May Fair Hotel

As obstructions go, the two Rolls-Royce Phantoms that barricade the entrance to London’s May Fair hotel aren’t such a chore to navigate. These outsized clues simply set the scene for a £75m refurbishment. Sat Bal reviews the benefits (24 Apr'11)

Most of us have caught sight of Mandarin Oriental’s global “He’s/She’s a fan” advertising campaign. Perhaps in a glossy mag of generous gsm page thickness or even on billboard while zipping through Tokyo’s upscale Ginza district on a shopathon. Its tasteful portrayals of the likes of Jerry Hall, Bryan Ferry and Patrick Lichfield end with the simple endorsement that each is “a fan”.

Maybe the new breed of celeb ensconced at the The May Fair should mount a Mandarin makeover ad. Let’s see. Ronan Keating; he’s a fan. Cheryl Cole; she’s a fan. Erin O’Connor; she’s a fan. The pretty, young things of London Fashion Week are also fans, having designated the May Fair their official hotel.


The Crystal Room

Certainly the 5-star venue's location near Old and New Bond Street is one reason to stay but there are many more. Settling into one of the deep leather chairs in the lobby it’s easier to see why the worlds of business and entertainment converge so harmoniously here. The view is all ryokan-style efficiency as a battalion of uniformed staff calmly allot suites and resolve guest queries under the shimmer of Baccarat crystal chandeliers. 


Bar area

To the left and right, the May Fair bar and the Amba Bar & Grill restaurant flank the spacious reception area, their glass doors discreetly issuing an invitation for later. 


For now a more pressing invitation lies on the eighth floor of the hotel where the Saffron Suite awaits. 

The Saffron is one of eight signature suites and offers a great way to get acquainted with the May Fair product and service level. The signature suites occupy a square footage from just under 1,000 to a chunky 2,137 sq ft for the opulent Penthouse Suite. The first impression of the Saffron Suite is, predictably, its size. It’s dominated by a vast lounge aglow with orange fabric and has a pervasive scent that's more Bali than London. However, as the stay progresses it becomes apparent that the May Fair has somehow managed to create a very cosy hotel living room here despite the ample space.

The deep padding of the L-configured sofa means up to eight friends can lounge about in front of the 42-inch Bang & Olufsen Plasma TV while wine or Espressos are dispensed from the adjoining kitchenette. 


Business & leisure 

This suite is the great confuser with an all-change versatility for hosting a variety of events. The possibilities? A private setting for clients viewing a series of shortlisted business pitches, a sophisticated backdrop for an exclusive cocktail party, an intimate dinner for hand-picked friends or a salubrious setting for conducting press interviews. The state-of-the-art Bang & Olufsen entertainment system means that the suite can also be used as a private screening room.


Saffron Suite lounge area


The suites are assigned 24-hour private butlers to take care of everything from post-midnight munchies to airport Bentley transfers, see why May Fair Hotel was voted "England's leading business hotel" accolade at last year's World Travel Awards.


Penthouse bar

As a leisure stay a Mayfair location means a swish address and high-end consumer utility in one stylish package. Hectic Bond Street shopping trips can end in the opulence of the suite’s all-black, high-gloss bathroom where the bustle of central London soon dissolves away with a soak in the bath. It’s a shame that the dimensions of the bath aren't more in keeping with the generosity of space overall but the LCD TV screen perched at the bath's end provides some mitigation as does the powerful illuminated rain shower that adjoins.

It's worth mentioning the individuality of the signature suites at this point. You only have to check out the imposing limestone egg baths in suites like the Amarillo or Azure to see the markedly different design approaches. This "same hotel, different experience" philosophy presumably pays dividends in guest retention.

In all there are 406 bedrooms which include 11 “Al Fresco” rooms, eight studios, 142 deluxe rooms and 235 superior rooms. While the May Fair is owned by the Radisson Edwardian chain its corporate stamp isn't discernible and the place feels more boutique than branded.  



The menu at Amba takes in the best of the season with a focus on British fare. During our stay starter courses included  roasted Highland venison red wine poached pear and salted pistachio, Dublin bay prawns, cauliflower soup and roasted almonds. Prices started at £7 and hovered just under £14.

The British theme continued with main courses of seared Cornish turbot cockle and mussel broth, salsify and saffron potato fondant and a succulent glazed Angus fillet of beef bone marrow crust, horseradish mash and red wine jus which, at £26.50, was the most expensive dish on the menu.

Dishes were uniformly excellent as were the attitudes of waiting staff and the amiable restaurant manager. He emphasised that off-menu creations were perfectly possible and proved it by colluding with the chef to bring us all manner of experimental confections. 

The restaurant’s low lights and dark panelling induce a cosy mood which is really conducive to “grazing” and conversation. The languid you’re-not-going-anywhere atmosphere meant that we missed out on the May Fair bar and continued idling at Amba instead; the seduction was complete.

This summarises the essence of this hotel. Each facility takes hold as if there were some kind of inter-departmental competition for patrons’ attention. In this context the May Fair Spa, led by Stacey Spooner, does a particularly good job of suspending time with treatments such as "the Jetlag Reviver" - more on this in Red Carpet's forthcoming focus on hotel spas. 


Venue Vitals

Location - The May Fair Hotel, Stratton Street  London W1J 8LT    Tube - Green Park Contact  0207 6297777


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