St Ermin’s Hotel has changed. It was always a classic hotel and the history was always evident in the very brickwork. But in 2011 it closed for half a year and a £30 million refurbishment, and was totally transformed into the modern 4-star hotel that we see today. It retains much of its character but it’s now contemporary and light.
It’s what you might describe as a ‘prime location’. Hard to argue with that: it’s just a few yards (that isn’t an estate agent yard) from St James’s Park Underground station which houses the entrance to the HQ of London Underground, so bound to have trouble-free transport. That iconic Art Deco ticket hall introduces the visitor to the notion of architectural excellence, but take that short walk to St Ermin’s and you’ll find one of the most striking red-brick hotels in London.
The Grade II listed Victorian building started life as one of the early mansion blocks in London. The brick and stone combination is typical of buildings of the design known as Queen Anne style. They were the forerunner (although very high-end) of modern apartment blocks. The apartments were converted to a hotel in the 1890s, and it went on to enjoy a rich and intriguing history. It was a meeting place of the British intelligence services, as well as the Cambridge Five double-agents Kim Philby and Donald MacLean, who met their Russian handlers at St Ermin’s.
St Ermin’s is offering a delightfully seasonal afternoon tea called Winter Wonderland. It does indeed showcase some wintery ingredients but perhaps the chef should consider having this as an option all year. It would be ideal for men, who seldom enjoy those pretty and multi-coloured light mousses that are the norm.
Winter Wonderland has the traditional format of sweet and savoury but the components are unique. The selection of sandwiches gives a nod to Yuletide, including turkey on cranberry bread, ham and pickle, cheese and onion with a garnish of chutney as an open sandwich, and smoked salmon and cream cheese as another open rye bread sandwich. All of these remind me of Boxing Day and delicious leftovers. The staff are more than happy to replenish the sandwiches on demand so they are fresh.
Tuck into the warm scones next and enjoy these with the usual garnishes of strawberry jam, clotted cream and honey. The clotted cream is thick and rich and replaces the butter. Devon and Cornish folks have different ways of spreading their scones. One puts jam on first and then the cream and the other puts the cream on and then a spoon of jam …but I can never remember who does what. If you are from the West Country you will likely know, and if you aren’t then it won’t matter.
Mulled apple cider jelly with apple cream could be your next sweet treat and this is truly exceptional. The jelly is bright and light and full-flavoured. The sweet cream is an inspired topping and gives the tall shot glasses the air of a Christmas candle.
German spiced Lebkuchen, Pumpkin passion cupcakes and Brunsli (Swiss brownies) constitute the cake complement and are truly old-fashioned and just right for the weather – not over-sweet but with that adult mixed-spice flavour that goes well with some tea. And there is a good selection of that at St Ermin’s, as well.
Call 020 7227 7777, 0800 652 1498 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book your table for tea.
St. Ermin’s Hotel
2 Caxton St
London SW1H 0QW
Phone: 020 7222 7888
To find out more visit St Ermin’s here
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018