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.
Le MÃƒÂ©ridien hotel on Piccadilly has been sold for Ã‚Â£64 million, according to reports.
The five-star hotel has been purchased by American company, Host Hotels & Resorts. They describe themselves as one of the “largest owners of luxury and upper upscale hotels”.
Before the sale, Le MÃƒÂ©ridien, which has 266 guestrooms and boasts one of London’s largest indoor swimming pools, was part of the Starwood group of hotels.
Find out more about Hotels in Mayfair
A chambermaid was shocked to find jewellery with a value of up to Ã‚Â£500,000 in a Mayfair hotel room, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph.
The shocked employee found the precious jewellery in a night safe whilst cleaning a room at the Westbury Mayfair hotel, off Old Bond Street.
She reported it to hotel management who eventually reunited the valuable discovery with its owner who had “left the room in a hurry”.
A Grade-II listed former Mayfair garage will be turned into a new 75-bedroom hotel.
Westminster Council has given planning consent for Grosvenor to convert 8 Balderton Street in to a new boutique hotel.
The art deco building, overlookingÃ‚Â Brown Hart Gardens, was designed in the mid 1920s by Wimperis & Simpson.
Sarah-Jane Curtis, Retail Investment Director at Grosvenor said:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We are delighted to have secured planning consent for this landmark building, and we are in detailed discussions with Chris Corbin and Jeremy King as partners for the investment in this project. They have a proven track record for not only operating high quality restaurants, but also their attention to detail and sympathetic treatment of buildings taking into account their environmental context. This will, we believe, facilitate the creation of a fabulous amenity in Mayfair for residents, workers and visitors.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The hotel will incorporate public art by artist Antony Gormley – famous for the Angel of the North and the fourth plinth’s One & Other – which will be an “inhabitable sculpture to be used as a guestroom.”
It is intended that the new hotel will be operational by early 2013.
Find out more about Mayfair Hotels.
The Westbury Mayfair has the unique claim of being the only hotel on Bond Street, so I paid a visit to this five star hotel last week to see if it lived up the status that its address affords it.
Whilst part of the hotel is indeed on Bond Street, the entrance is actually around the corner in Conduit Street. The hotel lobby is quite beautiful with large marble columns and comfortable chairs. At this point, you certainly feel like you are in a high quality hotel.
Check in service was quick and efficient and the hotel corridors were lined with pictures of, I think, stars from a bygone age which do lend it a slightly glamorous feel.
So far so good, and then you arrive at your room. I was staying in a twin room and frankly it was disappointing. The initial visual impact was not unimpressive – at first glance it actually seemed more than satisfactory. But then you notice quite how small it is. And then you spot an unimpressive, small LCD TV and notice that cushions are left hap-hazardly on the floor.
One of the first things I like to when getting to a hotel is just make myself a quick tea or coffee to settle myself in but there was no kettle and tea facilities in the room. Internet access was available but was absurdly expensive – thank goodness for 3g on my mobile – and the TV menu system was slow, clunky and actually stopped working altogether before long. The picture quality wasn’t very good either.
Service was pretty good – when a request was put in for an ironing board and iron, it was delivered to the room very promptly.
The location of the hotel is, of course, superb. You have the West End right on your doorstep, which is a major plus point. But that and the beautiful lobby do not, unfortunately, make up for the fact that this is supposed to be a a five star hotel, and against that measure, the room itself was a disappointment.
More information about hotels in Mayfair.
Interesting video about the May Fair Hotel in London, with comments from Head of Design Michael Attenborough.
Find out more about hotels in Mayfair
The Chesterfield Hotel in Mayfair has come ninth in a list of the world’s most luxurious hotels, as voted for by Trip Advisor‘s Travellers Choice Awards for 2008. The Chesterfield was the only London hotel to make the top ten, with the number one position going to Los Altos De Eros in Costa Rica.
The Chesterfield Mayfair was described by TripAdvisor travellers as “exquisite”, “beyond expectations”, “spotless”, “great value”, and a “peaceful retreat” in a “perfect location” with “first class service”.