I checked in alone at The Stafford, while her Ladyship enjoyed a pampering with her hairdresser, and was ushered to our Mews Suite. Nestled in a St James side street, The Stafford has a regal elegance with a modern twist that perfectly suits its exclusive location. The townhouse lobby opens into The Game Bird restaurant (more on that later) and a little corridor takes you (past the door to the historic wine cellar in an air raid shelter) round to the American Bar, adorned with caps and pennants. Behind the bar is a lively, cobbled courtyard, where there was a BBQ at the time of my arrival, and the mews building where our suite could be found.
The suite was a showstopper. I quickly took in the comfortable separate lounge, spacious double bedroom with enormous bathroom, guest WC, walk-in closet and views overlooking the cute little courtyard. There was a bottle of rose champagne waiting on ice and a box of Covid amenities also provided on the other side of the room. But there’s one feature of hotel suites that always makes me feel really decadent and it’s one you barely use or notice after the first five minutes. I took out my phone to message Lady C, who I knew would understand.
There’s a vestibule.
I could imagine the slow smile spreading across her face as she read my message. Not for us the plebeian experience of emerging at once into one’s entertaining area, let alone the horror of being able to see the bed from the doorway! In fact, the hallway at the entrance to this suite is larger than my entire room, including bathroom, in university halls.
Enjoying the suite, immaculate and pleasantly air conditioned, without my partner in crime seemed disingenuous, so I found a table in The Stafford courtyard and settled down for a saffron gin and some parmesan fries while I waited, surrounded by a vibrant and diverse crowd enjoying the fantastic weather. In due course, she arrived, hair perfectly coiffed, and we took a quick stroll to Bond Street, just 5 mins away, to spend some hard earned cash on some pretty, frivolous items. By the time we carried our goodies back to the suite, it was time to get ready for dinner at The Game Bird. We made thorough and delightful use of the huge, dramatically dark, walk-in shower and the hers and hers sinks and mirrors on opposite walls while dressing, washing off the heat of the London summer and emerging glamorous and glowing from the steam.
The cobbles in the courtyard are somewhat of an obstacle once you have your heels on, but we arrived, ankles intact, to The Game Bird and were shown to our seats. Our waiter, Luca, made us very comfortable and head sommelier Gino pre-empted the dearest wish of our hearts and presented us with an aperitif of Louis Roederer before we even began to make our choices from the menu.
The menu at The Game Bird is modern British, influenced by seasonal availability and the reassuring warmth of comfort food, presented in an elevated and refined style. For out first course, I chose the intriguing lobster scotch egg, a perfectly cooked (this means with soft yolk) quail’s egg encased in succulent lobster meat. Apparently, this dish is proving very popular and no wonder: who can argue with this combination, perfectly balanced with the lovage mayonnaise and sharp celeriac slaw? Charlotte’s choice was the pea veloute, served with a Black Cow cheddar and truffle toastie. This vegetarian starter was quite the hit, the veloute was as velvety as you like and the toastie did all the melty, crunchy, salty, dippy things that a toastie should. The wine choice for this course was a typically acidic and citrusy Les Princes Abbes Riesling from the Alsace Domaines Schlumberger, the perfect start to any wine flight.
For the main course, Charlotte had chosen the scallops, served from their shells at the table, with Dorset chorizo and sage and caper butter. Scallops were perfectly cooked and the saltiness of the chorizo matched the sweetness of the scallops in the way that only pork products can. I barely had time to remind her that she isn’t really the biggest fan of capers before the whole plate had been consumed. The wine choice was a recently released Puligny-Montrachet Le Trezin from Domaine Gerard Thomas et Filles; the freshness cut through the saltiness of the dish and there were notes of apple that provided a natural flavour pairing for the pork.
My main course was the eponymous Game Bird, a dish of roast pigeon leg and breast, turnip puree, roast baby turnips and cherries. The pigeon was nicely pink and the cherries added a kind of sweet tartness that invigorated the rich jus from the er… game bird. Pigeon is one of my favourite meats, so this was already a winner for me, but the Marlborough Pencarrow Pinot Noir 2018 provided an extra hit of the cherry flavours on the plate and a hint of dark herbaceous notes that really worked with the dish (but would also have been perfectly drinkable if they’d given me the rest of the bottle to take home too…).
The final wine was again a shared pairing, a Fontanafredda Moscato d’Asti Moncucco, with a floral nose and stone fruit and cooked pears on the palate. It was a fantastic match for both the lemon meringue parfait with basil sorbet and the chocolate torte with tonka bean ice cream, desserts that were quite delicious (although we missed the cheese trolley, which was presumably tucked away for Covid reasons…). Ending the night with an delicious BBB-style Espresso Martini (rum, not vodka) also gave us a chance to experience the relaxed and buzzy atmosphere of the American Bar, where guests and visitors were enjoying the wide range of interesting and innovative cocktails.
A good night’s rest and a fine, leisurely breakfast with excellent coffee completed our stay and, as always, we were reluctant to leave. The Stafford is a class act, finding the perfect balance between traditional and cool, supremely welcoming and ideally located, whatever your London plans might be. It was only the promise of lunch at The Stafford Collection’s standalone Sicilian restaurant, Norma, which could tempt us out of the luxurious suite – via the vestibule, naturally – with heartfelt promises that we would return again in the not-too-distant future.
The Stafford London
16-18 St James’s Place