It’s sad, I find, that along with the usual casualties at the end of love affairs, come all the places which hold memories of them. Poor, unsuspecting restaurants, bars, hotels, (also houses, stately homes, gardens, galleries, theatres, streets and entire arrondissements in my thin-skinned case) are bluelisted, until time has spread its balm where love has burned.
St John Hotel, off Leicester Square in London is the perfect place to stay, then, when you need warm, not hot. In a brilliant location, just off Leicester Square, it has a brisk, institutional atmosphere, naturally not unlike the St John restaurants, protecting you from the Chinatown clamour outside. The mildly claustrophobic building, (the roadworks outside are not helping) the staff’s eastern European accents and white uniforms could make you wonder if there might be padding on the walls of your cell, er, room. But no, of course not silly. The floors are lino. There are no wardrobes or any drawer-bearing pieces of furniture, but wooden pegs all around the room, which appeal massively to this bordelique traveller who rarely unpacks her suitcase anyway. It’s all very comfortable , reasonably priced and, I suspect, easy to hose clean. Also a great bed, mountains of pillows, solid, roomy bathroom with fast water, make up mirror (Dean Street Townhouse I’m looking at YOU) but with NO LIGHT (ultimate kindness for the over 45s) decent smellies, properly free wifi and an excellent double espresso with hot milk on the side please, and a smile thank you, in less than 5 minutes.
But it’s the food here which brings true solace, in a no-nonsense, nanny knows best way. For Nanny St John KNOWS how you like the little things during, this, your fleur de peau convalescence. The pipIng hot, morning after bacon sandwich, whose butter, whilst dripping helpfully through the many folds of bacon, has not quite soaked through the whole thickness of the (epic) bread, the baked to order madeleines which , like the espresso, arrive in less than 5 minutes, the molten rarebit which strips the roof of your mouth with one bite of glorious self-punishment, and death hastening ‘devilled pigskin’ (photo) for which Adrià would doubtlessly learn, at last, to speak English, or Nathan Mirthvoid get a grant from Harvard, just to understand how Fergus Henderson GOT IT THAT WAY. And all this, for the moment, might not be the love you want, but it’s sure as hell the love you need.