of French art de vivre to every one of its locations and the London property is no exception. Without fail, guests are always greeted in French before the conversation continues in the local dialect.
Sofitel London St James’s ability to take your mind away from London makes it the perfect weekend escape, which is exactly what I am here to do. Following a recent refurbishment of its guest rooms and the opening up of a highly-rated restaurant, Wild Honey, Elite Traveler was invited to experience a complete staycation experience that would make for the perfect Valentine’s Day getaway.
Situated in a neoclassical, Grade II-listed building, Sofitel London St James sits where Waterloo Place and Pall Mall (of Monopoly fame) meet. It is a stunning facade and even more impressive inside. That is in part down to the $21m refurbishment completed in 2019. French designer Pierre-Yves Rochon was charged with the task of reimagining the hotel’s 183 bedrooms. The result is a fresh feel with state-of-the-art amenities such as an iPod docking station and USB ports (something that continues to elude even the best hotels) situated throughout the rooms.
The hotel’s most exclusive room is the Opera Suite. This 1,173-sq-ft space offers wonderful views of London’s most elegant buildings. It has one master bedroom and the option for a connecting junior suite. The dining room has ample space for 12 guests while a private kitchen and a separate entrance allows staff to come and go discreetly. However, with one of the best destination restaurants in the city, most guests will choose to dine with other guests downstairs.
Sofitel London St James currently offers a ‘Romance, The French Way’ package, which offers guests a bottle of champagne on ice, chocolate and flowers upon arrival. Breakfast is also served to your room every morning. What better way to spend a Valentine’s Day weekend than in a room comfortable enough to stay in throughout the day? Perhaps stretch yourself to a walk around the nearby St James’s Park before returning to a life of luxury.
Start your evening with a cocktail in The St James Bar, which has recently launched a new ‘Passport‘ menu to coincide with its redesign. Featuring a range of different drinks, the menu takes guests on a journey around the world. The Flying Dutchman (No3 gin, Pierre Ferrand curacao, lemon juice, juniper syrup, cardamom bitters, red wine) is highly recommended.
Once you have finished your drink, make your way through the curtain to the hotel’s on-site restaurant, Wild Honey. The restaurant originally opened in Mayfair but moved location to form part of the new Sofitel London St James in July. It has since won rave reviews from the city’s fiercest critics with a combination of its beautifully-appointed dining room and wonderful seasonal food from Anthony Demetre.
With its own entrance on Pall Mall, the restaurant feels separate from the hotel, which is definitely a good thing. Hotel guests can enter through a thick curtain in the speakeasy-style bar. It feels as if you are making your way through the wardrobe to a contemporary Narnia, complete with high-ceilings, blue velvet banquettes and delectable food.
The dining room is the work of interior designer Jim Hamilton, who succeeds in splitting the 110-seat restaurant into three distinctive parts through unique, oversized light fixtures. Guests either sit in comfortable booths or on caramel leather chairs.
Demetre previously had a Michelin star at Arbutus and Wild Honey in Mayfair, but this is a far more relaxed version of fine dining, and very approachable to the casual gourmand. We are blown away by the Handcut Macaroni Cacio e Pepe with crispy boneless chicken wings. It is comfortingly familiar yet elevated to a level that only a skilled and experienced chef can achieve.
A main course of hare with celeriac purée and cavolo nero is about as British as you can get at this time of year. Its intensely rich jus serves as the perfect warmer on a bitterly cold winter’s night.
For dessert, fresh wild honey is cut straight from a huge chunk of freshly harvested honeycomb and served next to homemade honey ice cream. This honeycomb is sourced from a nearby supplier but the restaurant has plans to start its own bee farm on the roof of the hotel in spring.
Following a romantic night, guests can take advantage of a late check-out time by heading to the Sofitel SoSPA. Set over three floors, the sun-drenched treatment rooms offer a tranquil escape from one of London’s busiest areas. The hotel has partnered with exclusive brands Carita and Cinq Mondes to create a range of rejuvenating facials and massages.
Following the spa treatment and a seamless check-out, head to The Rose Lounge to end the weekend on a romantic note. Here, Sofitel serves a traditional Afternoon Tea to the soothing sounds of a harpist. Guests can indulge in a French-inspired Le Gouter or take tea the traditional way, accompanied by freshly baked scones, finger sandwiches and delicate pastries.
A two-night stay for two in the Opera Suite over Valentine’s Day weekend with the Romance package is available from $4,200. sofitelstjames.com