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Russell Sage

Afternoon tea, Hotels, Hotels - Luxury, Restaurants, Spa

A Relaxing Day At Sofitel St James London

One of my favourite things about living in London is how close it is to Paris and all of the delightful French things that make their way across the channel.  Sofitel St James is a little corner of Paris in historic Mayfair – a perfect marriage of French elegance and English refinement.

Housed in the former Cox’s and King’s bank close to Piccadilly and the private members clubs of Pall Mall, the five-star Sofitel St James complements the building’s original features with chic yet homely interiors by Pierre-Yves Rochon and Russell Sage.

I was invited with London Unattached and Lela London to experience a day of relaxation and indulgence, like true Paris-London ‘ladies who lunch’.

We began the morning in So SPA, a stylish urban retreat with an impressive reception area and treatment rooms set across three floors, filled with natural daylight.  So SPA uses Carita, Cinq Mondes and Mamma Mio skincare products and treatments are designed to appeal to the five senses.

On arrival, we sat at the large communal table and were welcomed with a neat little tray of lavender tea, a fruit jelly and a warm flannel to freshen up.

I was given the usual health consultation form to fill in, but So SPA also requested my preferences for music, scent, temperature of the room, if I liked a heated bed and so on.  This was a thoughtful touch and I loved that the treatment room was tailored exactly to my wishes.

We began the de-stressing process getting rid of toxins and relaxing the muscles in the hammam and jacuzzi.  There are no clocks in the spa, so we relied on the therapists to call us for our treatments and this was done seamlessly.

With the Spa Butler’s help, I chose the signature So Rejuvenating Facial Treatment (60 minutes, £90).  The therapist began the sensory journey by spritzing a delicate rose fragrance in the air and applying a layer of warm honey on my lips.  My bespoke facial using Cinq Mondes products included a double foam cleanse and tone, exfoliation, a hydrating mask and a kaolin mask applied to the t-zone, lymphatic drainage massage and a relaxing hand and arm massage.

She very gently pinched and tweaked the skin around the eye area, cheekbones and jaw to expel impurities and reduce puffiness.  A nice surprise was hot stones smoothed along my arms and placed under each palm.

After the treatment, I felt blissfully calm and was offered some great skincare advice before being guided into the well-equipped Relaxation Room.  I ordered a Mediterranean Rose tea, which came with another lovely fruit jelly, and was left to continue my spa journey on the comfortable bed with magazines and an iPod system with soothing music to choose from.  I could have happily lingered in the Relaxation Room, but lunch beckoned.

Before sitting down to a delicious three-course lunch at The Balcon, we met with Executive Chef Vincent Menager (formerly of Brasserie Roux, Sofitel New York and Alain Ducasse) at the Charcuterie Bar to sample the finest cured and air-dried meats from France and Wales with a glass of Charles Heidsieck Champagne.

True to the Anglo-French philosophy of the hotel, the marble charcuterie bar focuses on meats, cheeses and terrines from Mas le Rouget in Cantal and Trealy Farm in Monmouthshire in Wales.  Guests can stop by for a light indulgence or share a tasting platter before moving on to The Balcon.

Designed by Russell Sage, The Balcon combines the elegance of the Parisian grand brasserie and London’s modern-classic approach.  The high ceilings, large windows and light colours make it an attractive spot for all-day dining.

The test of an authentic French restaurant is how good is the soupe à l’oignon gratinée, so I just had to start with the Normandy onion soup with Roskoff onion and Aspall English cyder.

This Normandy-meets-Suffolf onion soup was one of the best I’ve ever tasted.  Served in a traditional French bowl, the soup was rich, dark and packed full of soft caramelised onions and topped with a baguette crouton, melted Gruyère and fresh herbs.  It’s a comforting dish for when it’s cold outside, or particularly for home-sick Parisians in London.

For the main course, I was tempted by the Rump of Devon lamb, French green beans, pequillo peppers and sweetcorn.  The lamb was tender, juicy and pinkish in the middle, cooked perfectly medium as requested.  I enjoyed the accompaniment of glazed green beans, soft slivers of pequillo pepper, buttery sweetcorn freshly cut from the cob and rich jus.  While the dish was colourful, it was presented in a simple, unpretentious way, which seems to be the concept at The Balcon.

The Blackberry financier with green apple sorbet came highly recommended, so I was keen to try the restaurant’s most popular dessert.  The freshly-baked financier was crisp and golden on the outside with a light, gooey almond cake centre.  It went well with the sweet blackberry coulis and I adored the luscious, home-made apple sorbet.

To finish the meal, I ordered an English Breakfast tea, which came in a Japanese-style cast iron teapot with Gavottes (French caramelised wafer biscuits) on the side.

I loved the bright, elegant design and refined atmosphere at The Balcon and wish I’d discovered it sooner.  It’s now on my list of stylish, central London eateries.

To walk off the lunch, we took a tour of the hotel and viewed the temporary collection of sculptures by Daphne du Barry and the hotel’s current Limelight exhibition, featuring photographic portraits of Barack Obama, Mick Jagger, Valentino Garavani, Francoise Hardy and Dita Von Teese.

We also had the chance to take a peek inside the Presidential Suite, with a stunning bed that looked so inviting for a post-lunch snooze.  I particularly liked the romantic, dusky St James Bar, inspired by the interiors of Coco Chanel’s 1920s Paris apartment.

We ended the day of pampering in the stylish surrounds of The Rose Lounge for afternoon tea.  The intimate lounge is a treat for all the senses with an enveloping rose scent as you enter, heavenly music by a harpist each afternoon and beautifully-designed interiors.

Lunch was a long, leisurely affair, so rather than attempt the full afternoon tea, we enjoyed a pot of Postcard Earl Grey tea and warm, freshly-baked plain, raisin and apricot scones served with clotted cream, lemon curd and the most heavenly strawberry, rose and geranium jam.

I’ve experienced afternoon tea at The Rose Lounge before and the combination of delectable pastries in a relaxed, luxurious setting make it perfect for a post-shopping treat.

Sofitel St James is a beautiful, calming place to spend time in London, whether it’s unwinding with a treatment in So SPA, a leisurely meal in The Balcon or catching up with a friend over afternoon tea in the exquisite Rose Lounge.  When you’re feeling nostalgic for Paris, it’s the place to come for a bit of la vie en rose.

For more information and booking, visit: www.sofitelstjames.com

Chérie City was a guest of Sofitel St James

Photos by Chérie City and Sofitel St James

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Hotels, Hotels - Design, London

Georgian Splendour at The Zetter Townhouse

Sitting in the Townhouse Suite at The Zetter Townhouse, amid sumptuous fabrics, epic novels and a mysterious wall partition, I looked out from the large sash windows over the cobbled streets and felt instantly transported to the worlds of Lord Byron and Oscar Wilde (the latter being from a later era, but nevertheless a literary deviant).

There are few hotels in London that can conjure up the spirit of times gone by, but The Zetter Townhouse is a boutique temple to all things romantic and antiquated, with all the modern luxury touches, of course.

A handsome Georgian townhouse, The Zetter Townhouse has been designed by Russell Sage (other projects include The Savoy and The Goring) and occupies a charmed location on a cobbled cul-de-sac tucked just behind The Zetter Hotel and next door to The Modern Pantry.

On arrival, The Zetter Townhouse has an intimate, homely atmosphere, as there is no designated check-in area, just a discreet computer at the back of the cocktail lounge.

Our dwelling for the night was the stunning Townhouse Suite.  Designed in earthy library shades (think Farrow & Ball), the bedroom and separate living area were filled with dark wood antique furnishings, sumptuous Gainsborough fabrics, Persian rugs and the most gorgeous striped carpet ran throughout.

The spacious bedroom felt relaxing and homely and had a small writing desk, wall-mounted flat-screen TV and large glass bottles of complimentary spring water from The Zetter Borehole by the bedside.  The bed not only looks divine, with heavy damask drapes, but was like being nestled inside a marshmallow and covered in the finest linen.

The bathroom is huge and well-appointed with a vintage-style freestanding bath with showerhead, a mist-free mirror, magnifying mirror, plenty of fluffy towels, embroidered bathrobes and slippers, a vintage-style Roberts radio and natural REN bath products.

In fact, there are enough REN products for an indulgent spa evening, as we were given a whole range of lovely bath and skincare products to try out.  More beauty brands really should work more with hotels to gain new devotees to the ranges!

A current trend for hotels is to have glass bathroom doors as some kind of anti-bourgeois liberal statement (the English prude in me doesn’t like them). However, The Zetter Townhouse has a more playful approach to the bathroom peek-a-boo with carved wooden shutters opening to the bedroom.

Minimalism is an unknown concept at The Zetter Townhouse and the mass of antique furniture gives the rooms purpose and character, as though you’ve just walked into a luxurious city pied-à-terre.

The Zetter Townhouse may look back to more romantic epoques, but its approach to hosting guests is one of the most forward-thinking and accommodating in London.

The separate living room has everything you could possibly need for elegance lounging.  We had a flat screen TV (in each room), personally selected hard-back novels, a stack of glossy magazines, a SONOS music system and best of all, free wifi.

Taking tea is a ritual at The Zetter Townhouse and there is no compromising on the quality of the products or the ceremony.

A generous selection of loose leaf teas from Rare Tea Co. came with a tea pot, tea strainer and large cups. We also had use of a Nespresso machine complete with plenty coffee capsules and my favourite new gadget, a Latteccino, which makes hot, frothy milk in a mere minute.

Soon after we arrived, we were brought platter of freshly sliced fruit, a bottle of fresh milk and ice, should we wish for an aperitif.

Bistrot Bruno Loubet is just a stone-throw away at The Zetter Hotel, but you can quite easily coop yourself in at your city bolthole without having to hunt and gather dinner.

The cocktail bar offers bar snack and light meals and there is 24-hour room service, a gourmet snack tray and minibar stocked with bespoke Zetter Townhouse mixed cocktails and restorative bitters.

That evening, we went down to The Zetter Cocktail Lounge to try some of the Olde English-style cocktails.  Downstairs is where the real quirkiness of the townhouse is felt, as the cocktail lounge, adjoining dining room and basement games room are filled with bric-a-brac, oddities and taxidermy from around the world.

The Cocktail Lounge is a collaboration between The Zetter and the creators of the highly-esteemed 69 Colebrook Row, Tony Conigliaro and Camille Hobby Limon.

We sat under the watchful gaze of the hotel’s painted patron, Wilhelmina, but more about her later (no, she’s not the kangaroo).

After a long, peaceful sleep, we awoke to a wonderful continental breakfast delivered to our room. And what a visual feast it was too – just look at the divine china and silver cutlery!

We started the day with fresh, flaky pastries, home-made chocolate chip mini muffins, sourdough toast served with French butter and a large saucer of home-made jam, coconut yogurt, Cornflakes, fruit juice and the most delicious pears and apricots stewed in cinnamon syrup.  On weekends, The Zetter Townhouse serves a cooked breakfast, which I imagine to be just as decadent and delicious.

A stay at The Zetter Townhouse is one of those magical experiences that you’ll never forget and it will probably become a benchmark for comparing all future hotel experiences.

Eccentricity is matched with a meticulous attention to detail, creating a charming London residence steeped in history with all the mod cons that you’d expect from a modern design hotel.  It doesn’t get much better than that!

Take a look inside the Townhouse Suite…

For info and booking, visit: www.thezettertownhouse.com

Chérie City was a guest of Zetter Townhouse.

All photos by Chérie City.

Hotels - Design, London

The Zetter to open The Zetter Townhouse

Clerkenwell’s effortlessly stylish boutique hotel The Zetter, is extending its family to include a Georgian townhouse just on the other side of St John’s Square.

The Townhouse is set to be The Zetter’s petite, charming cousin, filled with designer objects and eclectic artworks collected on the global travels of owners Mark Sainsbury and Michael Benyam.

Designer Russell Sage has been enlisted to give the Townhouse a dramatic, English Eccentric look that will be in contrast with the modern-vintage, high design of  The Zetter Hotel.

The Zetter Townhouse will offer a more intimate, luxury B&B environment than The Zetter with just eleven rooms and two suites. Guests can hide away from the London crowds in one of the luxurious rooms or indeed book the entire Townhouse for a really decadent party.

Renowned drinks pioneer, Tony Congliaro has designed an ‘apothecary’-style bar which will serve up well-mixed cocktails and night caps.

Other homely comforts include a basement games room and private dining, sourced from Bistro Bruno Loubet at The Zetter Hotel.

The Zetter Townhouse opens late March 2011.