One of London’s oldest and most glamorous hotels, Claridge’s has a legendary status. The list of famous people who have stayed within the red-brick walls is practically endless – Queen Victoria, Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant, for starters.
Needless to say, however, times have changed. London isn’t the place it was in 1812 when the hotel first opened its doors, and when it comes to high-end hospitality, competition is fierce, particularly in Mayfair. But through it all, Claridge’s has managed to stay on top – not because it’s the most opulent or expensive, but because it understands that true luxury, today more than ever, is about ease.
WHAT TO PACK
The experience begins the moment you walk through the revolving doors into the iconic art deco lobby where Mrs Claridge, the founder of the establishment, watches the comings and goings of guests from her portrait on the wall. But on the whole, the hotel wears its history lightly. The silver and cream colour palette is calm and bright, while the Art Deco detailing is both elegant and occasionally eccentric.
Given its reputation and prime positioning on Brook Street, the hotel has a lively atmosphere with a steady stream of walk-in visitors and guests settling down beneath the crystal chandeliers for one of London’s best afternoon teas. At the same time, it’s spacious enough to never feel overcrowded – on both our trips to the newly added subterranean spa and gym, we were the only ones there. A home-away-from-home for the rich and famous – and not just travellers, the hotel holds a special place for locals too. On our visit, we found ourselves seated at dinner next to Damien Hirst, who had pizza and chips followed by copious amounts of chocolate ice cream – there’s no need for pretences here. As our waiter graciously remarked when asked later whether dessert could be served in our room, “anything is possible at Claridge’s.”
Each of the hotel’s 203 rooms have been tastefully designed to create a soothing, homely environment. Comfort rather than bold statement interiors are the priority, which no doubt suits the many long-stay guests who take up temporary, sometimes even semi-permanent residence here.
Our (huge) terrace suite comprised a private entrance hall, a cosy sitting room and separate bedroom, a marble bathroom, a walk-in wardrobe with curved light wooden walls and a large balcony that stretched the full length of the space with two sets of French doors. Everything about it was thoughtful and considered, from the warm, golden lighting and the selection of books on the shelves to the minibar stocked with complimentary soft drinks, portable Bose speakers and the Burberry trench coats hanging in the wardrobe. Padding around barefoot in the soft dressing gowns and then lounging back to rest our heads on pillows embroidered with our initials, we felt almost as if we lived there.
The Little Extras
Where to begin? McQueens, Mayfair’s prime florist, fills every space of the hotel with an abundance of fresh blooms artfully arranged to create sculptural centrepieces in the restaurant and lobby, and lush, sweet-smelling bouquets in the bedrooms. In the gym, refreshments extend beyond the usual jugs of cucumber-infused iced water to cold-pressed juices, ginger shots, CBD-infused drinks and healthy snacks. The spa, designed by Andre Fu, takes influence from the zen gardens of Kyoto with floor lamps lining the walls, three curtained cabanas lined up at the edge of the pool and mini steam and saunas in each of the changing rooms.
The Food + Drink
Start your evening at Claridge’s with drinks served in the contemporary rose-coloured Painter’s Room, which features a stained glass window by the London-based artist Annie Morris, or in the more sultry The Fumoir where William Klein portraits line the walls. Both serve cocktails (the classics are the best: the Martini or an Old Fashioned). It’s possible to also dine in The Fumoir.
The Foyer, however, is Claridge’s main restaurant and in many ways, the heart of the hotel. It’s open all day, every day for dining and though it appears grand, the atmosphere is relaxed, even casual. One of the most prized dishes, for example, is fried chicken with chipotle yoghurt served as a starter, but there’s also the option of oysters (a dozen or half a dozen), a caviar platter with accompanying bellinis, or lobster in the form of a bisque, risotto or encased in flaky pastry as a wellington served with crispy truffle french fries.
The To-Do List
As well as housing its own gallery, ArtSpace, Claridge’s is in one of the quieter and most beautiful parts of central London and makes a perfect base from which to explore the many shops and galleries of Mayfair as well as the restaurants and theatres of Soho. The British Museum, The National Gallery, Fortnum and Mason and Selfridge’s are all a short stroll away, while the Elizabeth line from Bond Street station will zip you across the city in a matter of minutes, or of course, you could make the most of the hotel’s chauffeur service to deliver you in style from door to door.
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