Mike Fletcher stays at St James’ Court, a Taj Hotel and discovers the secrets that lie within.
I thought I knew the hotel rating system in the UK. The addition of a spa and premier Golden Keys concierge service would generally denote five-star. Throw in a Michelin-starred restaurant and impeccable service throughout and event planners could file the hotel under, ‘client budget permitting’ or ‘I wish’.
It was somewhat surprising therefore to discover that St James’ Court, a Taj Hotel, which has all of the above and more, located just moments away from Buckingham Palace and St James’ Park, has but four stars behind the uniformed footman who provided the cheery ‘Good afternoon Sir’ as I arrived to check-in.
As any event planner worth their salt will testify however, discover first-hand a hidden gem of a four-star deluxe property and there’s every chance you’ll be able to offer clients the very best service and facilities at distinctly un-five-star day-delegate and room rates.
What lies behind the Edwardian facade of the 338-bedroom St James’ Court, a Taj Hotel can definitely be classed as a hidden gem. It’s also certain to be listed in the ‘Little Black Book’ of many a ‘in-the-know’ event planner, keen to keep secret a hotel that offers such understated luxury.
Unfortunately for them however, the secrets of St James’ Court are just too good not to share.
The word is now out that this four-star deluxe property actually forms part of eight redbrick townhouses, which it shares with its sister five-star Taj-owned suites and residences, 51 Buckingham Gate.
Not only does that facilitate a crossover of exceptional standards of service, it also means that both properties offer a merged luxury spa, dining and meetings experience.
After sampling a taste of Indian culinary excellence in the St James’ Court Bistro restaurant, I spent my evening relaxing in the Jiva spa’s vitality pool and I honestly couldn’t tell you, even after I’d had my show-round, whether I was still in St James’ Court or whether I’d crossed over into 51 Buckingham Gate.
The same is true for the meetings space. A private street entrance to the 300-capacity Edwardian I banqueting and conference suite (pictured above), which features the 50-capacity theatre-style Grade II-Listed Edwardian II and the 45 standing capacity Buckingham room, means that these facilities are in effect stand-alone. As such, they offer incredible day-delegate value, starting at £50 per head.
Elsewhere, I was shown more contemporary meetings spaces, including a board room for 16 guests and three seminar rooms, the largest of which can seat 35 theatre-style. Just don’t ask me to give you directions as again, the borders between properties appear to blur at the edges and yet the service standards remain impeccable throughout.
The Michelin-starred restaurant, Quilon isn’t strictly part of either property but it’s proximity offers a private dining room for up to 18 guests (pictured below). It’s here you can experience the full South-west coastal Indian menu I had only tasted a small part of during my dinner at Bistro.
However, perhaps the biggest secret hidden away at the heart of the eight redbrick townhouses is the 200-capacity outdoor courtyard, surrounded by a unique turn-of-the-century red brick frieze, depicting scenes from Shakespeare’s plays, overlooking a cherub-adorned Victorian fountain.
A private dining terrace overlooks the fountain and underneath, a new restaurant is due to open in the new year.
If all these event planning revelations weren’t enough, St James’ Court further offers a whole wing of around 144 bedrooms and suites that have been completely refurbished during the past nine months. The fact that even the corridor changes in design as you cross the threshold just adds to the illusion of a luxury upgrade.
The fact is however, it really doesn’t matter where St James’ Court, a Taj Hotel begins and ends. Once you’ve discovered the incredible secrets that lie within, all that really matters is how many clients’ meetings business can you bring to this oasis of central London luxury.
By Mike Fletcher