A Cup of Tea with…Gemma Wren

Headline Date 01-11-2017

A cup of tea with… where we sit down and chat with those who make Victoria what it is. People with a passion for Victoria, people who live or work here and know the area, its history and its future better than anyone else.

This month we talk to Gemma Wren Catering Sales Manager, St Ermin’s Hotel.

How long have you worked in Victoria?

Just under 7 years. My first day at the St Ermin’s Hotel was the first day of the massive refurbishment we did in 2010.

What was the biggest change you have experienced in Victoria?

The complete redevelopment of the area; from what Victoria was like when I first joined St Ermin’s Hotel compared to now – the massive Nova development, the demolition of New Scotland Yard; it’s been non-stop change for the last few years.

What is your favourite spot in Victoria?

I love that St Ermin’s feels so nestled away and peaceful with its garden courtyard but walk just 2 minutes and you’re in the bustle and commotion of Victoria Street; whether it’s popping to get a new outfit for a night out – there’s fantastic shopping now – or going to the Cardinal Place market to get a cheeky Bad Brownie, I’m lucky that I’m right in the centre of it all.

If you could change anything in Victoria, what would it be?

If you’d asked 6 years ago I would have said everything! Nowadays Victoria is developing its own amazing personality, it’s giving so much back to the residents and the businesses. And with all the new offices, shops and businesses making Victoria their home there’s lots of new people coming into the area. So not sure I’d change anything though if all the demolition and building work planned could be finished in one night – if I could wave a magic wand – that would be great.

What is your favourite story?

The St Ermin’s has lots of stories – from Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Conference in 1975 in our ballroom to the hotel’s use by MI5 in their recruiting and interviewing process during the 1950’s. Churchill held some of his press conferences during the war in the Caxton Hall next door to the hotel so we’re pretty confident he’d have a glass or two in the Caxton Bar afterwards whilst rumours of a secret tunnel from the hotel to the Houses of Parliament seem a bit wild but still plausible given the spy history of the building – MI5 had offices on the fifth floor of the hotel for most of WWII and through to the early 60’s.

What is your message for the people out there in Victoria?

I’m going to say come and discover the St Ermin’s Hotel, tucked away on Caxton Street. The Terrace overlooking the garden courtyard in the sunshine is just lovely, the Caxton Bar is a proper bar and as catering manager, I can tell you the bar snacks are delicious!

What is the biggest issues/ challenge Victoria is facing?

I guess, aside from the building work, which can be noisy sometimes it’s that not enough people know how much Victoria has changed. It’s the old perception of the area versus the new reality. Victoria’s the new Chelsea, so we just need to tell more people.

What is your favourite lunchtime spot? 

The Caxton Grill restaurant in the hotel of course, or the Caxton Terrace in the sunshine is lovely……..but so is having a quick sandwich walking around St James’s Park to be honest!

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