I’ve heard of Claridge’s, but where is it, exactly? Physically, the 197-room,
five-star hotel once owned by a Mr & Mrs Claridge is housed in a seven-storey terracotta pile on Brook Street, in the moneyed, private members’ club land that is Mayfair. But ever since actor Spencer Tracy said, “Not that I intend to die, but when I do, I don’t want to go to heaven, I want to go to Claridge’s,” it has been situated on a higher plane in the minds of many.
What’s inside? At the moment, Christmas trees and a winter wonderland designed by none other than Jonathan Ive, of Apple fame. Ive, who worked with industrial designer Marc Newson on the installation, is clearly a fan of all things festive; in an interview last year he said that if he wasn’t working at Apple, he would be making Christmas ornaments. Obviously someone clever at Claridge’s took note because, this year, Ive has seen his other ambition come to fruition, although, ironically, without an actual ornament in sight.
His magical, Narnia-like design includes a mini-forest complete with birdsong, atmospheric lighting and lots of (fake) snow. The trees lining the staircase, though, are covered in no more than a dusting of white – but really, what else would you expect from a man famous for his ultra-minimalist aesthetic?
Who stays? Most of the royal family, for starters. It was the London home for Winston and Clementine Churchill in 1945, after Labour’s unexpected election win. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visit often and chose it as the venue for their ruby wedding anniversary party. In 1945, Crown Prince Alexander II of Yugoslavia was born in suite 212, with some earth from home placed under the bed to ensure he emerged into the world on Yugoslav soil.
As for celebrities, well it is difficult to spend an evening here without bumping into someone famous. The day we stayed, Julia Roberts came bustling in with her husband and children, having flown in from Manchester, where she’d seen United struggle manfully to a draw against West Ham.
And the rooms? You know how we all dream of meeting that person who anticipates our every need? Well, the suites at Claridge’s do just that. If the weather outside is typically English, then inside there are Burberry macs inside the sleek, David Linley-designed cupboards. (Burberry’s Christopher Bailey designed Claridge’s’ Christmas tree last year). If you can’t remember which side of the bed you’re sleeping in, then take a clue from your monogrammed pillowcases.
What Claridge’s gets right is the mix between plush, old-world décor (think draped four-poster beds and art-deco mirrors) and ultra-modern conveniences (pre-heated loo seats). And if you want something that even a room this sumptuous doesn’t provide, all suites come with a private butler, who is on hand 24 hours a day.
What about food and drinks? There is a wealth (pun intended) of options. For the thirsty, there is the plush Claridge’s Bar and the 1930s jewel-like Fumoir; in both of which you’ll rub shoulders with the sleekest of Londoners sipping champagne cocktails. For breakfast, lunch and dinner there is The Foyer, where truffles figure heavily on the menu, while Fera, Simon Rogan’s Michelin-starred restaurant, is known for both the brilliance of its food and the length of its waiting list.
What’s the bottom line? Prices range from £540 (HK$5,330) to £8,000 a night. Gazing upon Ive’s wondrous Christmas creations is free.