Travel: An overnight break in London with an award-winning Alice in Wonderland inspired afternoon tea

PUBLISHED: 13:33 29 September 2020

Tea is served in crockery inspired by John Tenniel's Alice illustrations

Tea is served in crockery inspired by John Tenniel's Alice illustrations


Experience the ultimate Mad Hatters Tea Party at the 5 star St James’ Court hotel

The Queen of Hearts afternoon tea boasts a careful eye for detailThe Queen of Hearts afternoon tea boasts a careful eye for detail

Situated right in the heart of London, only a short walk from both Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament, St James’ Court is a favourite haunt of heads of state and their retinues.

But with a range of apartments, suites and rooms available to suit all tastes the 120-year-old hotel is also a perfect choice for anyone wanting to make that trip into the capital a little bit special. Its location close to Victoria railway station makes it easy to reach by train and tube. And prior to the lockdown it was perfect for theatre-lovers wanting to see two of the capital’s hottest tickets – Wicked and Hamilton.

Despite this central location the hotel is tucked away from the packed main thoroughfares around Victoria – there is no heavy traffic noise to disturb sleep or pedestrian stream rushing past the grand entrance. There is a real sense of calm and luxury as you walk through the doors - with an attentive and friendly front of house staff who are only too happy to help.

Accompanied by a one-year-old boy on his first night away from home we were going to need a fair bit of help. Nothing was too much trouble, with a cot quickly found and delivered to the door of our Premium Junior Suite. Boasting 323 rooms and suites, St James’ Court is something of a rabbit warren to negotiate – particularly with a pushchair – but at the same time it doesn’t feel like you’re living on top of lots of other people. My little boy may have vocally complained about his new night-time surroundings, but the walls were thick enough to deaden his bawling, and we never heard anyone else while we were in our room.

St James' Court, London, A Taj Hotel, tucked away in the streets behind some of London's hottest theatres Photo: Jack HardySt James' Court, London, A Taj Hotel, tucked away in the streets behind some of London's hottest theatres Photo: Jack Hardy

The open plan nature of our suite – with the bedroom and sitting room divided by a wide pillar open on both sides – created some lighting problems when it came to bedtime, leading to the whole family having to hit the hay at the same time. But the contemporary-styled rooms were well kitted-out, with oodles of electrical points, two massive flat screen televisions, a king-size bed, large en suite shower room and plenty of room to stretch out and play.

Rather than opt for the hotel restaurants – which include the southwest Indian cuisine of the Michelin-starred Quilon and the seasonal fine dining of Bistro - we explored our surroundings, finding a cornucopia of buzzing family friendly restaurants on our doorstep.

After a breakfast offering both the expected cereals and fry-up, as well as delicious parathas which could be dipped in a spicy vegetable curry, we opted to spend the morning taking a tour around Westminster Abbey, only a short walk away.

For lunch we crossed the picturesque courtyard to sample the multi-award-winning Queen of Hearts afternoon tea at Kona. Queen of Hearts takes its inspiration from John Tenniel’s classic illustrations for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. And the theme runs throughout each element of the sandwiches, pastries, sweets and scones on offer – making it an Instagram-must. The sandwiches are multicoloured – on carrot, rye, beetroot and white bread, while the sweets resemble chess pieces and are served on a glass chequerboard. The Mad Hatter and March Hare extolled the virtue of tea in their famous party, and there are plenty of options to choose from in a thick book, served in beautifully illustrated teapots and crockery.

The luxurious lobby in St James' Court Photo: Matt LiveyThe luxurious lobby in St James' Court Photo: Matt Livey

There are plenty more ways to relax in St James Court – not least in their exclusive Jiva Spa which can be found in the basement. The spa takes inspiration from ancient Indian traditions of Ayurveda and yoga, with a range of signature massages using their own signature Jiva aromatherapy oils and selections from Temple Spa. This adults-only area also has a vitality pool, couple’s suite, steam room and sauna in a beautifully designed and calming space.

The hotel also offers a gym, with free weights and cardio machines, hair salon Hair by Dar and a range of conference rooms. With rooms ranging from the straightforward classic range for travellers and couples right up to executive master suites with 72 sq m of room there are options for all depths of pocket right in the heart of one of the busiest cities in the world.

Good to know

St James’ Court, London, A Taj Hotel

54 Buckingham Gate

London SW1E 6AF

0207 834 6655

Keep an eye out for the brand new Alice in Wonderland Exhibition to arrive at the V&A in March 2021

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