If I’m being totally honest, I have always wondered what the fascination is behind a staycation. Living just twenty minutes from Oxford Street, most of the Capital’s hotels are within a stone’s throw of my flat and so the idea of moving out for a night or two in the same city seemed a bit alien to me. That was until I had the pleasure of staying at the Sheraton Grand London Park Lane for the weekend.
Founded in the 1920s and full of the most incredible history, the Sheraton Grand hotel is perfectly located on the Mayfair edge of Green Park, just a ten minute walk from Oxford Street. The real beauty of its location, and our Park View Suite, is that it overlooks both the park and nearby Buckingham Palace. A number of times I almost forgot that I was still in London as the surrounding area looked so serene from a few floors up. Plus, being treated like a guest rather than a local was actually quite a refreshing change; no washing, no cooking and we didn’t even have to make the bed.
I will slightly summarise our two nights at the Sheraton Grand to avoid it turning into a novel, but the top line is that our entire stay was incredible. It was probably one of the best hotels I have ever stayed at in terms of both facilities and service, with the entire experience faultless from start to finish.
Our room for the staycation was the Park View Suite which genuinely had a footprint larger than our actual flat. Complete with dining table, full lounge, bathroom and a walk-in shower and bathroom, the suite was the perfect place to retreat to each time we wanted to be away from the rest of the guests. Hotel rooms can sometimes feel a little generic and claustrophobic, but we had no issues here. The panoramic views that stretched across Green Park and beyond certainly helped too.
The majority of our time in the hotel was spent in the Palm Court downstairs and this is where we made a base on our first night. Spending hours chatting away to our incredibly talented barman Kamil, we sampled several of the cocktails on offer. Some were selected from the Sheraton Grand‘s traditional cocktail list, throwbacks to drinking from the turn of the century, while others were created on the spot to suit our tastebuds. I always appreciate the art of cocktail making and it was really enjoyable to spend time in such great company.
After a fairly late night at the bar, we opted to have breakfast delivered to our room. Perhaps overestimating our hunger levels the next morning, there was a knock at the door at 8.30am and several plates of food entered on a rattling silver trolley; admittedly containing enough calories for a small family than just the two of us. What followed were very full stomachs and some incredible flatlays for our Instagram feeds. Each dish was perfectly prepared and the colour popped off the table in the morning winter light.
At this point, myself and Katie parted ways. She was booked in for a hair-thickening cut at Hershesons in Mayfair followed by a manicure, while I was booked in for a beard and hair trim at Jack the Clipper, just behind the Sheraton Grand in Sheperd Market. It is a great little barber shop that harks back to the more traditional practices of barbering, and the barbers there made me feel right at home. I even let them use wax to remove unwanted nostril hair which, despite sounding agonisingly painful, was a very quick technique. Feeling clean and trimmed, I headed back to the hotel for lunch at the in-house Smith & Whistle.
Lunch was fairly brief as Katie’s appointment overran slightly, but the Game Pie was incredibly homely and filled me up to the brim. There was, of course, enough time to sample a couple of the rum Old Fashioned cocktails before a speedy wardrobe change. Caz, the PR for Starwood, had kindly arranged for us to have ballroom dancing lessons in the very lavish (ex-bomb shelter) ballroom in the basement of the hotel. Cue a full hour of waltzing in the company of an excellent teacher and an art deco backdrop. I won’t profess to now be an expert, but I surprised everyone (including myself) with my ability to follow the steps and successfully complete a basic waltz. The salsa, however, proved to be quite a bit tougher.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon relaxing in our suite before changing into more formal attire and heading downstairs to the Smith & Whistle once again. This is the public bar in the Sheraton Grand and has a very interesting concept behind the name and decor, however I’ll let you discover that one yourself. This time, we were behind the bar for a cocktail masterclass and on the menu for me was the Presidente; a very traditional (and very strong) rum-based drink. For Katie the choice was easy; she learned how to mix the perfect Espresso Martini.
After a few hours of playing barman, it was then time for dinner. Just a few short steps across the lobby area was the Mercante restaurant. With an Italian-inspired menu and interior, we were treated to an absolute feast and had a room all to ourselves. It was a little dark, but being able to move around the food and take shots without disturbing other guests was both a novelty and a godsend. Also sent from the heavens, the Roast Pigeon Risotto and Broad Bean and Lard Bruschetta were absolutely divine and probably the standout dishes from what was an incredible culinary experience. Washed down with a few large glasses of Chianti, a few smaller glasses of Grappa and an expertly stirred Old Fashioned, it was safe to say that this was a meal I will never forget; even if I did do my best to try and do so. Still, at least we had the most unbelievably comfortable bed in which to sleep it all off.
I am slightly running out of superlatives and space to write at this point, but our standout experience from Sunday was the iconic afternoon tea; once again served in the Palm Court. Accoladed as “one of the most wonderful settings in which to take afternoon tea in London”, we had the sound of a live harpist in our ears as we tucked into the Birdcage Afternoon Tea. The free-flowing bubbles and tea washed down a very tasty selection of sandwiches, scones and pastries. You could even help yourself to extra slices of homemade cake on the side if your stomach allowed it, although we were far too stuffed to even comprehend having another bite. Katie is definitely the expert when it comes to afternoon tea, but I left feeling happy and full, which can only be a good thing,
As five o’ clock approached, that sweet taste to turn a little sour; unfortunately it was time to make use of that late checkout and leave the Sheraton Grand hotel. It had felt like home for the weekend and was truly a magical stay throughout. The bad part was that I now have to live like a local rather than a tourist again, but the good part is that the Sheraton Grand is only a tube ride away should I want to pop in for an Old Fashioned again. It is a hotel that I definitely recommend visiting either as a local or a tourist and I am so happy that my perception of the staycation has been changed for the better. Now I just need to permanently move in.