Unlike its more raffish neighbour Soho, Mayfair has always had a reputation for genteel sophistication; think the upmarket clubs and restaurants of Berkeley Square, the expensive art galleries and impossibly expensive private homes in the area. Yet there is also a residual raffishness that decades of gentrification hasn’t quite removed; wander round Shepherd’s Market and there is still a bohemian cachet to the streets that makes one think fondly of the ghosts of the area, of the artists and poets who plied their trade and sipped their wine when it was still theoretically affordable.
Something of the spirit of this old-world Mayfair is alive and well in the elegant and sophisticated Chesterfield hotel, set a hop and a skip away from Shepherd’s Market and Berkeley Square; if you stand outside, the bright lights of the execrable Sexy Fish are just about visible. Yet the atmosphere here is one of secluded, clubbable luxury, as in the other hotels in the estimable Red Carnation group. As soon as you enter, you know that your every whim and wish will be met with both professionalism and good humour, and so it goes.
I’m staying the night in the grand ‘Philippe Suite’, a riot of blue and white floral wallpaper that boasts a four poster bed, its own separate sitting room, a bathroom fully adorned with Floris toiletries and more space for clothes and trinkets that you could possibly imagine. It’s splendidly luxurious and summons up an image of comfort and sophistication that couldn’t be further away from modern trends for hard-edged minimalism, but before I can fully relax, it’s downstairs to the hotel’s Terrace bar for one of the highlights of my stay: the gin masterclass.
Led by the charismatic bar manager Alejandro, the Chesterfield boasts a range of tutored tastings of various drinks that include rum, whisky and an intriguing-sounding beer and cheese pairing. However, being a committed lover of all things gin, I plumped for the exploration of three different kinds of gin – including a fine Martin Miller and a fearsome, 47% proof Monkey 47 – with three different kinds of tonic, all of which Alejandro carefully and painstakingly talks me through.
If you’d ever assumed that the perfect gin and tonic is an easily constructed experience, think again; it’s a subtle and refined art, and I now feel on top of the gin-making world. Again, the old-school feel of Mayfair comes through; Alejandro, while always remaining the consummate professional, has a gleam in his eye as he confesses his deep appreciation for gin, and confides that he is planning on introducing a vermouth-sampling masterclass for 2024, too.
This proves the perfect pre-prandial treat before dinner in the Butler’s restaurant next door, which is of a piece with the reassuringly old-school atmosphere that the hotel inculcates. Starters of Forman’s smoked salmon are accompanied by a glass of Walker Bay Sauvignon Blanc – which, although excellent, could have benefited from being a couple of degrees colder – and then a finely cooked rib-eye with bearnaise and some of the best triple-cooked chips I’ve ever sampled was perfectly served with a delectable glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, before the whole caboodle was wrapped up with a Winter Berry trifle – a nod to the Christmas menu that I decided not to partake in, because I am firmly of the belief that once you start eating turkey and pigs in blankets, it’s very hard to stop.
I slept exceptionally well, as you might expect, and an in-room breakfast proved the perfect pick-me-up before I ventured out into the streets of London once again, fond farewells ringing in my ears. The Chesterfield is a rare find, a haven of sophistication and class in an area that is often more brash and streetwise than it ought to be. But come here, throw away your cares, and know that all will, indeed, be well once again.
The Chesterfield is part of the Red Carnation collection. For more information, including room rates, and details of experiences and offers, please visit www.chesterfieldmayfair.com.