Review: The Athenaeum hotel, Mayfair – friendly, five-star fabulousness
A sleek and chic stay opposite Green Park in London
When you think about 5* Mayfair hotels, you might think, stuffy, perhaps a little unfriendly, maybe not the place for you if you’re anything other than the elitist of the elite. But The Athenaeum hotel is an entirely different experience.
Yes, it’s a luxurious 5* Mayfair hotel, with all the lovely things you’d expect to come with that, but it’s so friendly and welcoming, you almost feel like it’s a home from home. Well, we’d have to seriously level up if that was anything like our home, but you get the gist. It’s one of the city’s few five-star family-run hotels, and that really shows.
Where is The Athenaeum hotel?
The Athenaeum is right opposite Green Park in Mayfair, London, which at the time we were there was filled with elephants. From the upper floors you have great views of the park over the trees. While the road outside is busy and packed with various supercars (we spotted a Lamborghini Reventon, countless Ferraris, and our personal favourite… a mint Reliant Scimitar GTE), the soundproofing is good so you won’t be disturbed in the middle of the night by someone revving their V12.
The hotel lobby, from our sofa view
Outside, the hotel has a striking vertical living wall which you can’t fail to notice from the road. After being greeted by the incredibly friendly doorman who insisted on carrying my small suitcase the short distance to the reception desk, you find even more greenery in the impressively airy lobby filled with statement furniture, quirky lamps, and loads of art work.
History of The Athenaeum – from art, to recording artists
In 1850, the building was owned by MP Henry Hope, who lived there (it’s alright for some!). Hope was a huge fan of the arts and he made Hope House home to one of Europe’s finest private art collections.
Today, Daniel, one of the brothers who runs the hotel, also loves his art, hence the huge amount throughout the hotel. This includes fun commissions by artist Martin Hulbert.
So. Many. Mirrors.
Between the 19th century and today, The Athenaeum has worn many hats. At one point it was a popular Gentlemen’s Club, it’s been a luxury Art Deco apartment block, and of course, a prestigious hotel that has seen many celebs pass through its doors.
Boy band Take That announced their split from the penthouse – which is now the Club Lounge, reserved for guests staying in suites – Elizabeth Taylor and Russell Crowe have stayed there, and Steven Spielberg installed an editing suite while working on ET, Close Encounters and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
What are the rooms like at The Athenaeum?
Our Green Park Suite for the weekend
The Athenaeum is deceptively large. There’s 162 rooms, split between Superior, Deluxe, Park View, Green Park Suites and Mayfair Suites, along with some Residences (which are basically super fancy apartments for longer stays. The dream). Superior rooms start at £270 a night, with suites from £545 per night, and Residences from £659. We’d previously stayed in a Deluxe room, with views over neighbouring Victorian red brick buildings, with burnt orange details, eccentric art work, and loads of mirrors.
This time, we stayed in one of the Green Park Suites. While it was similar in style, it’s of course a lot bigger, with a separate living space, loads of natural light from huge floor-to-ceiling windows and mirrors everywhere. The marble bathroom is huge, with a separate bath and the biggest shower we’ve ever been in. Although with spotlights in the bathroom, and yet more mirrors, it’s not the most flattering of lights in there. You’ve been warned.
Our seriously comfy bed
We always struggle to sleep the first night in a hotel, but we were out like a light in the king size beds with Hypnos mattresses. The cocktails we’d enjoyed downstairs may also have helped with that though.
Arguably the most important bit – what’s the food & drink like?
Salt & pepper squid
The hotel’s restaurant, 116 at The Athenaeum is headed up by chef Ian Howard. There’s an all-day menu featuring small and big plates, sandwiches, and various grilled dishes, which you can enjoy in the cool and cosy restaurant, or out on the terrace.
Pea & shallot ravioli, smoked tomato pesto and a pea shoot salad
For dinner, we started with salt & pepper squid, with spiced mayonnaise, main course was a super fresh pea & shallot ravioli, smoked tomato pesto and a pea shoot salad, then despite being really full (especially after quite the lunch at Hide a few minutes’ walk down the road), we finished with sticky toffee pudding with clotted cream ice cream. As we all know, there’s always room for dessert. By coincidence, those dishes were all from the set menu, which offers three courses for £29.50. The wine list has some interesting options by the glass, as well as all the current favourites. We started with a glass of Gusbourne Brut Reserve 2016, followed by a glass of domaine Collettte Gros Chablis, 2019 with our pasta.
Sticky toffee pudding
One of our favourite things is a long, lazy hotel breakfast. The Athenaeum’s is one of the best. There are all the usual continental options, pastries, Bircher muesli, granola, a ‘smoothie of the day’, fruit, yogurt…
Vegetarian full English
Aside from this, there’s a stellar selection of cooked breakfast options, from a full English, to a delicious vegetarian (or vegan) full English, omelettes, Eggs Benedict/Florentine/Royale, and pancakes or waffles. We can confirm, Burford Browns make some seriously delicious scrambled eggs.
The bar is currently closed thanks to the pandemic, but (importantly!), you can still enjoy a cocktail or three in the lobby or on the terrace.
We enjoyed a Pisco Devil (Ayala Champagne, Pisco, peach liqueur), Mayfair Spritz (Aperol, Maraschino Liqueur, plum sake, agave, Mediterranean tonic), Ailsa (Bogarts whisky, mango, chamomile, lemon) and The Local (Delilah’s gin, green tea, lemon, cherry bitters).
Pisco Devil and Mayfair Spritz cocktails
The bar at The Athenaeum is renowned for its impressive whisky collection – they’ve recently consolidated it down to a few more than a 100 bottles – and great drinks, created by Giovanni Castorina, Fabio Lupcia and the rest of the team. The menu changes with the seasons, and they often embrace events such as Burns Night or the Chelsea Flower Show.
Gusbourne and Ailsa
If you’re feeling creative, you can join a cocktail masterclass and make your own drinks, or if you prefer to do less of the work and more of the drinking, there’s also a whisky tasting masterclass, both hosted by barman Fabio Lupcia.
The Local cocktail
There’s also a very highly rated afternoon tea on offer, and you can order a picnic hamper to take to Green Park for an al fresco treat. Or if you want to explore Mayfair’s pubs, follow one of two luxury London pub crawl routes, or the hotel’s ready-to-rock staycation itinerary.
If that’s not enough, what else is there to do?
The hotel has a small spa with hot tub, sauna, steam-room and a few lounge chairs, as well as a range of treatments. If you’re feeling energetic, there’s also a fitness suite with some high-tech equipment.
Final thoughts on The Athenaeum
Take us back, please!
Whether you’re looking for a base to explore London, or if you want to stay put and enjoy being looked after in a luxurious hotel for the weekend, you’re not going to do much better than The Athenaeum. Every member of staff we chatted with was so helpful, friendly and went over and above to make sure our stay was perfect. We’re already planning our next visit. After all, by the time we go, we’ll have some new seasonal cocktails to try.