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With photos of Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant and even Her Majesty adorning the walls, one knows one is in good company when staying at Claridge’s.
A bastion of Britishness for more than 100 years, Claridge’s upholds an extraordinarily high level of service to make you feel right at home, regardless of your status or wealth.
And what better time to celebrate all that is great about Britain than in the year of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London 2012 Olympic Games?
Entering through the revolving doors into the hotel lobby is like taking a step back in time as you are whisked into a world of art deco opulence and splendour. The gleaming chequered floor, enormous chandeliers and soft piano music drifting across from the foyer make for a truly grand entrance.
Even the lift is staffed and furnished with a banquette, so you can rest your feet on the way up to one of the hotel’s seven floors and more than 200 rooms.
We were staying in one of the newly renovated Linley suites, created by the eponymous British interior design company. The 24 suites have been designed to reflect Claridge’s art deco heritage, while bringing it up to date with modern touches. Original period features, such as the enormous, angular mirrors, have been restored to create elegant centrepieces and the rooms come equipped with everything you could need for a relaxing stay.
Tempting though it was to spend all day in our room, we decided to get some air and make the most of a lovely spring day. Set in the heart of Mayfair, the hotel is perfectly placed for a weekend’s shopping on Bond Street (or Oxford Street if you’ve already blown the budget). The capital’s major sites are also within easy reach, with the Tube at Bond Street and many bus routes leaving from nearby Hyde Park.
Just a few doors down from the hotel is the hidden treasure of the Handel House Museum. For just £6 you can follow in the great composer’s footsteps and visit the room where he composed musical masterpieces such as Messiah and Music For The Royal Fireworks.
After a leisurely stroll around the nearby shops and attractions, it was time to head back for dinner. This time, we decided to take the stairs.
Walking the corridors of Claridge’s is a pleasure in itself. The plush carpets and beautiful décor give the feeling of wandering through a royal palace. Descending the final spiral staircase to the sound of a violin drifting from below made me feel like a movie star.
And the level of service won’t lead you to believe otherwise. Your every need is exceptionally well catered for by the impeccably dressed staff. What makes the service so superb is the discretion with which everything is done: you never once feel out of place or hurried. Small but noticeable touches, like remembering where you are visiting from, add to the warm welcome.
The food in the Foyer restaurant did not disappoint. There are no fewer than 20 pages of fine wines and champagnes to choose from and a menu to cater to all tastes. Dessert was a particular treat, with tiny berry-sized scoops of sorbet served alongside the lightest of chocolate mousses.
Returning to our room, the bed had been made, fluffy bathrobes and slippers were laid out waiting for us, and fresh bottled water placed on the bedside table. The evening couldn’t have been more relaxed.
If an overnight stay is out of your price range, then why not book in for a quintessentially English afternoon tea. Tea at Claridge’s has been voted the best in London two years in a row. There are more than 40 blends to choose from, served alongside dainty finger sandwiches and pastries on the hotel’s signature eau de nil china, and you can add a glass of Laurent Perrier champagne to make the occasion extra special. The experience alone is worth every penny.
All fairytales must come to an end and, with heavy hearts – and heavy stomachs after a sumptuous breakfast – it was time to head home. But not without a final glance at a hotel truly deserving of its title as “the art deco jewel of Mayfair”.
* Until May 31, take advantage of Claridge’s Shopping Weekend deal, staying in a Superior Queen-Bedded Room, with welcome champagne, English breakfast and a £50 Selfridges shopping voucher, from £325 per night. Call 0207 1078842 or email reservations@ claridges.co.uk, quoting “Shopping Weekends”
* Afternoon tea at Claridge’s is served daily from 3pm and costs £38 per person, or £49 per person with champagne. Reservations are essential. Call 0207 4096307.
* For more information, visit www.claridges.co.uk