7-8 Park Place in St. James’s, now known as The St. James’s Hotel and Club, is a building that dates back to 1891. Built originally as a set of chambers, it came to public attention in 1889 when police raided a club known as the Field Club that was operating from there. Inside they arrested 21 individuals caught playing baccarat including the Earl of Dudley, Lord Lurgan, Lord Paulet and Baron Ferraro.
The exterior of The St. James's Hotel and Club
The St. James’s Club, established by Earl Granville and the Marchese d’Azeglio in 1857, has been based at 7 – 8 Park Place for many years as well. With a joining fee of £250 and an annual fee of £400, membership offers discounts throughout the property and reciprocal arrangements at other clubs around the world. Under the chairmanship of Sir John Mills, members included Liz Minelli, Dudley Moore, Pete Townshend, Sir Michael Caine, Sir Sean Connery and Lord Attenborough. Today the list is said to include Samuel L. Jackson, Cher, Keith Richards, Elle Macpherson, Damian Lewis and Katherine Jenkins.
Cher (Cherilyn Sarkisian) on the steps of The St. James's Hotel and Club
The St. James’s Hotel and Club underwent significant renovations in 2008 following a change of ownership and now includes 50 rooms and 10 suites designed by AJM Design from Berlin.
William Drabble: The St. James's Hotel and Club's Executive Chef
Since September 2009, William Drabble has been the hotel’s Excecutive Chef. Drabble, who took over from Gordon Ramsay at Aubergine in Chelsea and ran it for a decade, oversees two restaurants at The St. James’s Hotel and Club, the 34 seat Michelin starred Seven Park Place and the 26 cover William’s Bar & Bistro. At both he offers menus that reflect his passion for modern French-style cuisine made using seasonal British produce.
On a crisp Monday at the end of November, I chose to try William’s Bar & Bistro with my regular reviewing companion. The space itself is informal in style and our window table in a bay window provided a view down Park Place towards the bustle of St. James’s Street. To my right was a licensing sign displayed in a silver frame. To us both this seemed like an odd thing to display so prominently but beyond that the room is both comfortable and colourfully decorated.
William's Bar & Bistro
The menu at William’s Bar & Bistro is somewhat more simple than the hotel’s main dining room’s à la carte offering. To begin, I commenced with a creamy lobster risotto with tarragon and chives (£14.50) that was utterly perfect. My friend found his choice of chicken fillets with spicy peanut sauce (£12) very much to his liking.
To follow, the grilled sirloin of dry aged beef, served with parsley butter and French fries (£24), that I opted for was, to my mind, served with far too much butter but otherwise most enjoyable. Sadly, however, my companion’s “Wiener Schnitzel” classic veal escallope (£24) was overly tough.
The management of William’s Bar & Bistro, however, then redeemed themselves by being totally understanding of our critique and subsequently excelled with a soaked parvin savarin with raspberries (£7.50) that was rich and deliciously alcohol soaked that we followed with a selection of British cheeses.
The 18 page wine list is truly international in its offering. A 1997 Opus One at £535 sits alongside a Chilean De Gras Sauvignon Blanc at £22. Here there is something for every taste and budget and to my pleasure the bar, ably run by my old friend Zdenek Zemen, also stocks Viru, one of my favourite pilsner beers.
Jerry Hall and Marie Helvin pictured at The St. James's Hotel and Club with legendary photographers Richard Young and Dave Bennett
If you’re looking for a clubbable cove, you’ll certainly find just such at the St. James’s Hotel and Club.
St. James’s Hotel and Club, 7 – 8 Park Place, London, SW1A 1LS. Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7316 1600. Website: http://www.stjamesclubandhotel.co.uk