Following our visit at the end of last summer I declared the Taj 51 Buckingham Gate to be my favourite hotel in London. It still is…but the St James’ Court Hotel comes a very close second. Not surprising, really, seeing as the St James’ Court is also owned by the Taj Hotel Group and is situated just next door. It used to be a Crowne Plaza but is gradually being ‘Taj-ed up’ so that it meets the group’s exacting standards, as seen in the BBC series, Hotel India.
Whereas the Taj 51 is a 5 star, all suite accommodation, the St James’ Court is currently a 4 star establishment with high aspirations. We booked it for a two night stay in the capital and were amazed at the discount available on their website. A classic room was on offer for £119 per night (the rack rate is £495) which is an absolute steal for such quality accommodation in the heart of London, even if it was a low season January booking.
On arrival we were upgraded to an executive studio which was perfect. Having been recently disappointed by another London hotel which had style but lacked substance, this room proved that the Taj group know exactly what their guests appreciate: ample storage space, tea and coffee-making facilities and, joy of joys, a full length mirror with nearby electrical socket. Add to that decent lighting, an iron and ironing board, quality bath products plus complimentary fruit, bottles of water and daily newspaper. They even provided a great selection of magazines.
These are just the little things, but it’s the little things that make a difference. It goes without saying that the bathroom was spotless, the bed extremely comfortable and the sheets deliciously crisp. A good-sized TV with lots of channels, free easy-to-access WiFi, excellent sound-proofing. Need I go on? You can tell I loved it.
|Clockwise from top left: James the bear resting on the crisp white sheets; beautifully appointed bathroom; little treats waiting for us from the hotel’s management; the lounge area of our executive studio.
The Taj group pride themselves on exemplary service and this was certainly in evidence as all the staff were cheerful and attentive. Whereas breakfast wasn’t quite as gloriously refined as the Taj 51, the offer from the St James’ Court was pretty good, served in the Bistro restaurant which, later in the day, serves contemporary European cuisine. We had an early dinner in the conservatory restaurant, Bank, just as we did when we stayed at the Taj 51 on our previous visit. Attached to Zander, the capital’s longest bar, Bank has a light, airy atmosphere and the food is delicious. Of course, being next door to the Taj 51 means that guests of St James’ Court have access to its restaurants too so there is a great deal of choice.
|Clockwise from left: Zander bar; seating area outside the elevators; lobby of hotel.|
It’s worth noting that the location of the hotel is excellent, very near to St James’s Park underground station and only a short walk from Victoria. It’s around the corner from Buckingham Palace and, if you are happy to power walk for 20 minutes or so like we did, not that far from the West End.
Like its sister hotel, if you are visiting as a family, they offer the Kids@Taj programme which is designed to make the youngest guests feel special.
We only stayed two nights but were so supremely relaxed, it felt much longer. I am now seriously considering not going online to trawl the internet for a hotel when we next visit London. Why keep looking? With the Taj 51 and St James’ Court available, our search for the perfect hotel experience in the capital is over.