Hotels & Places to Stay

The Stafford London main entrance St James's Place

 

Having experienced ‘The Stafford in the Country Experience’ at Cowdray House in West Sussex, the ancestral home of Lord & Lady Cowdray it was a natural progression to travel to ‘town’ to experience The Stafford London on its home turf and in particular the Game Bird restaurant which has been the reason behind The Stafford forming an alliance with Cowdray to supply the restaurant with fresh game from the Cowdray Estate shoots.  This has proved to be a marriage made in heaven as the Game Bird Restaurant has received glowing reviews since its launch in 2017.

Amongst the accolades heaped on The Game Bird is the interesting entitled award of, Most Civilised Restaurant in the Tatler Restaurant Awards 2018 acknowledged for being sophisticated, cultured and refined – all one could wish for your dining experience; and the reviews for the Game Bird by top critics have been full of compliments and praise; Jay Rayner of the Guardian ; Giles Coren of The Times ; Michael Deacon of The Telegraph ; Tom Parker Bowles of The Daily Mail  and Ben Norum of The Evening Standard.

It is rare for such well respected critics to be in accord about a restaurant so it is a testament to the talents of James Durrant, the Executive Chef, that he has created an award winning restaurant.

However, having launched The Game Bird to such culinary heights, James Durrant has decided to step down as Executive Chef and move on to pastures new.  The reins have been handed to The Game Bird’s Head Chef, Jozef Rogulski who has now been appointed Executive Chef.  Jozef’s path to The Game Bird has been by way of Cliveden House Hotel, The Hand and Flowers and The Waterside Inn, so it can be safely assumed that the restaurant will continue to excite its diners with innovative use of the finest produce and in particular that from the Cowdray Estate.

Another new appointment to The Stafford is Ben Tish as Culinary Director whose role will be to oversee the entire food offering, including The Game Bird Restaurant, the celebrated American Bar, private dining, suites and in-room dining.  So expect some exciting new projects for The Stafford in the years to come.

However, some stalwarts remain and are thankfully unchanged, retaining the history of The Stafford, The American Bar is a destination for any American or Canadian visiting London to reminisce about an oasis of glamour amidst the horrors of WWII – whilst the bombs were falling on London, American and Canadian officers took refuge in the bar and when the raids became too much, took shelter in the cellars.

 

The famous American Bar at The Stafford London

 

Ben Tish has only to maintain the existing excellence of The American Bar and the loyal guests who return year after year will be satisfied.  For those who have not yet experienced the unique atmosphere of The American Bar, then a treat is in store.  Sitting amongst the celebrity autographs, sailing memorabilia, artefacts and photos of people who simply love the place, one can have the best cocktails in London, fantastic food and service, all carried out under the watchful eye of Bar Manager, Benoit Provost.

The Cellars at The Stafford London and the sommelier Gino Nardella

Gino Nardella, Master Sommelier and the table laid for guests in the 380 year old cellars of The Stafford London 

Alternative dining experiences at The Stafford can be had in the 380 year old cellars which were used as an air raid shelter in WWII and there is still a museum there displaying memorabilia just abandoned by the American and Canadian officers who used The Stafford as a club during their time in London.   Special parties and wine tasting can be held here to make an unusual setting for dining with wines served by The Stafford’s Master Sommelier, Gino Nardella, who we met at the previously mentioned The Stafford in the Country Experience at Cowdray House.   Over 8,000 bottles of the world’s finest wines are stored here and Gino has tasted each and every wine over his forty years at The Stafford!

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Cowdray House at Midhurst West Sussex

We were recently invited by The Stafford London and Cowdray to attend a two day event at Cowdray Park and to stay for the night at Cowdray House, so that we could witness the style in which future clients of this new venue will be treated, and I can confirm that the answer is ‘very well’ indeed!

The future of Cowdray House has been secured by Lord Cowdray by utilising this imposing family home as an exclusive event venue, catering for such things as weddings, and other family celebrations, and corporate events, such as conferences and product launches etc.

The advantage of this solution is that the Cowdray family retain ownership of the property, but are able to rely on their very able management team to maintain and manage the buildings and grounds.

Overseen by Chief Executive, Jonathan Russell, this has happily resulted in a ‘Virtuous Circle’ – a recurring cycle of events, the result of each one being to increase the beneficial effect of the next!

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The entrance to Hambleton Hall Rutland

I first came across Hambleton Hall in 1982 when I was looking for somewhere different to spend the first night after my wedding and an hotel where we could arrive by helicopter.  There were precious few decent country house hotels in those days, but someone suggested I look at Hambleton Hall, and so I drove up there with my best man whose opinion I trusted in such matters.  We had lunch on the terrace on a beautiful summer’s day, and were smitten by the view of Rutland Water and to further my conviction that this was the perfect hotel in which to start my honeymoon, there was a perfect spot to land a helicopter.

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Audi A3 Cabriolet in front of Hotel Tresanton St MawesAudi A3 Cabriolet parked temporarily outside of Hotel Tresanton to have luggage unloaded by the ever efficient staff and then valet parked – now the relaxing can start!

A trip to Cornwall would not be complete without a visit to St. Mawes and the exemplary Tresanton Hotel. This is in no small part due to its owner, Olga Polizzi who was destined from birth to create beautiful places for people to stay, being the daughter of Lord Charles Forte.  Thankfully for all of us who have been fortunate to stay at Tresanton or Hotel Endsleigh (her country hotel at Milton Abbot near Tavistock), she is very good at it.

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Rick Stein The Seafood Restaurant glass frontIn the past year, the Rick Stein story has been turned up a notch as this well-known ‘Brand’ has been developed and promoted throughout the UK, as one  new restaurant after another has sprung up in every affluent town.

Our first encounter was at Sandbanks, notoriously known as having some of the most expensive real estate in the world, and then at what was ‘The Depot’ a well-loved riverside restaurant in Barnes, where it is now ‘bedding down’ nicely as a new Rick Stein.

Bearing in mind the extraordinary success of the Rick Stein brand, we thought we would go to where this empire was launched, the internationally recognised Seafood Restaurant in Padstow, Cornwall.

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The Audi S5 Cabriolet driving through the grounds of Hotel Endsleigh

The Audi S5 Cabriolet driving through the grounds of Hotel Endsleigh at the height of Spring 

If you are seeking the peace and tranquillity of nature, shaped by the hand of man, and a temporary escape from the stresses and strains of the 21st century, then I can highly recommend a few days at Hotel Endsleigh, situated on a stunning stretch of the Tamar valley on the edge of Dartmoor.

The house and surrounding gardens and landscape, have all been substantially restored since Olga Polizzi first saw and fell in love with this special place, and bought it in 2004.

It first opened its doors to hotel guests in 2006, and has now established itself as highly desirable hotel surrounded by some of the most beautiful gardens and impressive scenery in Britain.

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Ockenden Manor Cuckfield West Sussex garden and manor house in sunshine

On first sight Ockenden Manor tucked away in the well-heeled commuter town of Cuckfield in Sussex, might appear to be just another traditional Country House Hotel.  It is all these things but it has a delightful surprise in its ultra modern box-like Spa complex that shouldn’t work architecturally, but just does.  It makes a startling contrast to the Elizabethan manor but provides all that one could want in the way of a Spa.

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Luton Hoo Hotel Golf Course and Spa

Luton Hoo is yet another example of a once powerful and influential family losing their wealth and being forced to sell the ‘family jewels’.   Luton Hoo was one of England’s grandest stately homes, and its sale marked the final episode in the sad story of the Phillips family, who inherited the Grade I listed mansion in 1977.

When staying there one is surrounded by the history of Luton Hoo which plays a major part of the whole guest experience. So it is worth learning a little of the background story to this home and to those who had once lived and loved here.

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The elegant exterior of The Gore Hotel 190 Queens Gate Kensington LondonThe Gore hotel in Kensington is the hotel of choice for a stay in London for many reasons, not least that The Gore is so conveniently placed for the Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Palace, London’s Hyde Park and the Natural History, Victoria & Albert, and Science Museums, and is a stone’s throw for some serious retail therapy at Harrods and Harvey Nichols.

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