An elegant hotel only a stone's throw from Westminster
Located in the heart of upmarket St James, a stone’s throw from Westminster, the facade of The Conrad St James is elegant and distinguished - a clear indication of its former incarnation as Queen Anne’s Chambers, which was built at the turn of the 20th century and used by those who needed to be near the seat of power. Later in its history, the Treasury Solicitor was based here.
From these rather imposing beginnings, a hotel that’s wonderfully warm and welcoming has been created. Forget the stereotype of the stuffily suited, slightly disapproving doorman; here, staff are immaculately turned out, but incredibly friendly and engaging. Arriving from a sudden cold snap in London, into the spacious and brightly lit foyer in which various and diverse artworks are displayed feels like enough of a treat, and that’s even before the swift and seamless check-in. We were informed that we were entitled to executive lounge access and were escorted to the elevator with directions to our room.
The Rooms at Conrad St James
Entering our room, we were greeted by chocolates fashioned into a shimmery, gold replica of Big Ben, and a red double-decker bus. Where else could we have been but in London? Accompanying them was a handful of Union Jack embossed macarons. Of course, no one was allowed to dig in until I took the perfect Instagram shot complete with the in-house magazine artfully appearing in the background!
The decor is luxuriously corporate - deep browns and crisp whites are in abundance - which makes perfect sense given the hotel’s location but it definitely isn’t the last word in romance. Even so, my partner dove immediately on to the broad, inviting bed - after all, it’s the ideal place from which to get to grips with the television, which was partly concealed in the wall and therefore intriguing enough to cause him to lose valuable time fiddling around with its remote. Like I said, the romance factor was lacking. In the meantime, I was happy to explore the bathroom, which was the size of a small London flat, complete with a walk-in rainforest shower, and well-stocked with Shanghai Tang toiletries and thick white towels.
Indulging in some refreshments in The Executive Lounge
Refreshments are available all day, but there are certain times allocated for the serving of drinks and canapes. When we arrived half way through the designated slot, there was a crowd akin to what you might see in an airport lounge: those who were determinedly guzzling beverages before the clock chimed on ‘happy hour’ and those who were taking it all in their stride with occasional sips of prosecco and a thorough read of the day’s newspapers. This dichotomy was mirrored in the self-service area, where provisions were greatly depleted and swooped upon when restocked. Given we were headed for dinner at the hotel’s Blue Boar restaurant, we didn't have the same level of urgency to refill our glasses as some of the other guests.
The Blue Boar Restaurant
It was reasonably quiet at the restaurant when we visited on a Saturday night; I’d imagine that many of the guests were tourists, out to explore, as opposed to weeknights, when you might expect a more business-focused crowd. The standard of personal service is exceptional and there was a genuine friendliness in their approach that was a highlight of the evening.
An introductory glass of champagne with an amuse bouche that combined tomato and mozzarella in a way that’s as far removed from a pizza as possible set the scene for the starters. Between us, we scoffed a sweetcorn risotto (pleasingly toothsome and yielding) with charred courgette, toasted almonds and goat cheese, as well as a plate of gin-cured Scottish salmon, served up with salt-baked beets, pickled fennel and sunflower seeds.
Since the restaurant’s Josper Grill - the high temperatures and wood chips of which add a unique flavour to the meat - is such a feature of the restaurant, we decide to order a steak accompanied by triple cooked chips, a Portobello mushroom and vine cherry tomatoes. In a moment of madness, I ‘forgot’ that I don’t actually like pork and was swayed by the mention of scallops, salt-baked turnips, butternut squash and kale. After a mouthful or so, a swap took place and we were both pleased with our dishes. Sadly, we didn't have room for dessert, but if we had, it would have been the date and custard tart with almond ice cream all the way.
Breakfast at The Blue Boar
When we returned to The Blue Boar the following morning for breakfast, the frantic pace confirmed that the hotel is pretty much at capacity. There were a few hiccups with service at breakfast, however, everything that goes ‘wrong’ was rectified quickly. One highlight of the breakfast was the eggs, which were wonderfully, yolkily, runnily poached and the kiwi and spinach juice from the buffet’s juice bar was green enough to look saintly, but sweet enough to taste sinful.
A bit of inspiration when it comes to what to see and do
There are fitness facilities in the hotel, but on a bright, clear day, we recommend enjoying the charms of St James’ Park; which judging from the number of families and couples in the restaurant that were consulting maps and guidebooks, many a plan was being hatched to get out and explore. If decision-making isn’t your forte, the hotel also offers a range of 1,3 or 5-hour curated itineraries, which focus on the best local art, food, culture tailored to how much time you have to spare. It’s the ideal adjunct to their motto “Never just stay. Stay Inspired.”
Nightly rates at Conrad London St. James start from £249, based on two people sharing.
Conrad London St James
A Summary of our stay at Conrad St. James London
Dorsett Shepherd’s Bush, London
The perfect hotel for a London staycation
There’s something incredibly indulgent about a staycation in your home city. We’ve reached the time of year when holiday allowance is running low and that cheeky getaway you so longed for is slipping ever further from your grasp. While a real break might not be feasible, one shouldn’t underestimate the restorative powers of a night of rest and relaxation in one of London’s plethora of luxurious lodgings.
Shepherd’s Bush might not spring to mind as the first port of call for a night away from home, yet stepping through the doors of the Dorsett, you may be pleasantly surprised. Tucked next to the Shepherd’s Bush Empire (I must have walked past it a hundred times and yet never noticed its presence), the subtle addition as it is to the Green, it’s the perfect spot for those wanting to escape the town centre, while keeping a lower profile than in the West End.
Despite its seemingly inconspicuous profile, the hotel features 317 Chinese-inspired bedrooms and suites along with two sumptuous restaurants and a distinctive bar, plus a spa - just the ticket for a night away from home. Upon arrival it’s impossible to not be wowed by the impressive central atrium with its smooth wooden curves and luxuriously inviting velvet sofas; if one were to take afternoon tea this would be the location. Nevertheless, with an evening of much anticipated alone time stretched ahead of me, I headed straight upstairs to my suite.
The Dorsett is undoubtedly designed for the technological traveller in mind; with complimentary internet access, a ‘Handy’ phone in each room (acting as a tour guide and local directory), a work desk and docking station, all useful additions to make your stay easier.
While Shikumen serves a menu of elegant and creative Asian cuisine, including authentic Beijing Peking Duck, a range of Dim Sum and fresh Scottish seafood, Pictures is a contemporary brasserie style restaurant offering a European menu.
I began with delicious beetroot-cured Lock Duart salmon, accompanied with dill cream cheese, a hearty rye bread and a delicate dose of tarragon oil. A plate of braised Irish ox cheeks followed, so tender they disintegrated on first bite, served with a creamy earl grey-smoked mashed potato, oxtail croquette and winter vegetables. My choice of dish proved quite the remedy for the grey autumnal drizzle, further justifying my reasoning to batten down the hatches and have a cosy night in…
Supper complete, I retired to my room for a bubble bath with a view overlooking the rooftops of Shepherd’s Bush thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows. After donning the prerequisite bathrobe and making a pillow fort on the king size bed, a night of Netflix chick flicks sent me off into a peaceful slumber, only to be roused by my pre-ordered breakfast tray arriving the following morning.
Half the fun of a hotel stay is ordering breakfast in bed and the Dorsett didn’t disappoint. Fresh fruit salad, a pot of hot coffee, toast and jam and a hot plate of scrambled eggs, tomatoes, potatoes and sausage (the breakfast of champions), was enjoyed even more while luxuriating in bed wrapped in a bathrobe.
Along with its beautiful interiors and tasty cuisine, the other star attraction is SpaMika, which offers both guests and London locals four treatment suites and a variety of holistic treatments, as well as a sauna, aroma steam room and an infra-red cabin. Note to self: there is no better start to a Monday morning than all the above.
The spa has selected its product partners with the utmost care, choosing brands that reflect the holistic nature of their offering including vegan brands and those which use only botanically sourced ingredients.
In keeping with Dorsett’s underlying ethos of blending the best of the East with the West, Spa Mika’s therapies have been inspired by the orient and western philosophies. Treatments range from Hot Bamboo and Jade Stone massages to a Strawberries and Cream natural body polish and Fig & Vanilla body mask with the signature treatment a popular Shambala's Pan Asian Face & Body Ritual.
I tried an express 25-minute facial and a 25-minute back, neck and shoulder massage, both perfect tasters of their longer treatments and yet just enough to set me up for a restful week ahead. Should it be of interest, there’s also a range of private couples’ treatments available in the double infra-red cabin Spa Mika therapy Suite, and you can also hire the spa privately for exclusive use.
It was tempting to spend all day alternating between the sauna and steam room and yet I somehow managed to tear myself away and drift back to real life. With the seasons changing and the days getting shorter, if a real break is out of reach then Dorsett Shepherd’s Bush is a great option for your next London staycation.
Dorsett Shepherd’s Bush
58 Shepherds Bush Green
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