When it comes to shopping for Christmas presents, a stroll around Mayfair’s picturesque and salubrious streets offers rich pickings. Although just a short distance away from the frenetic hustle and bustle of Oxford Street, the discerning shopper is offered a truly civilized shopping experience. Mayfair offers a wonderful variety of shops, ranging from historic, vintage specialist independents to luxurious flagship stores from major brands, offering the polite, knowledgeable service which makes shopping a pleasure. Continue reading “Merry Christmas Mayfair Shopping” »
Last night was the last time we get a peep Inside Claridge’s, they’ve shut their doors for good, but not before you got to have a little nose around the Noma pop-up restaurant. With the live ants. Really, really posh live ants.
Due to the rather strange timing of the filming, Inside Claridge’s was just about the only show on the telly last night that didn’t have a Christmas theme (which was arguably a welcome break after Nigellisima and all that fawning over chestnuts). Instead, we whoosed right back to summer and the Olympics where the show sort of divided down the middle. One half was all ‘look at how many important people come and stay at our gaff’ (to be fair, there were loads of important people) and that part was much the same as the previous two shows - a mix of showing how important and prestigious the hotel was while managing to point out errors clearly made for TV that any hotel would have fixed.
The other half of the show was actually rather strange. Seeing Claridge’s team up with Noma just didn’t ring true, there was something a little try-hard about it. The staff didn’t like the food (although watching the senior staff turn their nose up at the thought of eating Danish ants was hilarious). If the staff didn’t care for the food and didn’t believe in it, it makes you wonder why they chose such a controversial restaurant. Noma is obviously known worldwide, but it’s known for being daring and modern - two things that Claridge’s aren’t known for. If anything, they shy away from everything that Noma is about. A pop-up restaurant seems very modern for a hotel that really isn’t, but their choice of restaurant was very odd.
But, over 20,000 people were bidding to get a few thousand places at £195 a head, and then it all becomes a little clearer. They weren’t aiming this at their usual guests. Instead they were after rich tourists who had checked in for the ten days over London 2012. They could never have pitched this to the regulars.
That’s one thing that you can forget about Claridge’s. Their ideas are fantastic, but it’s a business. The hotel might treat the guests like royalty (even on the odd occasion that they’re actually not royalty), but it’s a business. Every decision they make is one aimed at turning a profit. Whether that’s bringing ants over from Denmark and serving them live, or offering up a chicken burger and chips in with a room service breakfast, every decision they make is for their profit margins. Rather cannily, this includes the fascinating TV show which has raised their profile no end. Claridge’s might be out of our reach, it might be a little ridiculous (some might even say vulgar), but goodness it’s fun to pop in for a little while.
“You feel a bit flash if you start throwing Claridge’s around at people.”
This week’s installment of BBC2’s Inside Claridge’s took us further into the hotel and focussed largely on the people working there (with a smattering of famous faces, of course). And this is the most interesting part of the show - you’ll get celebrities in any posh hotel - it’s not just the staff that make this hotel interesting, it’s the unusual way they go about their work. I’m not sure three people are needed to choose new alarm clocks for the hotel rooms. That’s not a three person job, is it?
Have you heard of ‘snagging’? I hadn’t until yesterday. Snagging, is quite clearly the best job in the world. Before a guest arrives in a newly refurbished suite, it’s given a test drive. Senior staff members stay overnight to make sure everything is totally perfect (and we were then given a little series of seemingly made for TV ‘problems’ that the hotel then had to fix). Still, it’s definitely a perk of the job.
The decorators were a jolly bunch, but it was all a little ‘look, we let people from the east end in! And they wear OVERALLS!’. That said, with so much work going into the restoration (it’s costing millions to do up the outside facade alone), you can see how much work they’ve got going on. One overflowing bath in one hotel room, a scuff from a wheely suitcase in another and they’re running around 200 rooms in a neverending cycle. There’s no doubting the painters and decorators work hard, but they were shown doing up damp and water damage - I’d expect that in any hotel, and you also get the feeling that the painters and decorators would be happy in any hotel.
It takes three weeks of training for serving staff to be let loose on guests. In that time, they’re taught everything, from the exact position of a knife on a table to how to make small talk with a guest. The fake small talk charade was rather uncomfortable. I find it a little worrying that it’s taught, but that might explain why I always find service in posh hotels a little uptight. I’d much rather a welcome came naturally, rather than being rehearsed for three weeks first. Still, I can’t help but swoon over their tableware - those green stripes are lovely.
Stephen Fry is an odd addition to the show. I’m quite sure he loves the hotel, but he spent a lot of time in the Savoy while they were filming, singing the praises of the American Bar. He can’t love both hotels equally. There’s no sitting on the fence here. Still, everyone’s favourite English gent will no doubt make the hotel seem that little more likeable, because at the moment it’s all coming across as a little try hard. Still, the show seems to be working - the website was down last night - presumably due to an influx of traffic from sofa Googling - and you’ll have to wait until April 2013 if you want to pop for afternoon tea on a Saturday.
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.
The first Victoria's Secret store in the UK is to open up in the heart of Mayfair.
Victoria's Secret, which was founded in 1977, is a famous American retailer of ladies' underwear, lingerie and beauty products.
TV chef Gordon Ramsay has had his restaurant at Claridge's Hotel stripped of its single Michelin star in the 2010 version of the famous guidebook.
The loss of the star at the fine dining restaurant in Brook Street will be embarrassing to Ramsay, who has opened a string of restaurants around the world.
The Daily Mirror quotes the chef as saying:
"We are very disappointed to lose the Michelin star but we will work harder than ever to try to earn it back"
Over in Park Lane, there was better news for Alain Ducasse - his restaurant at the Dorchester Hotel was awarded three Michelin stars.
Robin Gibb has unveiled a Green Plaque at 67 Brook Street, Mayfair, which draws attention to the fact that the Bee Gees composed and stayed there between 1968 and 1980.
The plaque is a joint effort by Westminster Council and The Heritage Foundation, which Robin Gibb is currently the president of. According to the council website, "The Green Plaques Scheme celebrates the remarkable endeavours of some of its former residents."
A number of fans turned up for the unveiling, and Robin Gibb spent time talking to them before attending a charity lunch at Grosvenor House hotel.
The Claridge's Hotel in Mayfair has played host to the Spectator Political Awards 2007. In a ceremony attended by the great and the good of British politics, the following awards were announced:
Newcomer of the year: Nick Clegg
Inquisitor of the year: Michael Conarty
Peer of the year: Baroness Thatcher
Speech of the year: William Hague
Resignation of the year: Tony Blair
Minister to Watch: Liam Byrne
Marathon Man of the year: Ian Paisley
Campaigner of the year: Iain Duncan Smith
Parliamentarian of the year: Alex Salmond
Politician of the year: George Osborne
Find out more at the Spectator
Legendary Mayfair hotel Claridge's will soon be launching a new "water list", with 30 different varieties of bottled water from around according to a report in the Evening Standard.
The exotic varieties come from places as far afield as India, Newfoundland and New Zealand, with the most expensive one costing the equivalent of £50 per litre.