FEW addresses in the world come more rarefied than Mayfair. Established as a fashionable residential area during the 17th and 18th centuries and immortalised as the British capital's ultimate des res by its status as the priciest property on the UK Monopoly board, the West End bolthole retains its gilded cachet today. Affluence doesn't always equate to friendliness, however, which makes it all the more of a relief to find the unsung gem Flemings. Charmingly anachronistic and free from any airs and graces, this may not be the place to break out your inner Bond and lay the charm on thick, but it's a refreshingly unpretentious base from which to immerse yourself in the area's glitz.
How do I get there?
It couldn't be simpler. From King's Cross, it's a quick stroll to the underground station and the southbound Victoria line to Green Park. From the tube station, walk west along Piccadilly towards Hyde Park Corner for a couple of blocks until you reach Half Moon Street, and Flemings is on the right. For train tickets from Scotland, check out www.nationalexpresseastcoast.com.
What's the food like?
When we stayed, the hotel's restaurant was in the midst of an extensive upgrade to dispense with the slightly clubby, aspic-preserved vibe in favour of a more contemporary feel. If the enormous breakfasts are anything to go on, the kitchen is hardly geared towards safeguarding dietary good intentions, and a gargantuan full English is great preparation for a hard day pounding Park Lane.
We stayed in one of the junior suites, which is as close as we will ever come to having our own Mayfair pile. With a fully equipped kitchen and a comfortable reception area complementing a big bedroom and bathroom, it's a very generous-sized space indeed. The suites come equipped with two flatscreen televisions and a meaty-sounding stereo. There are also thoughtful extras such as plentiful bread and jam and a microwave if you can't afford to shell out for Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's around the corner.
Big, comfortable and warm. The surfeit of striped wallpaper inside some of the 119 bedrooms may give the impression of being trapped inside a gift-wrapped present, but there's nothing wrong with enclosure when it's this luxurious.
Out and about
Where to start? The hotel is situated slap-bang in the middle of one of the most tourist-centric square miles on earth. Buckingham Palace is just a short walk away over Green Park while, for those intent on revitalising the British economy through plastic, Regent Street, Oxford Street, Covent Garden and the even more bank-balance-busting shops on Bond Street and Savile Row are within easy striking distance. In the other direction, Knightsbridge is home to Harrods, while a little further on, in South Kensington, are the V&A, Natural History and Science Museums. If you like the high life, hit the blackjack table at the nearby Ritz Club, or if you prefer something a bit looser, get yourself a copy of Time Out London and scour the listings for the best spots in town.
The bottom line
A two-night weekend break including accommodation in a standard double or twin room, with full English breakfast and three-course dinner in Bodeca Restaurant on the first night, currently starts at 154 per room per night based on two adults sharing.
This article was first published in Scotland on Sunday on 24 January, 2010