It was a foggy and cold night in old London town, writes Steve Zacharanda.

So when St Ermin's Hotel horse-shoe shaped entrance came into view it looked like welcoming arms ready to envelope weary travellers.

The grand Victorian mansion's driveway would have had horse and carriages dropping off ladies and gentleman when it opened in 1889, now it is hackney carriages bringing international visitors to its doors.

The hotel more than glittered in the moonlight thanks to the countless Christmas lights throughout the gardens, driveway and entrance.

As we got closer it was obvious the hotel had gone all out this festive season with a sleigh, Christmas trees and all manner of owls.

And you would need an owl's revolving head to take in the sheer amount of stuff to see in the lobby, from a Parliamentary division bell to uber-cool new furniture.

Distinct and brilliant white, with mini-grand staircases and a mezzanine floor, the lobby is two fingers to the all-too-cool less-is-more school of interior design. The plaster work, which includes Greek god-style fascias covering the wall, ceilings, magnificent staircase and balconies, was done in the late 1890s when the best was only good enough.

The lobby had much so much going on that I reckon it is the best place on earth to play eye-spy with one little eye.

So it is no surprise that Britain's intelligence services made the hotel a second home during the 1930s and 1940s.

The Cambridge spies, Noel Coward and a who's who of British spies were interviewed in the hotel.

Halesowen News:

The Caxton bar, where the hotel's impressive restaurant is now, was a favourite haunt for those eager to talk about their daring do or, after WW2 had ended, handing official secrets to Russian agents.

In 1940 Winston Churchill gathered the best of the best for a meeting and set up the Special Operations Executive with instructions to "set Europe ablaze."

SOE, the forerunner to the SAS, plotted their covert attacks on Europe from an entire floor of the hotel.

And these heroes, many of whom would die at the hands of the Nazis, used the lobby to play code-breaking games.

So the history just drips off the walls in St Ermin's and it lends it self to a secret liaison, or a romantic one, or even both a the same time.

St Ermin's Afternoon Tea is a nice slice of yesteryear elegance, the 90 minute £32-a-head tea (£18 extra for unlimited Champagne) was a conveyor belt of tasty treats delivered by a rotating number of ladies in bow ties.

The waitresses were as charming as the company I was with was enchanting, and with St Ermin's unique surroundings, which gave us the feel of being far away from the madding crowd, the whole experience was damn near perfect.

Recently refurbished the hotel is now part of Marriott's Autograph Collection and the rooms have everything the modern traveller could want and need.

With the Caxton bar and grill serving lunch and dinner menus, the hotel can call itself a foodie destination, and the a-la-carte breakfast, and buffet, being served until noon, (2pm on New Year's Day) is a great touch for us night owls.

The hotel is adjacent to St James tube station and this little pocket of Westminster has enough pubs and restaurants for a self-contained 24 hours of fun.

I could tell you everything that I got up to, but in the traditions of St Ermin's, my lips are sealed and the grand old lady of a hotel has another secret to keep.

Factbox: For more information visit  Double rooms start from £209 per night or as a special offer running until Feb 28 - dinner at the Caxton Grill, Bed & Breakfast for £239 per couple (subject to availability).