LONDON'S HIDDEN GEM HOTEL
Set in a peaceful and quiet location in the heart of Mayfair, between Jermyn Street and Duke Street, is one of the capital’s best kept secrets.
The Cavendish Hotel has been a favourite with royalty, the rich and famous, for nearly 200 years and it’s not hard to understand why.
Over the early years the hotel had several different names and it was only in1836 that it became The Cavendish. Later, in 1900 Rosa Lewis, known as ‘The Duchess of Duke Street’, moved her catering operations to the hotel buying it some years later.
Born in the East End, Rosa worked her way up serving apprenticeships and developing her own style of cooking, popular with the aristocratic and well to do families.
Described by Escoffier as “The Queen of Cooks” she impressed Edward, Prince of Wales, who complimented her on her cooking, publicly admitting he liked her food the best.
Her flair for food, furnishing and decoration attracted regular guests to The Cavendish including The Duke of Windsor, George Bernard Shaw, Tallulah Bankhead, Isadora Duncan and Winston Churchill.
Rosa died in 1952 and the hotel was run by her friend Edith until it finally closed its doors ten years later and was partly demolished.
Rosa had ruled the Cavendish and her life was dramatised in the T.V. series The Duchess of Duke Street and today a blue plaque on the hotel wall commemorates her life and times.
Over the next few decades the hotel had many owners each renovating it to their own style, the most recent renovations have brought it back to the luxury and style that Rosa would have approved of.
The things that impressed me most, having lived and worked in London, was how quiet, peaceful and central the hotel’s location was.
After a short taxi ride, it was far too hot to take the tube, we arrived at The Cavendish to a spacious, cool and comforting marbled reception area and an efficient and speedy check-in.
Our room was air conditioned and well appointed with a big walk in shower, lots of wardrobe space and a large sitting area complete with easy chairs with foot rests and a wonderful view over the rooftops of the city.
I was impressed with the speed of room service ,fresh milk for my cuppa arriving within minutes, but their literature does boast they can arrange anything from theatre tickets to a private helicopter 24/7. It’s that kind of hotel.
The hotel is the ideal base for sophisticated sight-seeing, art and culture – you can literally walk to the West End, within five minutes and in 11 minutes you can be in Covent Garden.
Walk down Duke Street and 5 minutes later you’ll be outside St James’s Palace, a short stroll from there you’re in St.James’s Park – perfect if you love a morning run. Who knows who you might meet there? Maybe a royal wife or two! Venture a little further and Buckingham Palace comes into view an easy stroll at only 15 minutes.
However being an avid window shopper, people watcher and an artistic dreamer I had my own voyage of discovery planned for the afternoon.
Leaving the Cavendish we strolled down the famous Burlington Arcade in Jermyn Street. Once famous for jewellery it has now been hijacked by handbags, fragrance and swimwear but of the nicest possible kind.
We came out of the arcade in Piccadilly and couldn’t pass the Royal Society of Arts Building without at least a walk round the ancient courtyard. There’s always something interesting going on there and its well worth popping into.
A few hundred yards from there and we were in Old Bond Street and ready for an amazing window shopping experience.
Walk up Old Bond Street and you will be mesmerised by the windows of Cartier, Tiffany’s and some of the world’s most renown jewellers. Further along Old Bond Street becomes New Bond Street and here’s the place to see the styles and colours for next season in the windows of Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Hermes and Ralph Lauren.
When you’ve dreamed your dreams and spent the lottery win that you are sure will happen someday, come down to earth and cross Grosvenor Street, home to Claridge’s, and you’ll find Avery Row, a narrow cobbled street, home to one of the last tiny Mayfair pubs ‘The Iron Duke’, a good place to charge your batteries, some galleries, an old fashioned newsagent and a couple of boutiques set amidst a couple of old gas lamps it gives you the feeling of what this narrow street would have been like 100 years ago.
From here its only a few yards to South Moulton Street, with its main stream boutiques, eateries ideal for snacking and hey-presto there’s Oxford Street at the top.
Returning to the hotel Jermyn Street, the last bastion of male sartorial elegance with its shirt makers, shoemakers and cigar emporiums called for yet more window shopping.
Dining at The Cavendish with its reputation for excellent food was a must. After an aperitif in the cocktail bar with its sinkable sofas and staff who appear with nibbles as soon as you are seated we made our way to the Petrichor Restaurant.
It is a bright and airy first floor space with windows looking out onto the street, ideal for people watching.
The menu was tempting with tasty combinations. For starters I had celery and apple soup, whilst my partner’s slow cooked salmon, avocado, and horseradish meringue more than pleased.
The Rump of Spring Lamb, my partner’s choice, was flavoursome, succulent and juicy whilst my Beef Burger with bacon jam and apple smoked cheese was smooth in texture with a fusion of flavours.
But our heavenly desert could have come straight from Rosa’s cookery book – a Chocolate Avalanche – a dark chocolate shell filled with mint ice-creams with hot cream sauce.
Looking out across London from our window we were in no doubt The Cavendish is simply the best hotel from which to explore the city’s landmarks.
The Cavendish Hotel: 81 Jermyn Street, St. James’s, London SW1Y 6JF. For further details of rates visit
Liz Coggins is a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers