The Cavendish Hotel in Jermyn Street is an eight-minute walk through St James’ Square to Theatre Royal Haymarket. You can take a little longer to get there by strolling along Jermyn Street, which offers the ultimate window-shopping experience for gentlemen who fancy expensive shoes, superb silk waistcoats and a first class barber.
The Cavendish of today is a modern hotel. It even has underground parking. Yet it has a glorious and colourful historical pedigree. It was founded early in the nineteenth century as Miller’s Hotel with its entrance on nearby Duke Street. It then passed through various owners and various incarnations before becoming the Cavendish in 1836. In 1902 it was bought by Rosa Lewis, the formidable “Duchess of Jermyn Street”.
In 1930 when Evelyn Waugh published his second novel Vile Bodies, he based several of its London scenes in a slightly dodgy hotel off Piccadilly called Shepheard’s. This parody of the 1930s Cavendish is run by Lottie, an inveterate name dropper and schmoozer of titled folk down on their luck. When the book was published, Rosa Lewis considered herself so traduced by Waugh that she banned him from her hotel for life.
Sadly, the original Cavendish structure was damaged in a Luftwaffe bombing raid on 17 April 1941 that also laid waste to St James’ Church on Jermyn Street. While that lovely edifice was rebuilt, the old Cavendish with its missing façade limped on until being demolished in 1964 so a new 14-storey hotel could be built on Jermyn Street.
The modern Cavendish has a new restaurant with views across to Fortnum and Mason. It was opened in May 2021 as the “Mayfair Lounge & Grill” and is run by Paragon Hospitality who have researched the recipes and menus that Rosa Lewis used in her time. “We have taken her core ideas, adapted and modernised them,” Paragon announced. “It is so rare to be able to bring history alive through our own craft but let’s be honest, hospitality is really the same in its core today as it was 120 years ago; bringing people together, to relax, have fun and build friendships and networks.”
The hotel hopes to make its new restaurant a major social centre in the West End just as it was in the days of Rosa Lewis. For theatre-goers it is introducing an Early Bird menu consisting of a three-course meal and a glass of house wine for £35pp, which will be served from 5.30pm to 7.30pm.