On a dreary, wet late November afternoon in London a broad smile lit up our faces as we rounded the corner into the courtyard of the St Ermin’s hotel. There were lights, flowers in bloom, trees still with full green foliage, defying the season.
Stepping into the lobby, we were further wowed by our first impressions inside too.
We were checking in. The reception staff were very friendly, our check-in was prompt. As we were early for our check-in, our room was not totally ready.
Louise one of the receptists summoned the kids over and in hushed voices explained to them that they are now new recruits, if they wish to accept, and they have a top secret mission to complete. She handed them an envelope marked “Top Secret” with a little booklet and a worksheet inside- this was their Budding Bond package. That was them occupied for the next hour!
The lobby of St Ermin’s with the sweeping staircase to the mezzanine level is gorgeous! The intricate stucco work is beautiful in gleaming white. The rest of the décor comfortable and slightly quirky, ultimately inviting. We were drawn to stay longer here even when our room was ready.
The lobby, library and bar all hold intrigue, mixing old and new styles.
The kids had several clues they needed to find dotted around this part of the hotel. It was fascinating to find the rhino, duck feet (under a lamp), origami clothes made from maps and count the number of owls.
Once we managed to tear ourselves and the kids away from the lobby, we took the quirky narrow lift to the 5th floor. Our room, 511, a family room, consisted of 2 queen-sized beds, a daybed, a desk and two small bathrooms.
The room was a good size, with a lovely calm décor.
On the desk I found a personalised welcome letter and two packs of macroons awaiting
us me…I ate them all (… not right then, but later and they were good!) There was also some complimentary bottled water on the desk right by the phone.
Initially, we were going to have Max (3) sleep with us, but when the housekeeper came and offered to turn the beds down, I asked for the daybed to be made up too. (Putting Max to sleep later on this, I almost fell asleep on it myself. It is a very comfortable large single, which I could’ve shared with him easily.)
The double beds were very comfortable too. There was only one bedside table and bedside lamp, though, shared between both double beds.
When the beds were turned down the housekeeping lady left some busy bee chocolates on the pillows and a lavendar pillow spray. Lovely touches!
For the gadget hoarders like us: The room had two spare socket on each side of the large room next to the luggage benches and also two sockets really easily accessible on the desk. In fact, the desk also had two 110V sockets. It was however missing an easily accessible charging point by the bedside table. (There was an alarm clock with an iPod dock on the bedside table instead. I didn’t move the furniture to find the socket.)
Late afternoon, while the Madventurer, Angelina and Hugo headed out to answer some of the spy questions around Westminster, Max and I stayed in to watch a Channel 5 film in the hope that Max would actually fall asleep. Ha!
All the UK main freeview channels were available on the large flat screen hung on the wall. In addition, there were a one or two of German, French and Russian channels.
I really appreciated the in-room tea and coffee making facilities: I opted for decaf instant coffee, though there was a cafetiere to make “proper” coffee. There were little milk pods, but I could’ve called down to reception to have some fresh milk brought to the room at no extra charge.
The room had a little fridge for the minibar. Useful if you have younger children or fussy eaters and want to store some food for them.
In the room there were two wardrobes with hangers inside, in them 2 bathrobes and 2 pairs of slippers each. One wardrobe also had an iron, ironing board and hairdryer.
The two bathrooms in the room were identical: They are compact (two adults would be very cosy in one), but immaculately clean and very well presented. The soap and shower gel, shampoo and conditioner were all from The White Company.
The towels were large, white and fluffy. Extras included shower cap, cotton buds, cotton balls and body lotion.
In room entertainment
WiFi in the hotel is free and was accessible in the room too.
Besides the TV channels I mentioned, there was an option to borrow a PlayStation or DVDs. We borrowed some DVDs from reception and a maintenance staff member installed a DVD player. The selection of films was limited, but a variety of genres. The kids watched How to train your dragon Christmas special and we were planning to watch Diana after they’d fallen asleep. As we had to switch off all lights while they fell asleep, the Madventurer and I ended up falling asleep too. In fact, we might’ve beaten the kids to it.
We all slept very well.
Breakfast was served across the Library, Bar and the Caxton Restaurant. The selection wasn’t huge, but the quality of products was outstanding. Some of the favourites we tasted- the sausages that were very flavourful, the brie full-bodied and the cinnamon bun just as if they come out of your Swedish grandma’s oven.
Gluten-free and dairy-free diets are catered for.
Scrambled eggs were available in the warm section, but we ordered some hard boiled eggs too…anything to ensure the mini Max eats enough to aviod meltdowns later. They arrived perfectly cooked as we requested.
The breakfast staff were all very cheerful and helpful. The greeting staff remembered who we were and asked if all was to our satisfaction, using my name.
One of the best bits about having breakfast on a Sunday: It is served to noon! If you have teens, you can all have a lie-in.
The hotel also has a gym, which we didn’t have a chance to look at or try.
The hotel has no parking on site, but has valet parking. On weekends there is also free street parking in neighbouring streets- just ask the fabulous doorman, Pat.
Highlights of St Ermin’s Hotel
The décor, as I mentioned, is beautiful and tempts one to spend more time in the hotel and less exploring London. (Not a bad thing when the British weather is bringing its worst form.)
The history of the St Ermin’s is intricately intertwined with British espionage. In fact, 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. The likes of Ian Fleming, Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, Laurence Grand, H. Montgomery Hyde and Eric Maschwitz were all known to have worked from the building and throughout the Second World War, it operated as a convenient annex by SIS surrounded by other secret organizations.
Besides the Budding Bonds secret mission for the kids (more of that in my next blog post), there are lots of little features of the hotel that reflect on it’s past.
The location of the hotel is fabulous! It is in the heart of it all, in the middle of London. Just a short walk to St James’s Park, Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square in one direction, Parliament Square, Westminster Cathedral, Big Ben in the other, all within 10 minutes walk. Another short hop and one is across the river on the London Eye, at the London Aquarium or London Dungeons.
The bees: With its proximity to St James’ Park St Ermin’s Hotel is home to a thriving colony of 300,000 Buckfast honey bees. On Sunday, after our very relaxed breakfast, we went up to visit them. The bee terrace is well signposted in the lift and on the third floor. An outdoor terrace planted with indigenous, bee friendly plants, housing four hives and the new ‘Bee & B’ hotel. We were able to view the bees through glass walls on the third floor walkway corridor and watch them coming and going. The kids also loved the large bug hotel: “Peaceful bamboo nesting areas and condominiums (in modern block design or traditional log style) are for solitary bees such as the leaf-cutter bee, whilst the bijou boxes are for social breeds such as the tree bumblebee. The bee hotel also provides a variety of special areas for other helpful insects: The discerning lacewing will be enchanted by the rolled cardboard swirls and all types of ladybirds, earwigs, woodlice and spiders will find peaceful resting places amongst the crevice stacks. ”
The bees and their honey lead us onto the final highlight of our stay: The afternoon tea, where we were served, along with a wide choice of other delicious bites, some honeycomb made from the St Ermin’s honey. ( You can read about our family bonding over afternoon tea .)
The hotel also houses the Claxton restaurant, with an excellent reputation. I really liked the look of the 7 course taster menu, but we were all a bit tired at the end of the Saturday and not really up for formal dining with the children. Then plan B -of just me and The Madventurer popping down, once the kids were asleep and our remote monitor activated, – disintegrated when we fell asleep before the kids.
Recommend or not?
The big question is: Were we satisfied with our stay? Would we recommend this hotel to family and friends?
We really enjoyed our stay at St Ermin’s. The hotel certainly lives up to it’s distinctly individual slogen: It is beautiful and the staff very attentive and welcoming. The children felt welcomed and catered for, yet the hotel has a good balance between families and guests without children. Based on our stay, I would certainly recommend the hotel to my nearest and dearest too.
Have you stayed at St Ermin’s hotel? Do comment below and let me know how you found it?
A family stay at St Ermin’s hotel, London starts from £289* in one of the 18 family rooms. (*Nov 2015)
The Budding Bond experience for kids is included in a night’s stay for all children suitable in age at no extra charge. Our 3, 7 and 8 year old loved it. Max loved following his big brother and sister, didn’t get much out of it except the fun and excitement that the older 2 had. It is perfect for 5- 13 year olds, though I would hazard that part of the quiz is actually as much fun for adults.
When the kids complete their mission they receive an ID card and a complimentary mocktail at the bar- “shaken not stirred” of course. 🙂
The Afternoon Tea in the Tea Lounge started at £12.50 for the children and £29 for adults and is a lovely experience not to be missed.
Disclosure: We were the guests of St Ermin’s hotel, London during this stay, but hopefully you see this has not influenced our thoughts of the hotel.