Claridge’s is London’s theatrical hotel, the gal was told over Laurent-Perrier in the divine inner bar designed by Alexandra Champalimaud. Any luxury bar today needs a variety of different seating areas, speedy service, and super-snacks, and a buzz of talk from people of all ages (you know they are A-listers but may not recognise them, but who cares?). These are people who use the bar regularly, on their way home from work, plus internationals in town for the latest catwalk or live-stage show. The atmosphere feels good, not only at such over-the-top times as Christmas and New Year, where there is always a tree designed by a regular guest – the 2016 honoured-customer was Apple’s Sir Jony Ive, who typically turned the main lobby into a blue interactive wonderland while, in contrary style, leaving the real fir unadorned.
Like any theatre, the props are exactly placed. Who expected to see, in a lobby corridor, a real wood rocking horse under one of the dozens of framed black-and-whites of past sirens. Norma Desmond is here somewhere, as are Jean Harlow and her contemporaries. Think of them wearing satin-smooth clinging crépe de chîne, in softest avocado, ecru or rose hues. I thought of that era in softly-stunning suite 406 – see the video, below. I was in an Art Deco stage set, interpreted for 2017. Door and tap handles recalled the 1930s, as did the heated towel rail, but the heated floor, thick polysyllabic tomes of the calibre of Fantastic Man, plus Guy Oliver’s 2015 striped-turquoise china for William Edwards, were all so today.
Old and new: love the sealing wax on the welcome card’s envelope, love another welcome that includes a blackberry financier cake, love the gym’s complimentary coconut water and wrapped mandarin-sized chocolate truffles. Oh what memories this place evokes! I dined under John Huston. Well, let me start again, I dined sitting under a photo of the great director. From the back of my head I could feel his downward gaze as I started with Severn & Wye smoked salmon, with crème fraiche, beetroot, pickled mustard seeds, and soda bread. I went on to Dover sole, filleted tableside, with sides of wilted spinach, heritage beetroot and ricotta – and a glass of David and Guy Dubuet’s Dme Dubuet-Monthelie Bourgogne Les Gamets 2015. Not surprisingly there was no space for desserts, which included the oh-so-English-garden poached rhubarb with Bourbon mousse, and Earl Grey-infused cream with vanilla-candied chestnut.
Paul Jackson, who runs this memorable luxury hotel, was actually night manager here some 25 years ago – his heroes include then-GM, Ron Jones, with whom he still lunches from time to time. Several of the team, then, are still here, ready to support as he patiently keeps sane during a multi-year programme adding five (yes, five) floors underground, to include a big spa and pool, and two extra floors up in the sky, to add a further 40 rooms. All this without closing, he says. Actually I do not believe he sleeps. Next morning, after finishing my superlative room service breakfast, which included Tea Together preserves with bespoke hotel labels, in the signature Claridge’s pale turquoise, I came down at 6.30 a.m. to leave for the airport, and there he was. How about that for extreme attention to duty? NOW SEE SUITE 406, BELOW