Stafford Collection Magazine Autumn 2022 - Flipbook - Page 36
Much later in their history, the Cellars housed the
famous Madame Prunier wine shipping company. Simone
Prunier was a beautiful, but formidable, restaurateur in Paris
and London. She was the granddaughter of celebrated
French restaurateur Alfred Prunier, who opened the first
Prunier fish restaurant in Paris in 1872. La Maison Prunier
in St James’s became famous for its fresh fish and shellfish,
and was frequented in its time by the great and the good of
society — from kings and queens, to actors and politicians,
including Sir Winston Churchill. During World War II,
Madame Prunier housed her extensive wine collection in
the Cellars of The Stafford London, firstly to guarantee that
the bottles would be safe, but also to ensure that there was
a regular supply of fine wines for her clientele! A wooden
plaque now hangs proudly on the gates of one of the
Cellars’ wine chambers, in her memory.
Quite apart from preserving alcohol during the War, the
Cellars were also utilised as an air raid shelter. The hotel
itself served as a club for American and Canadian officers
stationed in London, and today a fascinating little museum
of artefacts can be found in the Cellars, seemingly left in
situ by the officers from their time at the hotel.
Today, the working Cellars hold 8,000 bottles of the
finest wines, including many rare and precious vintages.
Housing one of the most complete wine collections in
London, it’s not surprising that a wide range of vintages
in half bottle and imperial sizes are on offer, alongside
an impressive selection of vintage cognacs, Armagnacs,
ports and single malt whiskies — some dating back to
the 1920s. Alongside this impressive collection, the last
remaining casket and wine corking machinery are on
show in the main chamber of the Cellars.
Above ground, it would be impossible to talk about
The Stafford London without mentioning the veritable
institution that is The American Bar. It is one of only two
of the original American Bars left in London to retain the
name, created to cater for the first mass influx of travellers
from the US in the 1940s. As well as its signature serves,
The American Bar is perhaps best-loved for its décor, with
every available wall, surface and square inch of ceiling
displaying an intriguing collection of artefacts, knickknacks and signed celebrity photographs donated by
patrons and guests over the years.
The collection of memorabilia was first started when
an American guest gave Charles Guano — the hotel’s
late, beloved Head Barman of 42 years — a small wooden
carving of an American eagle. Shortly after, a Canadian guest
gave him a small model of an Eskimo. Then an Australian
presented a model of a kangaroo, and so the collection grew
and grew into the incredible display on show throughout the
bar today. Artefacts include a signed photograph from Clint
Eastwood asking to “save a pint” for him, model airplanes
donated by the makers of the actual planes, a shark’s jaw,
a dollar bill signed by the Secretary of the Treasury of the
U.S., and even an adorable Paddington Bear. And whilst The
American Bar packs a punch at the best of times, this fighting
spirit is immortalised with a pair of Lonsdale boxing gloves
signed by none other than boxing legend Evander Holyfield,
which he donated during the 2012 London Olympic Games.
The one item on display which has always amused
regulars to the bar, however, is the large screwdriver
tacked to the wall. So the story goes, this stems from when
a guest staying at the hotel phoned down to order a drink.
Unfortunately, they had unwittingly got through to an
intern, who followed their request for a Screwdriver a little
too literally, with a tool rather than a cocktail dispatched
to the guest’s room!
Less bemusing, but very respected, is the special
place permanently reserved for Nancy Wake, the Allies’
most highly decorated servicewoman of World War II. A
Karen Newman-sculpted bust honours Wake’s position
not just at the bar, but also in history.
Wake’s story begins in New Zealand, although a fiercely
independent streak saw her leave home to work as a nurse
and then a journalist in Europe, swinging with a cosmopolitan
set of other independent and carefree young people. However,
having witnessed the rise of Hitler and anti-Semitism in the
1930s, she eventually came to work for the French Resistance.
Code-named the “White Mouse” by the Gestapo because of
her ability to evade capture, she was at one point their most
wanted person, with a five million-franc price on her head
(fortunately for Wake, the Gestapo presumed she must be
a man). She became a saboteur and Resistance fighter,
and led an army of 7,000 Maquis troops in guerrilla warfare
to sabotage the Nazis. Her story is one of daring, courage,
intrigue and optimism in the face of impossible odds.
The American Bar is perhaps best-loved
for its décor, with every available surface
displaying an intriguing collection of artefacts
PA ST T E N S E , F U T U R E S E N S E —