No matter where you are in the world, Sofitel Hotels and Resorts can always be found in the most glamorous buildings – a palace here, a skyscraper there… London’s offering is no different, the Sofitel London St James is actually housed in an old grand bank building on Waterloo Place, sandwiched between The Mall and Piccadilly. When you stay here, you are literally neighbours with The Queen during your stay… keep that in mind.
Bank buildings are recognisable from their impressive facades, marble floors, vaulted ceilings and huge impressive entrances, each screaming money and power more than the last. During its conversion to a hotel, these touches were softened with a tasteful decor and a fleet of smartly in line with a 5-star modern establishment, but the old time feels are all there.
There might be a huge Union Flag hanging above the door, but inside you’re greeted with a French vibe. Quite literally, staff will welcome you in both French and English, paying homage to their heritage (Sofitel was originally a French brand which was founded in France in 1964). Whether you’re in a palace in Oman, on the Palm in Dubai, or in the centre of London, their mantra is to always ‘live the French way’ – spontaneous, carefree and with an unmistakable touch of joie de vivre.
The Sofitel London St James was even designed by a French guy. The esteemed Pierre Yves-Rochon handled the transformation into a high-class hotel in 2002 and again during their most recent renovation.
The result is sublime. A modern twist on a classic now sees a sixties vibe running through the rooms, with pops of colours and Warhol icons hanging on the walls. You won’t find a tea tray or a tiny kettle in sight here, instead they’ve kept it cool with Smeg kitchen stuff and retro style iPod docks. Bathrooms are swish and romantic (they were literally designed by the French, so what else do you expect?) and the toiletries are of course by Hermès.
Guests come here for the rooms but they stay for the food. The same Wild Honey St James which once stood on St George Street is now here at the Sofitel with all the powder blue glory of its former home. It’s casual all day dining but without being too obvious you’re eating in a hotel. The menu has clearly been very cleverly composed of fine European fare and Negronis that taste like juice which has been hand squeezed from an angel.
The hotel has that great nostalgia feel. It’s a throwback to a time where guests would find a quiet corner to read a book, or take tea leisurely smoking from tobacco holders wearing long gloves. We actually arrived unceremoniously early before the previous guests had time to check out, but enjoyed a peppermint in one of the adjoining salons and listened to a live harp performance. Possibly a first for House of Coco, but hopefully not a last.
Stay in a double room at Sofitel London St James from £399 per night. Continental breakfast is £19.50; £26 for continental plus an a la carte dish. Free Wi-Fi. To book visit www.sofitelstjames.com