When British royalty stay at a hotel often enough for it to be referred to as an “annex to Buckingham Palace,” it’s safe to make certain assumptions about its vibe.
No, the five-star Claridge’s isn’t where you go for edgy style on your business trip, or for up-to-the minute technology; in the Mayfair suite, from £1,440 (Dh6,493), I could not find a power socket to plug my laptop into while sitting at the desk. Instead, what sets this 204-year-old Mayfair institution apart is its meticulous service and deep sense of upper-crust British tradition.
You’re greeted by top-hatted doormen on your way in, every smiling member of staff you encounter seems to know your name and the fabled afternoon tea (£58 a head) books up three months in advance. The Royal Suite, from £6,500 a night, comes with a personal butler service, airport transfer with a Mercedes-Benz S-class, a grand piano and a dining room that seats ten guests.
My more modest Mayfair suite smelled of cigarette smoke when I entered and its decor was a little bland, but the king-size bed and oversized bathtub made up for it.
Extras included international TV channels and pay-per-view films, complimentary shoeshine, flowers, espresso, mineral water and a newspaper.
While the socket situation was not ideal for in-room work, a business lounge called the map room is open 24 hours, is the place to use the hotel’s computers and printers, sip an espresso, have an informal meeting and read the papers.
For downtime, there’s a dedicated theatre desk, and the West End is just a short walk away, as are Hyde Park and an array of London’s best shops on Oxford Street and Bond Street. Among the hotel’s in-house dining options is Simon Rogan’s Michelin-starred Fera, where an imaginative tasting menu puts the emphasis on wild, foraged foods.
There’s plenty of space for events, too, with an array of boardrooms and reception rooms on the top floor, and a spectacular ballroom, drawing room and French-style salon at ground level, complete with chandeliers and imposing fireplaces. Prices are on request though.
Host a meeting here not to communicate cut-and-thrust dynamism, but to show a deep appreciation for authenticity and heritage – and to ensure your guests are treated like kings and queens.
How did Claridge’s become such an institution?
Founded in 1812 in a single terraced house, it expanded over the years, and cemented its reputation when Empress Eugénie of France entertained Queen Victoria there in 1860. Since then it has gained Grade II listed status and hosted royalty and stars from around the world, including Winston Churchill, Cary Grant and, more recently, Lady Gaga.
Surely it’s not all bad on the technology front?
The Wi-Fi is free and fast (60Mbps) and does not require a password, and technical staff are on hand to help with digital business presentations. And there are Bose bluetooth speakers in the suites.
Can I get a decent workout?
There’s a small but well-equipped gym with a personal trainer-in-residence (packages start from £110 an hour) and there are plans in the works to expand this and to add a pool.
Can I get a shirt pressed superfast?
It’s £21 to dry-clean or £16 to press a two-piece suit, and £12 to have a shirt laundered. This is for an eight-hour service. You can get a superfast three-hour laundry service, but there is a 60 per cent surcharge. A rapid pressing and shining service is available within the hour in early evenings. Alternatively, an iron and an ironing board can be delivered to the room for no charge.
What about the room service?
I ordered smoked salmon and scrambled eggs (£21), which arrived in about 20 minutes. Other highlights include a set English breakfast (£35) and Claridge’s fish and chips (£28).
What kind of clientele should I expect?
Well-heeled tourists and businesspeople from around the globe, visiting aristocracy and A-list entertainers.
* The writer was a guest of the hotel.
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