Savoring a royal Indian weekend at the luxe Taj St. James’ Court hotel
STORY: Joanne Hayes
On a recent trip to England, accompanying my husband on a business trip, we checked into the opulent St. James’ Court hotel for a brief weekend respite. My husband indulged my love of Indian culture on this stay (the property is part of Taj Hotels, a subsidiary of one of India’s largest business conglomerates), and we were both impressed with the warmth and luxury we experienced.
The buildings that make up the St. James’ Court and its sister hotel, the Taj 51 Buckingham Gate Suites and Residences, have a history dating back to Tudor England and the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Their proximity to Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Downing Street and other top attractions made them a fashionable home-away-from-home for many of London’s key figures, and they remain a popular destination all these decades later.
Newly renovated, the St. James’ Court includes a fitness room, hair salon and Jiva Spa. Not surprisingly, the spa’s treatments are based on healing therapies that embrace Indian spirituality and draw heavily from royal Indian culture. The body scrubs and wraps, Bhutanese baths, hot stone massages and, my personal favorite, the Shirodhara (an ayurvedic treatment in which warm oils are slowly and steadily dripped on the forehead), are just a sampling of what’s offered there.
Upon arrival at the hotel, we were warmly welcomed with a tray of chocolates and fruit, and a personal note from the manager. We freshened up before heading out for a bite, taking a few minutes to admire the lovely courtyard on property, which features a Victorian fountain and large Shakespearian-inspired frieze. We opted to dine that evening at Bon Gusto, a nearby Italian restaurant, then had a quick nightcap at the hotel’s elegant Hamptons Bar.
The next morning, we ate a full English breakfast at Bistro, one of the several dining options at St. James’ Court. We then headed out to the Portobello Road Market, an all day experience that consisted of meandering through antiques and art shops, watching street performers and purchasing street food and fresh cheeses, olives and juice from the colorful kiosks.
Back at the hotel, we treated ourselves to the Jasmine Indian Afternoon Tea, nibbling on spiced cream cheese sandwiches, chicken tikka spring rolls and the traditional Indian dessert gulab jamun (fried doughnut-like dumplings soaked in rose-flavored syrup). We dined later that evening at the hotel’s Michelin starred restaurant, Quilon. While seafood is central to its southwest coastal-Indian menu, I opted for spicy vegetarian and meat options, including fried cauliflower tossed with yogurt, green chile and curry leaves; almond chicken; and chickpea masala, all scooped up with the paratha flatbread. Jetting home the next day, my love of all things Indian was satisfied. At least for the moment.
ST. JAMES’ COURT LONDON