The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences

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October, 2021

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Our welcome started at the door as we arrived at The Athenaeum in Mayfair, directly opposite Green Park for our 2 night prize win stay. The loyal doorman for many years was dressed immaculately in a top hat, waistcoat and tails as he greeted us politely for our 5-star hotel experience. Although he has met a fair few celebrities in his time such as Steven Spielberg, Denzel Washington, Gary Oldham, Samuel L Jackson and even former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, it is known that he treats everyone the same.

Before entering, we noticed the ‘Living Wall’ – a vertical garden that covers an entire exterior wall of the hotel, from ground level right to the 10th top floor. Installed in 2009 it covers 329 square metres. The way the plants are arranged is the equivalent to having sixteen and a half middle-sized trees on the wall. The plants purify the surrounding air by soaking up greenhouse gases and converting CO2 into oxygen. The Living Wall was created by Patrick Blanc, award-winning French artist and botanist. After many years of studying, he perfected a technique enabling urban plants to grow vertically without the need for soil. The Athenaeum garden is made up of a mixture of native and exotic plants, held in a secure structure jutting outwards from the building.

Once inside and down a few stairs, we found the reception area on the right, just past the lifts. It wasn’t a large area but adequate for its purpose. Booking in went smoothly, and we were given 2 access cards for a De Luxe room – 508 on the 5th floor.

Rooms and apartments are individually designed by Martin Hulbert and our room had a King size bed with a Hypnos mattress to give a good night’s sleep. Hypnos has held a Royal warrant since 1929.

The view overlooked a side street. Upper rooms on the front of the hotel had views over the Green Park treetops and across the city. Soundproofing is good, so you aren’t disturbed by the traffic going by outside. All guests can have a view over the city by going to the top floor where there is a wonderful, panoramic view where you can have a cup of coffee/tea and relax.

Comfy bathrobes and slippers were available in the wardrobe. A marble bathroom incorporates a bathtub with an overhead shower, heated towel rails and non-steam mirrors. ESPA toiletries are included as standard.

In-room features were complimentary Hi- Fi, LED flat screen TV, safe, ironing board, hairdryer, Nespresso coffee machine and tea, air conditioning. Complimentary use of the Spa and Gym was included for guests.

Once settled in to our room and enjoying a hot cup of tea, I was interested in the history of The Athenaeum.

Back in 1850, 116 Piccadilly (The Athenaeum), started life as Hope House, the private home of MP Henry Hope, renowned for his astuteness and patronage of the arts. He had a prize collection of Old Masters, which he occasionally put on display to the public.

Hope’s only daughter, Henrietta, married roguish Henry Pelham-Clinton, the 6th Duke of Newcastle, who had gambling debts of around £143 million in today’s terms. The debts were settled, and he also acquired an impressive property portfolio. He died, aged 45 and Henrietta sold Hope House to the fashionable Junior Athenaeum Club which grew in popularity. It attracted MPs and Lords and was favoured by gentlemen connected with science, literature and art. The noble name of ‘Athenaeum’ (loosely translated as ‘library’ and deriving from the Greek name of Athena) remained when the club was disbanded in the 1930s and the building was transformed into a luxurious Art Deco apartment block. The Rank Organisation snapped up the Athenaeum and neighbouring town houses four decades later, whereupon following renovation, it was changed into an iconic hotel to accommodate Rank’s movie stars when they were filming in Pinewood and Ealing studios.

Our prize included dinner on one evening with a glass of champagne. The restaurant however, was fully booked on our first evening, so we had to opt for the second day.
Eating at the Athenaeum’s Contemporary restaurant features seasonal menus using local, sustainable produce. The Executive Head Chef is Ian Howard.

The dining area is softly lit and has a warm and relaxing ambience. We had plenty of choice from the menu and were pleased with what we ordered. Waiters were attentive and courteous.

There is an outdoor terrace allowing you to dine al fresco should you prefer.

Afternoon tea looked very tempting with sweet and savoury treats as well as various pastries. If it is a sunny day, you can take afternoon tea al fresco for £45. The picnic tea includes blankets, plates, cutlery, sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam and cakes and pastries. With Green Park just across the road, you can just pick up your basket and find a nice spot to relax and enjoy. 48 hours notice is required if you wish to try this picnic tea treat.

Breakfast is served from 7 am to 11 am. You can certainly start your day with a good selection of pastries, yoghurt, smoothies, freshly squeezed juice, muesli and classic British dishes. I tried the full English on the first day, then salmon and scrambled eggs the following day. My only complaint with the English was that the black pudding was rather soggy – I like mine nice and crisp! There is a breakfast seating area looking out onto the road, which we chose as we were able to see the busy London traffic and people passing by.

The Athenaeum occupies a prime position in Mayfair, close to the West End, Bond Street and Buckingham Palace.

The Queen’s birthplace was No 17 Bruton Street, only 800 yards down the road. This was the Mayfair home of her maternal grandparents until she moved with her parents to 145 Piccadilly. 17 Bruton Street is now the site of a high quality Cantonese restaurant called the Haakasan.

We enjoyed some pleasant walks during our stay, walking through Green Park to Buckingham Palace. Saw the ‘Rotten Row’ plaque, the place now being a broad running track along the south side of Hyde Park. It is maintained as a place to ride horses. Originally, the route was called route du roi, meaning “King’s Road” in French. It was a popular meeting place for upper-class Londoners in the 18th century.

Our two days were thoroughly enjoyable and especially welcome after a long period of not being able to travel owing to lockdowns. The Athenaeum is in an excellent location, offering good friendly, professional services, dining with inspired menus and comfortable rooms with modern furnishings in which to completely relax.

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