Review: The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences
If you’re visitor to the capital keen for a weekend of exploring, The Athenaeum couldn’t be better placed. The grand hotel is situated on Piccadilly, overlooking Green Park and just down the road from the Royal Academy, Buckingham Palace and Bond Street. Yet it’s also the perfect staycation spot for London locals, complete with a spa, restaurant and plenty of stylish, spacious rooms.
The building itself has lived many lives over the years. It began its life as the private mansion of MP Henry Hope back in 1850, going on to become a members’ club and then an Art Deco apartment block, often frequented by movie stars filming nearby. It was transformed into a hotel in the ‘70s – one which continued to attract the rich and famous. Elizabeth Taylor and Russell Crowe were guests of the hotel, Take That announced their split from the penthouse, and Steven Spielberg installed an editing suite in one of the residences while filming E.T.
In spite of all the glamour, there’s a relaxed, friendly feel to The Athenaeum – one of the city’s few five-star hotels to be family-run. Décor is chic yet comforting throughout, with pops of amber and copper alongside nods to the hotel’s Art Deco past. Rooms range from deluxe doubles to private residences, the latter being Victorian townhouses connected to the hotel featuring multiple rooms including fitted kitchenettes. Many of the rooms overlook Green Park, with floor-to-ceiling windows offering beautiful views and an abundance of natural light. That’s not the only glimpse of nature you’ll get here though: there’s also a living wall running along the outside of the building all the way up to the 10th floor.
116 at The Athenaeum is the hotel’s restaurant, offering contemporary British fare spearheaded by head chef Ian Howard. The ingredient-led all-day menu features a mix of small and big plates, plus sandwiches and dishes from the grill. Begin with English asparagus soup, ham hock terrine or a charcuterie board before tucking into one of the hearty mains, which currently include pea and shallot ravioli, rib-eye steak with Bearnaise sauce or beer battered fish and chips with a mushroom casserole.
The hotel is also renowned for its stellar English afternoon tea: a traditional affair featuring finger sandwiches, homemade pastries and scones with jam and clotted cream, with the option to add free-flowing fizz. On sunny days, all this can be enjoyed from the idyllic al fresco terrace.
One of the hotel’s lesser-known spots is the residents lounge, which is located on the top floor and offers panoramic views of the city. It’s temporarily closed, but in normal times the bar treats guests to daily complimentary tipples and nibbles.
Be sure to visit the spa, nestled at the bottom of the hotel. It’s a small spot but lovely nonetheless, with a hot tub, sauna, steam room and two treatment rooms alongside a gym. Due to current Covid restrictions, you can only use the spa in single households, which means you’ll have it all to yourself – just remember to book ahead. For the full experience, choose from one of the packages, such as the Re-connect Spa Day, which includes three treatments for two people followed by a three-course meal and champagne in the restaurant. Pampering at its best.
THE FINAL WORD
This historic hotel balances Mayfair glitz with an independent spirit, with slick yet warm service throughout.
Doubles from £350, athenaeumhotel.com
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