Luxury Hotels

A NEW – OR A RE-NEW – GM

What does a top hotelier do on the first day in the job? ¬†Well, if it’s John McLean, boss of The Stafford London and CEO of The Stafford Collection, it could well be spending the evening with Girlahead. Except this was not a normal case and should not become a copybook scenario. John McLean had been working here before, 34 years ago. As a teenager back in Queensland he’d won a culinary prize and Cunard, who then owned The Stafford and The Ritz and more, offered him a job.

Now he’s back. He started yesterday, his first day back at The Stafford, at 7 a.m. after an hour’s commute (this is one keen Aussie). As is his wont, first he talked to the early morning potwashers and then the housekeeper. Importance must be prioritised.

6.30 p.m. found him in the absolutely-full American Bar. Boys’ school caps and tie-ends, all presumably pinched, hanging overhead. A buzz of noise. Water and nibbles come automatically. Martinis come thick and fast to the late-20s local workers, marketing execs and property developers to the forefront. Many seem regulars, a quick relax after work, Japanese salarymen-style only these are well-dressed high-earners in London.

There is a bar menu but the a3-sized thick card menu for the adjacent The Game Bird is brought on request. A waiter, no-name since The Stafford’s near-200 team wear no labels, a waiter takes the order, returns in lightning speed to say the table is ready. The Game Bird is a quintessentially-English dining oasis, 35 seats. Somehow Japanese china has infiltrated this picture of John Betjeman meets Brideshead. There is, carefully explained, English butter to go with the French brioche rolls, not explained. The menu’s caviar is from Exmoor (try that next time). Tonight, it’s a beautiful burrata, followed by a Dover sole, filleted. That’s all for Girlahead. Rock Angel enhanced the gastronomic satisfaction.

Dessert? Next visit. The benjamin Stafford boss headed home and Girlahead prepared to take the cut through to the Park and her temporary home (she looked back to see a concierge in silhouette, below). Mr McLean had managed the evening as if conducting a well-tuned orchestra. Watch this 107-room hotel metaphorically take off, Girlahead managed to murmur to herself.