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Eye spy with my little eye a London hotel with intelligence and class

Staying at St Ermin's Hotel in Westminster is like stepping into yesteryear without losing the 21st Century luxury.

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The spectacular entrance of St Ermin's Hotel

St Ermin's Hotel horse-shoe shaped entrance envelopes weary travellers in the same way it has for the last 140 years and you can easily imagine Sherlock Holmes pulling up in a horse-drawn carriage.

The grand Victorian mansion's driveway would have had carriages dropping off ladies and gentleman when it opened in 1889, now it's black cabs and BMW vans with blacked out windows bringing international visitors to its doors.

When you shuffle through the revolving doors the lobby takes your breath away, brilliant white Rococco plasterwork with two adjoining staircases which give two fingers to the minimalist "less is more" hotels created to make people feel they are lucky to have walked through the doors.

Whereas St Ermin's Hotel must have the most Instagrammable ground floor in London.

The alabaster white lobby of St Ermin's Hotel

The plaster work, which includes Greek god-style fascias covering the wall, ceilings, magnificent staircase and balconies, was done in the late 1890s when the best was only good enough.

There is so much going on, it must be the best place on earth to play eye-spy with one little eye with a loved one. And that would be the perfect game for St Ermin's Hotel because it is the hotel of spies, subterfuge, double-crossing and historic treason.

Britain's intelligence services made the hotel a second home during the 1930s and 1940s. The Cambridge spies, Noel Coward and a who's who of British spies were interviewed in the hotel. James Bond creator Ian Flemming also was a regular guest.

The Caxton bar, where the hotel's impressive restaurant is now, was a favourite haunt for those eager to talk about their daring do or, after WW2 had ended, handing official secrets to Russian agents.

In 1940 Winston Churchill gathered the best of the best for a meeting and set up the Special Operations Executive with instructions to "set Europe ablaze."

SOE, the forerunner to the SAS, plotted their covert attacks on Europe from an entire floor of the hotel.

And these heroes, many of whom would die at the hands of the Nazis, used the lobby to play code-breaking games and now visitors are given puzzles, riddles and games which brings the history alive, even enough for a teenager to put down their phone.

So the history just drips off the walls in St Ermin's and it lends it self to a secret liaison, or a romantic one, or even both a the same time.

St Ermin's Hotel is now part of Marriott's Autograph Collection, and if you use a bit of intelligence then there are enough hotel websites around to knock a pretty penny off your room rate, and when checking-in be inspired by the guile of Churchill himself and ask how much it will be to upgrade to a suite, a pleasant surprise might await you.

A suite bedroom at St Ermin's Hotel

With the Caxton bar and grill serving lunch and dinner menus, St Ermin's is a foodie destination, and the a-la-carte breakfast, and buffet, being served until noon, (2pm on New Year's Day) is a great touch for us night owls.

The Caxton bar and the Caxton Grill is on the ground floor of the hotel and still has the flavour of yesteryear when men in crumpled crombies handed over manilla envelopes underneath a copy of The Times.

After eight years under Alexander Boyd, who has left to run his own venture with his wife in Tunbridge Wells, the double AA Rosette restaurant now has Italian Paolo Sanapo as executive head chef.

His menu uses the organic produce from the St. Ermin’s rooftop Kitchen Garden and honey harvested from its 350,000 resident Buckfast Bees alongside carefully selected local produce, though in the centre of London, the field to fork philosophy shines through.

My meal at Caxton with my girlfriend was the culinary highlight of this year, the staff really went out of their way to make us both feel special and were happy to explain why what we were eating was so special. The wood panelled wall hid the kitchen, and watching the waitresses disappear behind a sliding door was fun, was it an electric sensor which forced the wall panel to slide away giving you a sneak glimpse of where the magic is made.

No, the waiter or waitress have to kick a lever near the floor, maybe giving them an overdeveloped right leg, but either way it was just another example how this historic building still has its own characteristics.

Generations of London movers and shakers have enjoyed Afternoon Tea at St Ermin's Hotel, which continued the custom way after it went out of fashion only for it to return to be a beloved modern chance to spend 90 mintues with a friend. The Afternoon Tea menu betrays the 21st Century wants and needs, there is Afternoon Tea (£38 per person, £43 with a glass of Champagne), Vegan Afternoon Tea, Gluten Free Afternoon Tea and Kids Afternoon Tea.

Afternoon tea at St Ermin's Hotel

If you are on a budget when visiting London and staying either of the two Premier Inns within 100 metres of St Ermin's Hotel then Afternoon Tea really is worth every penny just for the people watching of how the other half live, a slice of yesteryear elegance as everyone deserves a conveyor belt of tasty treats delivered by a rotating number of ladies in bow ties.

St Ermin's unique surroundings gave us the feel of being far away from the madding crowd, even though if you listened hard enough you could hear the din of a protest making its way through Westminster towards the seat of our country's power.

The hotel is adjacent to St James tube station and this little pocket of Westminster has enough pubs and restaurants for a self-contained 24 hours of fascinating fun and entertainment. If you plan it right you can get a tour of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and catch a show in the nearby West End.

I cannot divulge anymore about my stay at St Ermin's, it is only fair to give the "hotel of spies" another secret to keep.

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