Luxury Hotels

LONDON OVER-NIGHTER – 2

At Sofitel St James, London, the bar is entry way to Wild Honey, Anthony Demetre’s phenomenally successful restaurant that has relocated here lock, stock and barrel. It has cleverly bifurcated in the process. The lower part, opening directly to Pall Mall as well as the hotel, has cherry-red leather upholstery and three 1.5-metre circular light haloes overhead. By night this is more bistro-like, casual. Up three steps, and divided off by dinky white curtains from a shoulder-high brass rail, is somewhat finer-dining, soft teal fabric upholstery but the same, uncovered, wood tables.

Wild Honey’s menus  are simple, three courses for £95. Girlahead starts with amuse, goujères of foie gras, pea and crème fraiche tartlets, and goes on to three fingers of warm Lincolnshire smoked eel lacquered with Sanshö pepper, and three same-sized fingers of heritage beetroot, separated by satay relish – the beetroot and eel juice, brought in an elegant silver, is poured, tableside, into a small cup, and drunk as soup. We talk about Whispering Angel’s creator Sacha Lichine while drinking his rosé.

How to follow this? Next choice is Loire Valley white asparagus on a miso-hollandaise, with a dollop of pulverised kumquat and a dark brown flower ‘corsage’. This turns out to be a maitake mushroom, ‘a type of adaptogen that may help fight cancer, lower cholesterol, and improve diabetes’. It certainly tastes good. The chosen desert is the warm chocolate soufflé, a different presentation from the norm in that instead of overflowing from a cocotte the dark brown elixir barely seems to rise above the base of a fullsize soup bowl with significant surround: the chocolate shares the space with a walnut-sized dollop of icecream made from Estate Dairy milk (coincidentally Girlahead had never heard of this recently-formed Somerset dairy collective but the following day her Eurostar onboard meal tray included an Estate Dairy butter wrap – the unwrapped butter on the Wild Honey meal, it must be noted, was d’Isigny).

Well, this is a favourite hotel, and the good night’s sleep could well have gone on for a lot longer but all things, good as well as not-so-good, usually come to the end. Instant hot water for a shower, and newspapers already outside the door added to the favourite ticks, as did a visit to the gym. It looks spectacular, with bright green carpet stripes matching vertical panels of living walls, and Technogym bits where even the televisions work. The bowl of fresh fruits has not been moved overnight. Help yourself to dried fruit. Organise your own stress relief, in an apple-green room dominated by a dayglo gentian bed with sound-calming bursts of intonation – see above..

After that, breakfast could well have been a let down but the standard stayed right up. The dinky curtains have been pulled back so Wild Honey is one big room. Tables bear green herbs and pots of Tiptree preserves. Soft music provides white noise. The ‘brasserie’ bar is now a buffet, notable for jars of ‘luxury’ yoghurt as well as plain coconut or Greek varieties. Standing out from usual early-morning offerings are juicy smoked salmon, and breads, from Flourish.  The toaster’s a pale blue Smeg.

On departure, a seasoned doorman in a truly-memorable olive plaid jacket that could well grace ay Gilbert & Sullivan, front row, asks one please to come back (it’s hard not to write automatically well, this IS a favourite hotel).