There is something quintessentially British about a hatted doorman. Particularly a very tall one. And perhaps, the quick doff of Jim’s top hat was the perfect introduction to my stay at The Athenaeum Hotel, a Mayfair landmark since 1840.
Surrounded by towering international hotel brands, The Athenaeum Hotel seems to revel in its privately owned status; a quirky island of boutique luxury amid global neighbours. Mind you, with the recent addition of Team Galvin as its F&B partner, with both brothers holding multiple Michelin stars, it has every reason to revel.
As if by antidote to Jim’s thoroughly British welcome, I’m thrown for a moment by the lack of a lobby; just two discreet pedestals each crowned by a small laptop operated by a whispering front of house team member.
Perhaps this is the very essence of independent boutique. Then again, the glorious vertical garden, the exterior/interior 10 storey Living Wall created by Patrick Blanc is nothing short of extraordinary. A nod to Green Park opposite for sure, but also a reminder that The Athenaeum experience is going to be far from ordinary.
Upstairs now and my luxuriously snug Park View room is a study of soothing pastel blues unashamedly taking second place to the glorious sea of green outside the window. Green Park may not have the space and dash of Hyde Park but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in style.
The room is dominated by a king bed and two very quirky upright chairs. Hairdresser meets modern regency perhaps. They remind me of the hotel’s rich Art Deco heritage and prove to be very comfortable. I sit for a while sipping an espresso from my Nespresso machine and people-watch in the park and along Piccadilly down below. The bathroom is my only disappointment; a very small space indeed for people of a certain size. Yet on the plus side, stocked with ESPA toiletries, soft fluffy robes and a great shower/bath.
The spa is calling for a quick bubble and sweat before dinner. Another pleasant surprise is the pair of Jacuzzi tubs sitting side by side. A couple of guests have already claimed one of them and are enjoying bubbles from the bath and from two flutes of champagne elegantly balanced on the brim.
It’s the only way to spa in Mayfair.
That said, after a satisfying steam and sauna, I gracefully bypass the well stocked gym on my way back to my room to get ready for dinner at Galvin at the Athenaeum.
While the seductive draw of Galvin cuisine is very tempting, the reputation of the drinks and cocktails on offer at THE BAR is a destination too famous to overlook. Movie clips loop on one wall casting shadows of famous Hollywood people across dimly lit tables. Rather apt given the stream of Hollywood glitterati who have frequented the hotel during the showbiz years of the Rank Organisation, a previous owner. There is a hugely impressive whisky collection adorning another wall, including a 1948 Glenlivet. Sensing my interest, I’m treated to a quick tour of the Scottish distilleries on display by Sean, a very knowledgeable mixoligist.
“If you like whisky, our Shaken Rob Roy will not disappoint”
I’m tempted. “Ok, so it’s got whisky and…”
” Mancino Chinato, Mancino Vermouth Rosso, both created by Giancarlo Mancino our Master Bartender, rosso cherry heering and angastura bitters.”
“Does it come with a cherry?”
“Not just a cherry Mr. Mossack, a Maraschino cherry fermented by us for 48 hours.”
Needless to say it is an epic production. Topped by a perfect cherry balancing on a brick of ice.
The Bar is a haven of craft spirits with its signature cocktails described on individual recipe backed cards including the now infamous Shaken Rob Roy.
With THE BAR’s cocktail ingredients warming me from the inside, my table at Galvin at the Athenaeum is calling me. Galvin brothers Chris and Jeff always set their culinary bar very high and this is no exception. It is a celebration of very affordable fine British brasserie fare under the stewardship of Executive Chef William Lloyd-Baker.
In my opinion, for a hotel to outsource it’s food and beverage operation to a highly decorated team like Galvin is a very sensible strategy. You not only get the benefit of Michelin level quality, you also get a perfectly trained team to deliver it too which is just as important as far as I’m concerned.
Boutique luxury is to my mind, 5 star with benefits. You should get treated like royalty but without the formality and stuffiness you might find in loftier institutions.
As I left The Athenaeum Hotel the next morning, Jim was on hand to open the door with another doff of his hat.
With that, I felt the circle was more than complete.
Tell me more about The Athenaeum Hotel
Located in Mayfair, The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences has 164 bedrooms, including 12 suites, 18 townhouse residences and a rooftop suite.
Rooms are from £316 per night.
116 Piccadilly, Mayfair, London W1J 7BJ.
Tel +44 (0)20 7499 3464