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September 16, 2014updated 02 Mar 2016 10:09am

The Sofitel St James offers busy businessmen a pint and a pedicure

By Zak Smith

Strolling along Pall Mall, suits pacing in every direction, I quickened my step with purpose to match the surroundings. Entering the Sofitel St James was like entering a board meeting-cum-design exhibit.

The blend of the traditional with the quirky was obvious; a former bank, titbits from a bygone era sat comfortably alongside colourful furniture and unique eccentricities (the hotel is soon to exhibit vegetable sculptures by Patrick Laroche, which the staff seemed incredibly excited about).

A somewhat overlooked hotel considering the glut of new hotels like Ham Yard and Chiltern Firehouse cluttering London’s cityscape and the brighter lights of the Ritz up the road, the Sofitel felt like a charming if quiet stalwart of the London hotel scene.

However, with an opportunity to try their Pint and Pedicure offer, directed primarily at the overworked business traveller, and dinner afterwards, I wanted to see if I had unearthed a gem.

All of the rushing, running and traipsing takes its toll on the feet of the London’s businessman, even in the most comfortable of Church’s. Sipping a freshly poured pint, a pint sized lady fastidiously worked on my feet: scrubbing, massaging and pruning.

The incongruity of the pint and pedicure without question pushed the boundaries of masculinity: it was as if the pint made the more lady-favoured treatment legitimate, even justifiable. I doubt that in the near future anyone’s local will be offering a mani-pedi with a pint of London Pride, but it was certainly novel, and as I sat sipping on soft silver throne in SO Spa, I wasn’t quite sure whether I felt more Ray Winstone or David Beckham. After 45 minutes of warm water and ice cold beer, my feet were far too soft to bend anything, let alone a ball.

Balcon is the sort of restaurant you would stride past, clock the elegant balcony and never think twice about again. However, the grand exterior blends in perfectly with the regal surroundings, giving little away as to the charm and character inside, including an enchanting charcuterie bar at the entrance.

A ‘tray rapide’ menu offers the time-sensitive executive the opportunity to try the best bits of the menu without the fuss and length of a full meal, blending French and British cuisine tastefully and tastily in grand but not overbearing surroundings. For those with an extra notch on the belt, there is an intoxicatingly sexy dessert tray.

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With an excellent selection of wine and large windows to watch London come alive, there seemed few better places to spend a Thursday night.

The bar was a classic: displaying all the dark, mysterious machismo that the pink tearoom featuring a daily harpist didn’t. Thronging with all sorts, bar staff in quaint uniforms ferried endless scotches to the numerous George Osborne lookalikes and colourful cocktails to the mandatory Russian, American and Chinese tourists.

Swapping conversations on Scottish independence, London shopping, ladies of the night and the next big deal, the bar felt alive, all under the watchful eye of animals in uniform painted spectacularly on an oversized canvas fastened to the ceiling above.
For the business traveller looking for a lively, less obvious place to stay in the capital, the Sofitel St James may just offer something a little different.

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