How much does magic cost?
If you’re staying at Claridge’s, it can cost you over £6000. A night. It seems that even magic has a price as the BBC’s new documentary Inside Claridge’s aims to show. The Mayfair hotel isn’t the first to let cameras behind the scenes - The Savoy have got cosy with BBC’s The Apprentice, and they also let ITV have a snoop while they were closed for refurbishment (one wonders if that actually paid toward a large chunk of said refurb). It could be said that with this latest TV offering, Claridge’s are rather behind the times.
The BBC take a little more of a stiff upper lip approach to their show, mentioning austerity and ‘times like these’ so often that it’s almost an episode of Panorama. Here’s the thing that the Beeb don’t want to admit: we might all be in a bit of a crux financially, but that makes looking through the doors of Claridge’s all the more exciting. A bit like going to a cake shop on a diet. You can look but you can’t touch. Or, you can wait until Lastminute.com have a 2-4-1 on afternoon tea and get a tiny little glimpse for yourself. That’s arguably what makes hotels like this special. It’s great seeing how the other half live and sometimes they let you in for a bit. Then you get to go home and pop the kettle on and fight over the ginger nuts and that’s OK too.
The hotel are very keen to show just how hard the staff work and the lengths they go to to keep the hotel perfect. This all seems a little overdone - a lot of the things that they make a song and dance about actually seems like good customer service. Never tell a customer you don’t know something, get rid of the stain on the floor. Frankly, if I’m paying £6000 a night, this is the least I’d expect.
But you can’t avoid the visual treat of the hotel. The Art Deco building is beautiful. There’s a reason it’s so popular with royals and celebrities and heiresses from places you’ve never heard of. You can see why they want to preserve it as it is, and as it has been since 1854. There’s a sense of tradition here and a pride that comes with that. It could be seen as some as stuffy and stuck in its ways, but Claridge’s know their customers. You could go to a newer boutique hotel (and London isn’t exactly short of them), or you could go to the place you know does everything as you ask. One couple visit for six weeks of the year, but they only leave the hotel twice.
Money is a bit of a sticky subject throughout the show. Some members of staff announce rates in four figures with a huge amount of pride and a raised eyebrow, others sneer ever so slightly that the BBC could be so vulgar as to ask how much something costs. Instead, everyone concentrates on the fact that you can have anything you like if you stay here. You can even have a room redecorated on your whim. Your wish is their command. Nothing is too big, no request too outrageous. This might make for brilliant telly, but if you choose to stay at Claridge’s, your every whim will be listed on your itemised bill when you leave.
The three-part series, Inside Claridge's, continues next week on BBC Two and BBC HD.