… offering up a minibreak filled with espionage and a new way to experience the sights of London. Junior’s Travel Contributor Zoey Goto packed up her two young agents, aged three and ten, to check in for a top-secret weekend of code breaking, treasure hunting and mystery.
The St. Ermin’s Hotel, Westminster, London: Family Sleepover
The St. Ermin’s Hotel: Check In
This grande dame hotel is situated in the centre of Westminster’s political beating heart, with Downing Street and the Houses of Parliament just a stone’s throw away (unconfirmed rumour has it that there’s even a secret tunnel linking the hotel to Parliament!).
The St. Ermin’s Hotel has become a famous hotbed for spies over the years, with MI6 once using it as their HQ and both Winston Churchill and 007 author Ian Fleming holding clandestine meetings here. Keep your eyes peeled, as you never know whom you’ll find lurking behind a newspaper in the hotel’s extravagant lobby!
Nowadays, the hotel taps into its stealthy, double-dealing history by offering families the Budding Bonds package, the highlight of which is an engaging treasure hunt testing kid’s observational skills in and around the hotel. As we checked in, the friendly staff discreetly handed my children their mission packs, which included a code breaking booklet and secret agent aptitude test.
Both kids loved the secret treasure hunt mission, but it chimed particularly well with my eldest daughter who adores anything with a whiff of intrigue. She was soon leading the pack as we raced around the hotel and surrounding area trying to answer the often quite tricky questions (hands up who knows which famous organisation held its first meeting in the Methodist Central Hall by Parliament Square?!).
Back at the hotel, the prize for successfully completing the hunt was a mocktail in the library – shaken but not stirred, naturally.
The St. Ermin’s Hotel: The Room
Base camp for the weekend was a spacious deluxe suite with a pull-out bed for the children, lounge area and separate bedroom with an enormous, canopied bed. The bathroom featured both a roll top bath and wet-room shower, fully stocked with gorgeous smelling toiletries from The White Company.
The highlight of the suite for the kids was the open-top sightseeing buses that passed our bay windows regularly – each time, receiving a cheer and a wave from my enthusiastic children!
As night fell, a knock on the door delivered some homemade cookies and copies of St. Ermin’s Hotel: A Bedtime Story For Kids, a sweet who-done-it book that tied in nicely with the spy theme.
The St. Ermin’s Hotel: The Food
The St. Ermin’s Hotel is actually home to a second hotel; but this time the residents are 350,000 Buckfast honeybees. The buzzy workers are located on the third floor terrace, which guests can view through the glass-fronted platform.
Executive Head Chef Alexander Boyd incorporates the bee’s liquid gold into many dishes on the Caxton Grill restaurant menu, alongside fruit and veg grown in the hotel’s kitchen gardens which are cleverly dotted across the rooftops. The modern European menu has a big emphasis on super fresh, seasonal ingredients and the kid’s menu, featuring tasty pasta dishes and gourmet burgers, was every bit as carefully thought out as the adult dishes.
Be sure to book a table out on the pretty, flower-lined terrace to sample the legendary afternoon tea. The adult’s version (priced £34) includes a memorably delicious ham hock croquette with piccalilli mayo, followed by a delicate strawberry and timut pepper panna cotta. The children’s version is a mini gardener themed tea (priced £18) featuring a decorate-it-yourself bumble bee biscuit, finger sandwiches and a mountain of freshly basked scones. It received a hearty thumbs-up from the kids, who were in 007 heaven!
The St. Ermin’s Hotel: The Lowdown
As a gaggle of born and bred Londoners, I had thought there was little that my family didn’t know about our hometown. But our Budding Bonds staycation at the St. Ermin’s Hotel proved me wrong, showing us a fascinating side of the city usually reserved exclusively for international tourists.
The detective theme was a roaring success with my kids, offering a unique and fun way to explore London’s heritage.
For my mini agents and I, it was mission accomplished!
The St. Ermin’s Hotel: Top Tips
- Be sure to check out the little spy exhibition that’s hidden away in the hotel’s lobby and includes all sorts of hush-hush memorabilia.
- Pack your walking shoes, as Buckingham Palace, St James’s Park and Westminster are all within a ten-minute stroll.
- You can also bring your dog, as the hotel is so pup-friendly it even has a dedicated canine concierge!
Junior Fact File: The St. Ermin’s Hotel
The St. Ermin’s Hotel has either the Family Playcation Package, starting from £261 per room per night