Presenting St Ermin’s Hotel London November 5, 2015 During a recent trip to Europe, we had the pleasure to stay at the beautiful St Ermin’s Hotel in London. Because I get to travel frequently for work, I appricate hotels that feel like a comfortable home away from home with friendly staff, a convenient central location, great restaurants and if you can add to my long list of requirements cosy afternoon tea … you cannot make me happier. Little did I know I would find all of the above and more at the St Ermin’s Hotel. I’ve always been a big fan of James Bond movies and was happy to learn that this place was a favourite of Bond creator Ian Fleming and spy Kim Philby. With an intriguing and glamorous past – The hotel is the only publicly accessible establishment in London closely associated with the history of espionage, particularly the British intelligence services through WWII and the Cold War – eclectic styling, gorgeous rooms and suites, the enigmatic Caxton Bar and Terrace plus three AA rosette signature restaurant, ‘Adam Handling at Caxton’, the four-star deluxe St Ermin’s Hotel in London’s St James’s Park has been transformed after a £30 million renovation project. The overall result is a distinctly individual, contemporary and welcoming offering – and with room rates starting at just £209 is accessible for all to experience. The welcome has even extended to bees with the recent opening of London’s only ‘bee & bee’ hotel alongside the hotel’s resident Buckfast bee hives on the third floor wildflower terrace. St Ermin’s has recently joined Marriott International’s Autograph Collection. Just a five-minute walk across St James’s Park to Buckingham Palace and Piccadilly the hotel is ideally placed for stylish city sightseeing or business meetings in the resurgent corporate Westminster and Victoria areas. What’s more, with the hotel’s links to the establishment’s secret London, it’s a stone’s throw from Whitehall, Big Ben, Parliament Square, The Cabinet War Rooms, New Scotland Yard and just a hop from the water taxis on the river and the South Bank. From the diverse combination of grade II listed architecture, evocative Art Nouveau styling, Rococo plasterwork, awe-inspiring, theatrical balcony in the lobby (the original St Ermin’s interiors were designed by the famous British theatrical designer, J. P. Briggs c1900) and contemporary pieces, it is clear that LA-based designer Dayna Lee of Powerstrip Studio was influenced and inspired by the history of the building, the English great house style and London’s status as an international crossroads. Lee also took inspiration from Christopher Dresser, a visionary C19tth British botanist and designer who was influential around the time St Ermin’s was built, as plants, flowers and leaves appear throughout. The result is a renovated property offering guests a contemporary version of ‘The Grand Tour’; handpicked antiques and collectables sit together with modern pieces to provide a warm, sophisticated, highly textural London welcome. A Porta Romana red-pleated lampshade perched on a pair of duck-webbed feet, terracotta Vivienne Westwood wallpaper, hints of the Orient in cushions and prints and framed origami clothes made from maps of the area, all come together to tie the hotel to its location and instil a global, yet local feel inside. ‘Adam Handling at Caxton’… opened September 2014, this light and airy 72-seat restaurant with private dining room for ten, overlooks the hotel’s pretty courtyard garden and offers multiple award-winning Handling’s creative a la carte dishes and tasting menus for lunch and dinner. An interior green wall of seasonal herbs and plants sets the tone for Handling’s complex cooking which provides simple, elemental tastes and textures through a fusion of classical and inventive techniques. A highly accomplished chef, Adam Handling brings his love of Asian flavours and techniques – particularly Japanese to his kitchen. His beautifully presented dishes start with careful sourcing of top quality, seasonal ingredients, prepared in a number of different, creative ways to enhance their inherent properties and deliver real depth of flavour and harmony. Honey, for instance, is ‘hyper local’ coming direct from the roof where over 300,000 Buckfast bees have settled in to their hives, gathering nectar from the nearby royal gardens of St James’s Park, Buckingham Palace and the hotel’s own ‘bee friendly’ courtyard garden. Afternoon Tea … is a speciality at the St Ermin’s Hotel, served every afternoon in the beautiful, elegant first floor mezzanine Tea Lounge. A Classic and Speciality afternoon tea is offered as well as a ‘Busy Bees’ tea for children at weekends and during the school holidays. May 2015 sees the first opening of ‘Tea on the Terrace’ For the Summer season. The St Ermin’s Hotel is the only publicly accessible establishment in London closely associated with the history of British espionage. During the 1930s the hotel and the next building at 2 Caxton Street were used by officers of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS or MI6) located close by at 54 Broadway to meet agents, and is well documented from March 1938 as the headquarters first of SIS’s Section D, headed by the Australian George Taylor and then as the home of Special Operations Executive (SOE), working under ‘Statistical Research Department’ cover. Among the more famous personnel known to have worked from offices in the building are Ian Fleming, Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, Laurence Grand, H. Montgomery Hyde and Eric Maschwitz. Throughout the Second World War the building operated as a convenient annex by SIS surrounded by other secret organizations including the London branch of Government Communications Headquarters (in Palmer Street); MI9 in Caxton Street; the SIS Chief’s office at 21 Queen Anne’s Gate; the SIS offices in Artillery Mansions on Victoria Street and in the basement of St Anne’s Mansions and the MI8 listening post on the roof of the Passport Office in Petty France. In addition, the hotel and its Caxton Bar was used regularly by SIS, MI5 and Naval Intelligence Division case officers to meet their agents, as mentioned in SNOW by Madoc Roberts whilst the SIS also interviewed prospective employees (usually by the organization’s recruiter, Marjorie Maxse, as detailed by Kim Philby in his autobiography, My Silent War), in its rooms. Shortly before the WWII the hotel was the venue for guerilla warfare classes run partly by MI6 and amongst those working for ‘King and Country’ within that group at the time was Noel Coward as well as art expert and member of the notorious Cambridge Five spy ring, Anthony Blunt. In 1940 Sir Winston Churchill – who was known to have enjoyed a glass of his favourite champagne in the Caxton Bar – asked a group of very special individuals to meet at the St Ermin’s Hotel to “set Europe ablaze” – that group became the SOE (Special Operations Executive). Its purpose was specialized, covert operations during WWII; we know them today as the SAS. They initially housed themselves over an entire floor of this historic Westminster hotel. Shortly after WWII St Ermin’s was again at the heart of an undercover operation – this time for the Russians. Double agent and eventual defector Guy Burgess frequently met his Russian counterpart at the hotel to hand over top-secret government files in the Caxton Bar. The hotel has also been used as an MI5 safe house and intelligence expert, author, and ex-MP Rupert Allason named his publishing house after the hotel; St Ermin’s Press. The hotel’s exceptional position is, perhaps, largely responsible for its interest to those for whom discretion is key; St. Ermin’s Hotel is now immediately opposite the Metropolitan Police headquarters at New Scotland Yard, a stone’s throw from Whitehall, just to the north of Parliament Square and across the river from the new headquarters of the British secret service. Ideally placed for the establishment’s secret London, rumour has it a tunnel runs from underneath the grand staircase in the sumptuous lobby all the way to the Houses of Westminster – could this be part of the mysterious Q-Whitehall network? There is certainly a Division Bell to usher Members of Parliament out of their cozy corners and back across Parliament Square. Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email.