Seven Park Place review: sinful and sumptuous dining at St. James’s Hotel & Club
William Drabble’s creations are ‘exquisitely prepared’ and presented to a ‘uniquely flawless standard’
Snuggled behind Piccadilly Circus, a stone’s throw from Green Park, the bright lights of The Ritz and many up-market shops, you’ll find the St. James’s Hotel & Club, tucked away off a quiet, unassuming side street. In the run-up to Christmas, away from the bustle of Jermyn Street, the beautiful Burlington Arcade and the Royal Academy, the hotel resembles a fairytale gingerbread house or doll’s house, all gleaming lights and two nutcracker guards flanking the gorgeous Mayfair property.
St. James’s Hotel & Club, which dates back to 1857, was originally intended to be a club for traveling diplomats, with the likes of Winston Churchill, Ian Fleming and Henry James gracing its halls. It has long had a whiff of the exclusive; Charles Dickens wrote “members are elected by ballot, but members of the corps diplomatique, of the English diplomatic service, and of the Foreign Office, may be admitted without ballot, under certain restrictions”. Fast forward to the 1980s, and members included Liza Minnelli, Dudley Moore, Peter Townshend, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Tim Rice, Michael Parkinson and Lord Attenborough.
Its newly relaunched 1857 bar, which boasts an extensive port menu, Murano glass chandeliers, and impressive art collection – Impressionist, Expressionist and Cubist works from across Europe – give the place a sense of effortless cool.
The pièce de résistance of the hotel is without a doubt the fabulous, award-winning Michelin-starred restaurant, Seven Park Place. The mastermind chef behind the restaurant is William Drabble, who prides himself on using locally-sourced food – hardly an original food philosophy these days – but his creations are exquisitely prepared and presented to a uniquely flawless standard. Drabble was influenced by his beloved grandmother who was also a cook at Yorkshire’s great estates in the 1930s. The provenance and ethos of the food is local and British, but with French highlights and influences interwoven throughout the menu – we plumped for the Gourmand menu, seven courses for £105.
The standout courses were the gorgeous, plump scallops with celeriac and apple, Lune Valley lamb and the dessert which was an enchanting forest of dark bitter chocolate and sweet orange. Not to be missed is, we were told, Drabble’s signature dish of seared foie gras with gingerbread, which really is a taste sensation unlike any other. Warm, with a slightly crunchy exterior, the offering is utterly sumptuous, wicked and indulgent.
The service and surroundings are impeccable, all white table cloths and plush deep carpets, with frequent proposals of fresh bread and knowledgeable staff armed with perfectly paired wines, making the entire dining experience a real occasion to be savored and lingered over in the presence of good company.
The room and facilities
The downsides of our stay were the lack of room service (although this was possibly due to Covid restrictions, it wasn’t clear), and our room itself was quite small, with some outside noise audible late at night (although I think room sizes do vary quite considerably at the hotel). There is no spa at the hotel, though in-room treatments are available, and we struggled to get the television to work. Breakfast struck us as a slightly sad affair, down in the basement with no natural light and an unloved buffet, but perhaps the next few meals after such a top class dinner were always going to be a disappointment.
That may be the hotel’s most unforgivable sin – the lingering, creeping fear that comes over you as you check out, and venture back into the bracing Christmas bustle, that you won’t eat anywhere half as good as Seven Park Place for quite some time.
St. James’s Hotel & Club Mayfair, 7-8 Park Place, St. James’s, London SW1A 1LS; stjameshotelandclub.com