Tried & Tested

Hotel check: Claridge’s

18 Mar 2013 by Jenny Southan
WHAT’S IT LIKE? One of the most famously glamorous hotels in London, Claridge’s celebrated its 200th anniversary last year and, to celebrate, allowed the BBC to make a behind-the-scenes documentary about the running of it last autumn. Staying here may not be within every businessperson’s budget, but for those who can afford it, the service is five-star, and the interiors and ambiance as classy and refined as one would hope from this luxury British institution. The hotel is housed in an impressive row of red-brick townhouses dating back to the 1800s and has been gradually unveiling a series of more than 20 renovated suites by royal designer David Linley. The décor is a mix of art deco and classical, appealing to both masculine and feminine tastes. Expect fresh flowers in abundance, crystal chandeliers and antique furniture. On arrival, grey-suited doormen with top hats usher me through a set of revolving doors into the opulent marble lobby. To the right, a staircase sweeps upwards, while straight ahead is the Foyer, where afternoon tea is served. To the left, is reception, where I am promptly greeted with a smile and checked in. Next, I am directed to the oldest man-operated lift in the country – the gentleman who is in charge of opening and closing the doors and pressing the buttons urges me to take a seat on the padded bench inside and regales me with tales of celebrities he has met. WHERE IS IT? On the corner of Mayfair’s Brook Street and Davies Street (the main entrance is on Brook Street), a short walk from Oxford Street and Bond Street Tube station (Circle line and Jubilee line). It is just over an hour on the Underground to London Heathrow airport on the Piccadilly line, with Green Park station being the closest to the hotel. ROOM FACILITIES Bedrooms embody a range of colour schemes and furnishings, but generally speaking are either classic luxury in style or more contemporary art deco. Entry-level Superior rooms are about 32 sqm and come with queen-size beds, free wifi, flatscreen TVs with pay-per-view movies, DVD players, complimentary local phone calls, a choice of magazines and newspapers, a workdesk, minibar, free shoeshine, evening turndown service and air conditioning. Marble en suite bathrooms feature Bamford Natural and Organic products, robes and slippers. I was fortunate enough to be staying in one of the expansive (80 sqm) and beautifully attired Linley suites, of which the hotel has 24 at the moment. A broad entry corridor led down to the bathroom, via the bedroom and, across the threshold, was a grand but homely living room with cream-coloured sofas, a glass coffee table and tall windows looking down on to Brook Street. It was the epitome of elegance. I was brought a chilled jug of orange juice on ice as a welcome drink (a bottle of Laurent-Perrier champagne is also provided to Deluxe Junior suite guests and above). A bowl of fresh fruit, a Nespresso machine, a handy iPod dock and free mineral water were also to hand. Those staying in Linley suites and above all receive butler service, and there are discretely placed buttons around the suite for calling your butler/maid/waiter or requesting privacy, as desired. My marble bathroom had a large walk-in rainshower, a bath and a Japanese Toto toilet (about 20 rooms have these at the moment, and more will be added). RESTAURANTS AND BARS There are two on-site bars – the Fumoir and Claridge’s. I popped my head into the latter a couple of times when I was staying and it was buzzing with smart business people and well-healed visitors. Designed by David Collins, the 70-seat venue has a mix high stools at the bar and comfortable armchairs, and serves drinks and light bites between 12pm and 1am (12am on Sunday). Also on the ground floor, just off the lobby but behind a secret door, is the dimly lit 1930’s-style Fumoir – one of my favourite drinking dens in the capital, I decided. It’s not big, with seating for just 12 people, but is very atmospheric. Complete with plush velvet banquettes, candles, black and white photos and Lalique glassware, it’s like stepping back to another era. The vintage-inspired cocktails are superb, with the Little Mary (Bacardi Superior, star anise-infused maraschino liqueur, pineapple juice, grenadine and rose pepper, £16) a popular choice, and the complimentary nibbles moreish and plentiful. Upon entering the hotel, you can’t miss the iconic Foyer, where meals (including breakfast and afternoon tea) are served throughout the day beneath a giant Chihuly light sculpture. The thick carpet, trademark pale green and cream décor and chinaware, white tablecloths, perfectly arranged silverware and vases of fresh flowers create a feeling of old-fashioned decadence – you can even help yourself to the sweets of your childhood on your way out. I had an a la carte breakfast here (the is no buffet) and thoroughly enjoyed the perfectly prepared fruit salad and fresh pastries with jam as part of the £26 set continental. (This also comes with fresh Valencia orange or pink grapefruit juice, tea, coffee, and cereal instead of fruit if you prefer.) There are numerous other options on the menu as well, such as pancakes (from £16.50), French toast (£17.50) and scrambled eggs “en brioche” with Naccarii caviar (£75). Sitting at one of the tables by the arches dividing the Foyer from the lobby also meant it was the perfect place to do some discrete people watching. In the evening, I had dinner in the Reading Room, which is connected to the Foyer and shares the same menu and décor but is a little more private. I went for the asparagus with Parmesan, firm egg yolk and pink grapefruit to start, followed by courgette stuffed with macaroni cheese, a side order of hand-cut chips and some green beans. The presentation was attractive, especially with the addition of small flowers on the starter, and the service excellent. Other dishes on the menu included seared sea scallops (£23) and oysters (£19 for six) to start, and roast loin of veal (£38) and truffled risotto of Cornish lobster (£33) as mains. On another occasion, I ordered a room service pizza, which was tiny (a rectangle about 25cm long and 8cm wide) but delicious. For £22.50 it was a rather expensive snack though – and if you happened to be a man with a big appetite you would want two or three of them. Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s is to the other side of the Foyer and seats 70 diners for lunch and dinner daily. The restaurant opened in 2001 and held a Michelin star for seven years, until 2010. However, it was recently announced that Claridge's would be parting company with the celebrity chef after failing to agree a new long-term contract. (Click here to read our news story.) The dining outlet will close in June and plans for the future will be announced in "due course". BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES There are ten event spaces in Claridge’s, ranging from the immaculate 450-capacity ballroom on the ground floor, with a private entrance from Brook Street, to the six-person Buckingham room, which is located alongside four other inter-connecting rooms on the sixth floor. The elegant French Salon can seat 100 guests for dinner and features original art deco ironwork and a crystal chandelier. I experienced a champagne tasting in the Clarence room, which can accommodate up to 70 people standing, and was impressed by the roaring log fire and attentive waiting staff. They even promptly brought out vegetarian canapés when I mentioned I didn’t eat meat. An occasion previous to this gave me the opportunity to also have dinner in the private dining room just off the Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s restaurant, with a drinks reception held in the connecting welcome space. The Map room, on the ground floor just beyond reception, was unveiled in February. Up until this time, the property didn’t have an executive lounge for guests. Also designed by David Linley, inside, there is plush red carpeting and comfy furniture, and a wall-size map of the world made out of polished inlaid wood. Facilities include iPads, Mac and PC computers, free wifi and printing services, and tea, coffee, soft drinks and snacks (meals and alcohol can be ordered on request). In a bid to create an inspiring environment, there are also shelves of art books curated by Assouline and cabinets with changing displays of beautiful objects. It is open 24 hours a day with a capacity of about 20 people. LEISURE FACILITIES To the right of the lobby, beyond reception, is a series of luxury boutiques including McQueen’s flower shop, Hawker Beechcraft (for private jets), Paul Smith and Lalique. Plenty more shops are also within the vicinity of the hotel – on Oxford Street, Bond Street, South Molton Street and Regent Street. The health club features three tranquil treatment rooms and a gym (open 24 hours on request) with polished wooden floors, Technogym equipment, natural light, free weights, exercise balls and mineral water. The spa (open 9am-9pm weekdays and 8am-8pm weekends) is partnered with skincare company Sisley and massages start from £99 for 60 minutes, while personal training sessions in the gym can be booked from £45 for 30 minutes. All guests get free access to the health club, though non-residents can also pay to use it through annual memberships from £1,100 a year (plus a one-off joining fee). VERDICT A glorious, iconic London hotel that is successfully keeping up with the times thanks to sensitive renovations, highly attuned staff and management, and the latest in-room technology. The extensive meeting space and new Map room are boons for business guests. Staying at Claridge’s is an absolute pleasure. FACT FILE HOW MANY ROOMS? There are 139 rooms across three categories (Superior Queen, Superior King and Deluxe King) and 64 suites across nine categories (Deluxe Studio, Deluxe Junior, Mayfair, Linley, Prince Alexander, Royal, Grand Piano, Davies Penthouse and Brook Penthouse). HIGHLIGHTS The beautiful Linley suite with chic interior design, Nespresso machine and free wifi. I also loved the intimate Fumoir bar, and the level of service and attention to detail from every member of staff I encountered was impeccable. PRICE Internet rates for a midweek stay in May started from £450 for a Superior room. CONTACT Claridge’s, Brook Street, Mayfair, London; tel +44 (0)20 7629 860; Jenny Southan
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