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Why the refurbished Athenaeum Hotel in London's Mayfair will be a hit

Eric Cantona. A great signing. Cristiano Ronaldo. A great signing. The Galvin brothers. A great signing.

Never heard of the Galvin brothers?

Well, if you pay a visit to Hotel Athenaeum in Mayfair, London, their significance will become readily apparent.

THE HOLLYWOOD CONNECTIONS AT THE ATHENAEUM

For they are emissaries of exquisite cooking and have helped move this venerated hotel up the London Premier League of Lodgings by taking over its entire food and beverage operation.

A multi-million-pound refurbishment has also played its part, but more about that later.

The deployment of the Galvin brothers was a master stroke by the hotel's management.

They have firmly established themselves as cooks extraordinaire. They've both won a Michelin star and run several top-class eateries in the capital, including Galvin Bistro de Luxe and Galvin La Chapelle.

Now they've worked their culinary magic at the Athenaeum - a hotel that's a firm favourite with a host of Hollywood stars.

I reviewed the hotel last year and it was a five-star experience all round, except for dinner, which was a bit underwhelming and overpriced.

The meal had been tainted by bland scallops and pan-fried turbot swamped by sauce, then scandalised by £24 fish and chips that should have cost ten pounds less.

Now I'm back to see if things have improved - and the answer is a resounding yes.

The food is faultlessly executed and the prices have moved out of the eye-watering bracket.

A set £19.95 lunch is terrific value. The ham hock and parsley terrine with housemade piccalilli starter is deliciously tangy and succulent, while a main of seared calves liver, January king cabbage and onion lyonnaise is beautifully cooked and the side of 'creamy mash' superbly creamy.

Valrhona chocolate mousse with pistachio and caramelised banana for dessert hits the sweet spot, too.

The mouth-watering warm bread, and butter that's served with a mini-cloche, also deserves a hat tip.

Dinner is, similarly, a triumph.

Soused Cornish sardines with pink fir potatoes and cucumber (£9) is perky and refreshing, a cassoulet of Gressingham duck and Gloucester Old Spot sausage (£16.50) is rustic and comforting and a floating island with vanilla and blackberries (£6) is marvellously moreish.

And the bottle of Barolo Le Albe and the prompt and enthusiastic service lift the mood yet further.

The aforementioned refurbishment, too, is a winner.

Thanks to the toil of leading British agency Kinnersley Kent Design, the Athenaeum is an altogether sexier proposition aesthetically.

The tiny terrace at the front has been replaced with a much larger outdoor seating area and there's now a double storey, airy lobby with floor-to-ceiling windows.

And the reception desk is no more - checking in and out is now via a smiley member of staff armed with an iPad.

The bar, meanwhile, can now be found in the room that was largely dedicated to afternoon tea - the Garden Room.

It used to have something of the Alice in Wonderland about it, with quirky art dotted around the place.

Now it's a low-key art deco-alicious chamber of cocktail-making prowess.

The bar experience has been created by one of the world's leading cocktail gurus, Giancarlo Mancino. His emphasis is on craft spirits and wow-factor cocktails.

I have a Down Street Manhattan - whisky, port, raspberries and lime juice alchemised into a zingy tissue restorer that's served in a dry-ice-filled bag for drama.

The rooms haven't been refurbed, but they're in fine shape as it is.

Our room is one of the swanky residences, which has an entrance on a side street.

I say room. It's actually an apartment complete with kitchen, living room, ginormous bedroom with a bed the width of the side street and a bathroom, which is tiny, but kitted out with classy fixtures and fittings.

We invite a few friends over and feel like total rock stars as we chat away over champagne in the luxe living room.

The only fly in the ointment is a slightly out-of-place giant-pitchfork-in-a-block-of-wood ornament, with a robin on the handle.

In the morning we return once more to the Galvin restaurant for breakfast.

The standards are maintained and I'm particularly taken with the fact that the honey on offer comes in the form of a wedge of the stuff taken straight from a hive and placed on a rack for guests to scoop out.

The Athenaeum has long attracted those famous for being on the silver screen.

Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford, Sandra Bullock, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christian Bale, Warren Beatty, Renee Zellweger, Natalie Portman, to name but a few.

I think they'll love the sequel.


http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-3917934/The-Mayfair-hotel-movie-stars-love-huge-refurb-hired-Michelin-starred-chefs-s-box-office-smash.html