Either way, this goofy argument should tell you something about the ruddy, bloody poshness of this here hotel. I’ve knocked about some upscale pads in my time, somehow sneaked into a selection of classy joints. The Stafford, just to be clear, is one of them.
The welcome reveal, though, is that it doesn’t come with the snobbery that a poor urchin like me can sometimes inspire. I’ve seen it. The look of bafflement or even outright pity as I approach the reception desk, the presumption (hope? I’ve seen hope!) that I’ve wandered into the wrong place.
Usually, this is at some upstart, newly tarted up joint that was a derelict warehouse a fortnight ago. NOT AT PLACES LIKE THIS. Actual, historically swanky places like The Stafford have way too much self respect to judge anyone. A relief when, rolling in after getting lost with two heavy cases and looking like a porter down on his luck, I step up and tell them I have a reservation. Unblinking politeness. A reassuring mix of knowing deference with the misting of authority that we all secretly like. A world-worn Scot who has probably worked there since the 40s to take us to our room. This is what I’m talking about.
Here’s a potted history: the place used to be a posh knob social club, became a private hotel and housed a selection of lofty officers during WWII. It has since expanded to the stables at the back and added a modern annex but essentially you’re staying in a building that has hundreds of years of history.
I need a drink.
“That’s Nancy’s stool.”
I’m leaning up against the old-school looking bar, about to order a pre-dinner gin. Bartender Benoit has been here forever (he’s only the 3rd bar manager since 1946), so I’m deferring to his knowledge. He’s not moving me on, just drawing attention to it.
Nancy is Nancy Wake and the stool jammed up against the far corner of the bar is just one of many memorials to this mysterious lady that become apparent once you start looking. The bar at The Stafford Hotel is called The American Bar. It was used by Allied officers as a meeting spot during World War II, and had since expanded and been extensively bedecked with every conceivable artefact, American and otherwise.
It’s quite a trip. Historically AND aesthetically. I recommend a visit, even if you’re not staying at the hotel.
Our room is in the modern annex (The Mews), with its dedicated entrance and absolute masses of space. To be able to loll about in somewhere with the feel of a medium sized apartment is a luxury in Central London on its own. Add to that the panoramic luxury encased within – huge marble bathrooms with heated floors that may or may not be controlled from the wardrobe, overwhelming coffee selection, expensive furniture, almost emotionally-impressive levels of service…well, I’ve been looked down on by much worse, I’ll tell you that.
We dined. The Lyttleton is the onsite restaurant, and though we were the only customers for dinner, we were made to feel more than welcome and not at all like we were keeping several staff from knocking off early. Chandeliers, high end British cuisine, you get the picture.
Breakfast in the same room was perhaps the most impressive affair I’ve seen in a hotel. A heaving table of pots and pastries and every conceivable morning snack, paired with an a la carte menu including three types of egg Benedict, and that’s enough to impress this guy.
If it’s available, have the short tour of the wine cellar – there are lots of surprises that will delight war buffs – and if it’s not, then just revel in the absolute bonanza of professionalism and service that greets you here. World class. Especially for guttersnipes like me.