Living The High Life In Mayfair

On a Monopoly board, Mayfair and Park Lane are the poshest and most expensive streets in the game. The grand entrance of the Ritz lights up the corner of Park Lane and Fortnum & Mason enticing shoppers, as do the fine arcades leading off Piccadilly and Haymarket. Here you can search for the finest suits in Savile Row or the perfect cocktail dress in the fine Mayfair boutiques. Later get dressed up to the nines to dine in the fanciest restaurants and bars. For a chance to live how the other half do, if only for a night –visit Mayfair.

This desirable area is close to all the main attractions of central London, bordering leafy Hyde Park and connected by the Green Park tube station.

It is an exclusive place to call home where people live in Georgian townhouses. The neighbourhood hosts Buckingham Palace and St James’s Palace, but aside from the Royal residences, most of the land here is owned by the Grosvenors, one of Britain’s oldest and wealthiest families. The Ritz is the most exclusive hotel in the area closely followed by Claridges, the choice of royalty. Then there’s the Wolseley, The Dorchester, The Biltmore and The Dukes, simply no shortage of fine hotels in the capital’s most desirable spot for those for whom money is no object.

The Cavendish Hotel

On the corner of Jermyn Street and Duke Street, right next to Fortnum & Mason is the Cavendish Hotel. The hotel has a storied history going back 200 years. The address, 81 Jermyn Street has been the site of a hotel since the end of the eighteenth century. The area has long been known for its aristocratic associations. Home to generals, princes, bankers and even the Regency Dandy Beau Brummell (1778 to 1840) a good friend of

the Prince Regent. Before it became known as the Cavendish Hotel in 1863, it was known as the Millers Hotel and the Orleans Hotel. Then Rosa Lewis, a cook who catered for Kaiser Wilhelm II and the Prince of Wales took over the lease when she married Chesney Lewis and they took over the property in 1902. The hotel quickly amounted to debts under her husband, so Rosa divorced Chesney and continued to run it with her friend Edith Jeffrey. The hotel survived both world wars, despite a bomb blowing off the entire front of the hotel and nearly killing Rosa but she lived on to the ripe old age of 85, passing away in 1952. Twelve years later the historic building was torn down and a new skyscraper, the Cavendish of today, was built in its place.

The fourteenth-floor suite has views as far as the BT tower in the distance at one end and Big Ben on the other. In the frame, you’ll be able to see the London Eye, the Shard, The Walkie Talkie and St James’ church, designed by Sir Christopher Wren. From this vantage point, one can admire the curvature of the streets in all their Edwardian glory. The rooms are decorated in rich tones with a huge, comfy bed, chaise longue, coffee table with two chairs and a writing desk. Of course, there is also a flatscreen TV, as well as a Bose surround system and full tea and coffee-making facilities. In the large bathrooms, you’ll find deep tubs and a walk-in shower, White Company Noir toiletries and fluffy white towels and robes. There’s also a plate of fruit on arrival, lots of water and delicious macaroons.

The Cavendish Hotel has a fine dining room replete with a grand piano where you can order an ala carte lunch including a chicken terrine for a starter, a duck confit with a pea jus for the main course followed by a trio of ice creams and sorbets.

Fortnum & Mason

The hotel is right next door to Fortnum & Mason’s flagship store. This brand is right up there with Harrods and Selfridges. Indeed, Fortnum & Mason is one of the great British institutions. Purveyors of fine food and drink since 1707, Fortnum & Mason makes extraordinary hampers that are synonymous with luxury. The first floor is dedicated to delectable goodies, the second floor is a Christmas wonderland and the third floor is devoted to food and drink. There is a gin distillery which makes the tipple in-house from the finest British apples grown in Yorkshire. You’ll also
find a book corner where celebrity chefs come to promote their latest releases. But the showcase is the food studio which holds regular events and invites top chefs to hold workshops. It’s well worth popping in to see what is on. When I visited the owner of Silo, Douglas McMaster who pioneered London’s leading zero-waste restaurant was holding a tasting menu with his scientist chef Jono Drane investigating the link between food and gut health.

Dinner at Jeru

Jeru, on Berkeley Street, is an excellent choice for fine Middle Eastern cuisine. Located on Berkeley Street, you’ll be led through a deli area to a fine restaurant space where you can see your meal being cooked before your eyes. As I was eating alone, I opted for a kitchen-view seat and as I sat down, I was offered a six-course tasting menu.

First came the crispy Hasselback artichokes in a caramelised celeriac tahini. The white artichoke hearts were dressed in a spring onion salsa. This is a delicacy in the Mediterranean and they were elegantly presented and super tasty. Then followed scrumptious potato bread and a heavenly black hummus complete with shavings of British foraged mushrooms. The flavours were unreal, and it was such a delicious entrée. But then it got even better when the magnificently presented Wester Ross Scottish salmon was presented to me. Melon was folded over like an elegant flower disguising a most delicious cubed fresh salmon which provided a fresh taste flavoured with Persian lemon and a crab and caviar sauce.

Before my very eyes, a huge sea bass was filleted and placed on the flame grill. It was quite
a spectacle. The delicious, charcoaled butterfly sea bass came with a roe, cucumber salsa and lemon tahini. The fish melted in your mouth and the small roe burst with flavour with every mouthful of the delicious tahini. To finish the meal, I enjoyed the signature slow-cooked Australian lamb with an aubergine ezme and mint dressing, followed by a pudding of lemon sorbet inside a soft shell. Of all the dishes Chef Roy Ner swears by Aussie Beef & Lamb, thanks in part to his Australian roots but also to the quality and consistency of the product, which shone through in this dish.

Mayfair pubs

Mayfair is brimming with pubs and bars. If you are visiting the area, Mr Foggs Tavern is worth a visit for thirsty travellers, as you step into the world of the great explorer Phileas J. Fogg who circumnavigated the world in 80 days. This pub ‘claims’ to be the Mayfair home of Mr Fogg and offers a worldly list of libations among a backdrop of memorabilia collected from across the globe. The Apothecary is the second pub in this creative chain, located on Brook Street opposite the iconic Claridge’s hotel. The elegant new Victorian Apothecary has a majestic grand staircase leading down to an impressive long bar, stocked to the rafters with an extensive apothecary collection and perfect cocktail serves, with precise weighing scales at hand.

The Ritz

No visit to the neighbourhood is complete without a visit to the Ritz for afternoon tea or a drink at the Rivoli Bar listening to the tinkle of the piano. The Ritz is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and as you walk down that red carpet and onto the antique rug you’ll be treading in the footsteps of royalty, former prime ministers and Hollywood stars.

Art and Theatre and Palaces

Mayfair is brimming with exhibitions and art galleries to satisfy your creative side. And in the evening, you are on the doorstep of Leicester Square, famed for its wide variety of theatre shows. Mayfair is also close to St James’ and Buckingham Palace which you can stroll to via Green Park. You are also not too far away from Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery or any of the capital’s tourist attractions.

In a nutshell

For a truly authentic London experience, Mayfair is a fantastic place to stay and play. You can eat, drink and sleep in the ultimate luxury in London’s wealthiest neighbourhoods and enjoy the high life, with all the amenities at your doorstep. Make Mayfair your next travel destination and you’ll be surprised at what you can discover.

Where to stay

The Cavendish Hotel, 81 Jermyn Street, St James, London, SW1Y6JF
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7930 2111

Donna Richardson – Travel Journalist