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  A Night to Remember at London’s Restaurant Lyttelton, Stafford Hotel

It was a foggy night in London town. We weren’t low or down, but we were a bit soggy as we made our way from a London taxi to the doorway of the Stafford Hotel. We were here for dinner at the Lyttelton.

Part of the upscale Kempinski chain, located in the heart of St James just off Piccadilly and close to Green Park,  the Stafford Hotel celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2012. Lord and Lady Lyttelton resided in the property during the 19th century; the restaurant is named for them.  

It was a few days before Christmas, and all was aglow.

Pots of poinsettas, red candles and red ribbons on the mantles, glittering decorations on the trees.

A hand-crafted exquisite chandelier hanging from the high ornate ceiling caught our eye as we were escorted into the first floor restaurant-dining room of the 105-room hotel.  The mood was from another time, Forstyle Saga-ish, Edwardian décor, lots of ivory, lemon yellow and gray.      Settling in in at our table, we took note of the settings, the delicate English porcelain, the gleaming silver, the damask linens were the color of eggshells. We are long-time Anglophiles and  suckers for this kind of stuff. 

Restaurant manager Andrew Smythe arrived. He’d worked in London restaurants for the last two decades, he told us, the past four years at this one and went on to recommend the shellfish linguini with lobster, prawns, scallops, clams and little tomatoes and string beans. Little persuasion needed for one of us. For the other, an autumn salad of arugula, goat cheese, sliced beets and a filet of organic salmon seemed the better choice. Both proved excellent.

The time flew by, and we were about to collect our coats and exit this charming place of respite and renewal when Andrew Smyth invited to show us the “Downstairs” part of the property and experience some things that are “quite wonderful and unusual.”

When he first began at the Stafford, he told us, he’d sometimes see people going out into the little courtyard and through a doorway to a staircase below ground. Something was going on, and one day he decided to find out what it was.

“There was this whole world down there,” Smythe explained “It’s been handed down from one manager to another. Now that I’m here, I’ve taken the place under my wing.”

We followed him down a creaky stairway into a dimly lit underground  tunnel that led to a sizeable iron double gate. It was the wine cellar frequented from 1939-1945 by Canadian and American officers. Some valuable vintages were found down there. We were also shown the American Bar. “Lots of places claim to have one, but this is an original,” Smythe explains. “American soldiers stationed nearby during the war hung out here. Today it attracts a different crowd; there are the same faces every day, regulars. Prince William is often here as well. He comes with a couple of friends around 10-10:30 for a couple of beers. The Palace is just around the corner.”

We followed Smythe through the American bar to an arched room at the back of the cellar where the mood suddenly took on a darker hue. This was an air raid shelter during World War II, he explained. Now it’s a museum. Artifacts remain: hats, scarves, even gas masks, pennants from American clubs. Also newspapers from the times of the Blitz. “Hitler’s Peace Terms Revealed” one headline says. “Nazis Quit” says another. If the cellar walls could talk what stories they would tell.

We had come for dinner and stayed for something more. Walking out of the Stafford, we felt we had been witnesses to a part of history that is still very close in the U.K.

Whether for a couple of beers or much more, this is a property that deserves to be experienced. We came for the food and got  a London evening to remember.

The Stafford by Kempinski
St. James Place

Phone:  +44(0) 20 7493 0111 

Photographs by Harvey Frommer

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About the Authors:  Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer are a wife and husband team who successfully bridge the worlds of popular culture and traditional scholarship. Co-authors of the critically acclaimed interactive oral histories It Happened in the Catskills, It Happened in Brooklyn, Growing Up Jewish in America, It Happened on Broadway, It Happened in Manhattan, It Happened in Miami. They teach what they practice as professors at Dartmouth College.

They are also travel writers who specialize in luxury properties and fine dining as well as cultural history and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. More about these authors.

You can contact the Frommers at: 

Email: myrna.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU
Email: harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU

This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2012 by Harvey and Myrna Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.


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