There’s no place like London for finding a mix-match of cultures, cuisine and identity and, fitting right in to this way of life, is St James’ Court, a Taj Hotel. It seamlessly blends a traditional British feel with a layer of Indian majesty, right in the heart of the city.
First of all is the building itself, which first opened as a hotel on Buckingham Gate back in 1902, but actually has its roots stretching back to the Tudor times. Designed by Royal Engineer Major Charles Pawley, who, with his aristocratic background, wanted it to be an exclusive bolthole for key figures who were hob-knobbing at nearby Downing Street, Buckingham Palace and Whitehall – and it still resonates with a grandeur fitting to this heritage. Retaining its red-brick character and inside period detailing, there’s a rich sense of Britishness that exudes across the 338 rooms and suites.
For a reminder that this is a hotel belonging to Taj, one of India’s most esteemed hotel brands, however, you only have to pass through the lobby. Groups of velvet sofas and chairs create a series of ‘vignettes’ with each space adorned with thick rugs, twinkling chandeliers and occasional tables festooned with blooms. The area is a masterpiece in maximalism: with a shimmering metal-mirror wall, turquoise glass lamps and silk cushions. The colours are of those of India – amber, saffron, peacock blue and mustard, highlighted with a statement reception desk, which has a snazzy, backlit onyx feature. Adding to the buzzy, opulent feel is the Hamptons Bar, which is found just off the lobby, and which offers signature cocktails, tapas and a live pianist (ask about the Champagne and canapé tastings which can be booked in the Cellar Room).
The newly revamped premium rooms, part of an ongoing multi-million-pound refurbishment, however, offer a quiet respite from the city vibe – whether that is London or Mumbai. Public areas leading to the new rooms – found in in the Almoners Townhouse area of the hotel – are stylishly àla mode with inky-blue walls, botanical prints, framed vintage postcards and oversized glass vessels.
Conceived by architects/interior designers, Dexter Moren Associates, and interior design consultant Sue Freeman, the bedrooms are quietly sumptuous with enough nods to Indian design to reflect the brand’s character. Marrying contemporary needs – such as lavish, marble bathrooms – with a sense of history – wood panelling and architraves – the rooms make much of its classical townhouse setting.
The new décor includes silver leather headboards juxtaposed with olive silk-and-glass bedside wall-lights, amethyst pillows and dove-grey velvet footstools. Dogtooth carpets, heavily embossed curtains and lime-green sofas add layers of interest, while bespoke map artworks of London streets bring the visitor back to the hotel’s urban location.
Also merging both Indian and British sensibilities is the ground-floor Bistro restaurant. It’s an elegant, light-filled room serving a blend of both British-international and Indian classics – start with Duck & Fois Gras Terrine or perhaps the Samosa Chaat, and move on to The Dukes Tenderloin Pie (a red-wine-braised stew with puff pastry) or, for a taste of the sub-continent, a highlight is the Fish Hara Masala (a spiced fish in a creamy spinach and herb curry). It will transport you to the beachside lanes of Goa.
St James Court is found adjacent to the group’s second luxury property, 51 Buckingham Gate Suites and Residences (both are linked by a picturesque courtyard), and guests can access a wide range of dining options across both. There’s the Michelin-starred Quilon, renowned for its southwest coastal Indian cuisine, and St James’ Courtyard, featuring a Victorian cherub fountain, and ideal for an al fresco pastry and cappuccino. Kona, meanwhile, offers breakfast and afternoon teas, such as one featuring quirky cakes and pastries based on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Next up are the newly completed spa facilities, which are just about to open, and which offer a range of exotic-themed therapies, with La Sultane de Saba products, plunge pool, sauna and steam rooms, as well as bespoke wellness programmes. It captures the best of both worlds.
Premium Family Room are from £295 at St James’ Court, A Taj Hotel.
*This article is also published on The Arbuturian