Review: Discreet and understated class at the Cavendish Hotel in London

Peter Ormerod reviews the Cavendish Hotel in Jermyn Street, St James’s, London
The Duke Street entrance to The Cavendish (photo: Tony Harris)The Duke Street entrance to The Cavendish (photo: Tony Harris)
The Duke Street entrance to The Cavendish (photo: Tony Harris)

London is hardly short of hotels that make a statement. If you’re looking for imposing porticos, grand entrances, dazzling lights and so on, you’ll find them.

But The Cavendish does things differently. It is so unassuming that as I sought it along Jermyn Street I walked past it, twice. It is part of a row of not especially remarkable mid-20th-century buildings in a street of otherwise striking architecture; I was alerted to its presence only by some rather modest flags.

This is no criticism of the hotel, by the way. The world may well be a better place if it was similarly unenthused by attention-grabbing gimmicks. After all, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

A Junior Suite at The Cavendish (photo: Tony Harris)A Junior Suite at The Cavendish (photo: Tony Harris)
A Junior Suite at The Cavendish (photo: Tony Harris)

What is on the inside is cool, slick, unintimidating and business-like. It is fuss-free without being impersonal; the staff are friendly without being obsequious. The lobby and reception is all clean lines and monochrome, with the odd tasteful flash of colour and subtle nod to Art Deco. (It also transpires there is another, more pronounced, entrance on Duke Street.)

I was fortunate enough to be staying in a junior suite on the top floor, the 14th. And it soon became apparent that the hotel needs do little itself to conjure awe, because the views are astonishing. The Cavendish quite wisely does not try to compete. It just gives you very wide windows from which to behold London from its heart. Somehow, it manages to be one of tallest buildings in the vicinity; it is a quiet giant. So you find yourself looking down on the roof of Buckingham Palace, your gaze flying over the parks and trees to Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, the Docklands and pretty much anywhere you fancy across the metropolis. And then you get to see it all again at night.

The suite itself was something of a mixed experience. It is certainly comfortable, with a sofa, ample bed and tables and chairs aplenty; the bathroom is pleasingly roomy and relaxing. But there is a sense that the suite as a whole might benefit from a bit of a ‘zhuzh’ and one or two touches of inspiration; it is a little lacking in character. The views, on two sides of the room, offer plenty of compensation, mind.

Those views are of course a product of its location as much as its height, and the location can hardly be bettered. Picadilly is a few yards in one direction, with Fortnum & Mason literally around the corner, and all the stylish and upmarket shopping you could wish for. The Royal Academy is a few yards away, the National Gallery ten minutes’ walk in one direction, Buckingham Palace ten minutes’ walk in another, and theatres and restaurants by the score just down the road. There are tourist hotspots in abundance, with plenty of lesser-known gems scattered among them. The bohemian pleasures and independent spirit of Carnaby Street and Soho are reached in a short stroll. Jermyn Street is quite an attraction in itself: associated through the centuries with high-end male fashion, the tradition continues with an array of tailors, shirt-makers, shoe-makers and general outfitters for gentlemen of varying tastes. The shops are often things of beauty, quite aside from the clothes. And for relaxation and a touch of nature there’s the charming and intimate St James’s Square, along with Green Park and St James’s Park, all of which are walkable within ten minutes, and Hyde Park, 20 minutes away. Transport links are about as good as they could be, too: you’re five minutes from Piccadilly Circus tube station for for the Bakerloo and Piccadilly lines, and five minutes from Green Park for the Jubilee and Victoria lines. That’s quite a lot of London covered before we even get to the red buses.

A Classic Room at The CavendishA Classic Room at The Cavendish
A Classic Room at The Cavendish

A good night’s sleep was followed by a decent breakfast. All was presented smartly, colourfully and invitingly enough as a self-service buffet, with abundant choice; if quantity and quickness are what you’re after, you won’t be disappointed. The drawback is that it does not feel especially luxurious or lovely, although the food itself was of sufficient quality. It is fair to say the particular logistics of breakfast often pose something of a challenge to hotels, and the pragmatic approach adopted by the Cavendish certainly makes sense. And throughout the stay, my only quibble with the service was that the newspaper I had asked for was not delivered, but this was rectified later.

In all, the Cavendish is perhaps lacking a little ‘wow’-factor, those views aside. But why should everywhere wow, and who would want to put aside those views? Glitz and glamour have their place, but for those who may prefer understatement and discretion in an unbeatable location, the Cavendish is a solid option.

Facts about The Cavendish

A 4-star deluxe hotel in the heart of Mayfair, London

The lobby of The CavendishThe lobby of The Cavendish
The lobby of The Cavendish

The Cavendish London has been a hotel on its present site since 1966

It was formerly owned by Rosa Lewis – better known as the Duchess of Duke Street

It has 230 deluxe rooms and suites

It is home to Mayfair Lounge & Grill restaurant, serving food all day including an afternoon tea

The car park is open to all guests and general public

It has five unique events spaces

The hotel is part of The Ascott Limited

Book, stay and earn rewards points with the Ascott Star Rewards loyalty programme. Enjoy the lowest rates, exclusive discounts and perks

Rooms available from £319 per night

See thecavendish-london.co.uk to book and for more information

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