Kids in tow – Glass goes on a city break with London’s Athenaeum Hotel & Residences

COINCIDING with the release of Steven Spielberg’s The BFG in July and the centenary of Roald Dahl’s birth this year, five-star Mayfair hotel The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences recently launched its BFG package – and it gets Glass’s heartiest hoorah.

Athenaeum entranceThe entrance to the Athenaeum in Mayfair

A combination of city break, luxe hotel and small children doesn’t often equal family holiday success, but at The Athenaeum, with its very own kids concierge and famed for its dedication to family stays, we find that a great getaway is a given. It all starts with an email questionnaire upon reservation (as any parent knows, preparation is key). Fill out a list of your children’s favourites – including colour, animal, naughty nibbles and healthy snacks – for a truly personalised experience.

We declare a love of apples (no skin, please), red berries and gooey biscuits (the more cocoa-y the better) and arrive to delicately sliced braeburns (magically not browning), plump British raspberries and strawberries, double-chocolate cookies (baked on site) and more of our favourite things (“Mum, do I get to keep this triceratops figurine? I love dinosaurs!”), alongside a Whizpopping BFG soft toy and a paperback copy of Roald Dahl’s beloved ‘The BFG’ for each child.

Athenaeum exteriorThe Athenaeum exterior

Meanwhile, there’s a special connection to Spielberg for the adults to get giddy over: he previously called The Athenaeum home, staying in adjoining rooms at the Residences while editing ET back in the early 1980s. But unless you’re working on a cult classic yourself, there’s no excuse not to explore the neighbourhood beyond the hotel doors.

Some of London’s most famous postcodes are all within walking distance, as well as a plum selection of restaurants, shops and galleries. We particularly love the Royal Academy of Arts, a 10-minute walk north-east along Piccadilly. My progeny are exhibition-trained (in small doses) and were as fascinated as I was by British painter David Hockney’s 82 Portrait and 1 Still-Life, which runs until October 2. (There’s a Roald Dahl connection there too, if you’re looking for it: David Hockney and Roald Dahl-illustrator-of-choice Quentin Blake attended college together.)


Athenaeum restaurant settingThe Athenaeum restaurant setting

The Athenaeum is also situated amid three of London’s best parks: Green Park, St James’s Park and Hyde Park. Do take leave of the urban for a stroll through the greenery down to Buckingham Palace, which famously features in The BFG – imagine the Queen sitting up in bed with The Times, as Sophie saw her do.


Athenaeum barThe bar at the Athenaeum

The hotel has just undergone an impressive refurbishment so, OK, OK, you’re forgiven for staying indoors … It’s new Art Deco flourishes come courtesy of prestigious design consultancy Kinnersley Kent Design, whose client roster includes the Historic Royal Palaces and Fortnum & Mason. The atmosphere is luxurious and friendly with a lobby that flows seamlessly into the bar and restaurant, while design details include teal Dalma chairs by Baxter, Meshmatics chandeliers by Atelier Rick Tegelaar and Pugil floor lamps by Bert Frank.


Athenaeum green wallThe Athenaeum green wall

For both grown-ups and not-quite-grown-ups, the Athenaeum’s eye-catching and green-minded vertical garden by award-winning artist Patrick Blanc is still a novel focal point, seven years after its installation. It’s Blanc’s first UK creation – his other notable works of botanical architecture can be seen on the Quai Branly Museum in Paris, the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, Japan, and the Marithé + François Girbaud boutique in Manhattan.


Athenaeum restaurantFood in the Athenaeum restaurant

On the food front, don’t let Michelin-starred brothers Chris and Jeff Galvin’s fancy credentials put you off eating at Galvin at the Athenaeum with small children in tow. Featuring classic British dishes, there’s fare for those with a refined taste and for those who go for anything beige. The waiters are kind and patient – and if the kids get too restless/noisy, just ask for your dessert to be delivered to your room where they can shriek and eat ice cream to their heart’s content.

At bedtime, the kids are treated to a Dream Jar turn down, which encourages them to write their own dream on a piece of paper before placing it in a jam jar – just like in the book. The turn down comes with milk and cookies, so warn them to leave room after all that ice cream. Oh what the heck, they’re only little for a short while.

By Natalie Egling

The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences BFG package starts from £258 in a Deluxe bedroom, £450 in a Residence and from £516 for two interconnecting hotel rooms per night. This package is available from now until the 31 December

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