A suite at Claridge’s comes with everything you’d expect from a five-star historic hotel in the heart of Mayfair. There’s a state-of-the-art coffee maker on an antique table, an artistic arrangement of fresh fruit, a minibar with a price list to make your eyes water (more of which later) and oh, a butler and a Burberry trench coat.
Once you’ve tried it on and had a picture taken in it, there’s not much else to do with the mac. You can’t take it out and if you do try to sneak it into your case expect a bill for upwards of £1,000.
The butler, however, looked altogether more useful. Or at least he did until we realised we didn’t know what to do with one. I was all for leaving him alone, reckoning there were plenty of other guests who needed his services, but best friend Kat was not about to pass up an opportunity to play Downton.
“I’ve forgotten my pyjamas, maybe I can ask if he has any spare ones?”
He didn’t, although he did volunteer to go and buy some. His offer was politely declined – the nearest department store to Claridge’s is Selfridges where the cost of a pair of pyjamas is likely to cause a few sleepless nights. Kat, however, was not to be defeated. A few minutes later she was back on the butler hotline.
“Do you do ironing?”
He did, although it might be the first time he had been asked to press a crease into an old pair of jeans.
Claridge’s is unashamedly old school – should you so desire you have can have someone pack and unpack your case – and many of its guests having been going there for years. However, while it may cater for the royal, rich and famous, for a high end kind of place, it’s also refreshingly laidback.
A few years ago it let television cameras in for a documentary series which chronicled a year in the life of the hotel. The staff from senior management to the housekeepers were funny, loyal and ridiculously dedicated – this is a place remember where the cutlery handles are always positioned one inch from the edge of tables and the labels on the pots of jam on breakfast trays all face the same way.
They also don’t seem to mind if you nip out to Primark to buy some bargain pyjamas before spending the afternoon drinking champagne in bathrobes – given our suite was the size of a small house it seemed rude to consider leaving. Eventually though hunger forced us back downstairs, via The Fumoir bar for pre-dinner cocktails. Like much else about Claridge’s it’s steeped in tradition – the dress code bans flip flops, baseball caps, ripped jeans (newly ironed ones are fine) and children after 4pm. This isn’t a place to go to down a quick shot, it’s a place to linger and people watch.
So too is the Foyer Restaurant just a couple of steps away, where, buoyed by bellinis, we played a game of which table had the biggest bank balance. The food at the Foyer is traditional with a luxurious twist, so while the menu might include chicken pie and roast rack of lamb, it is all mouthwatering stuff.
Back in our room and reluctant to sleep, we decided on a night cap. I opened a small bottle of red wine and managed just a glass while Kat gamely chucked back a couple of miniature whiskeys.
It’s only the next morning that we remembered to look at the price list and discovered our midnight binge might have set us back £76. Still, we are at Claridge’s and if you can’t indulge there, where can you?
Heads are cleared with a breakfast of super juices, boiled eggs and fruit. It sounds monkishly healthy, but it was only because a couple of hours later we were booked into the hotel’s Michelin starred restaurant, Fera at Claridge’s. Simon Rogan was chef-properietor at the award-winning L’Enclume in Cumbria before taking over from Gordon Ramsay last year. His appointment was seen as a bit of a risk, but with not one table empty by 1pm on Sunday lunch it has proved a shrewd move.
Just before coffee is served, Kat realises she’s misread her train booking and has just 20 minutes to dash to King’s Cross. Petits fours have to be put on hold, but before we find ourselves on the Tube heading back to reality, we make a promise to each other. We will return to Claridge’s. As Kat says, we were born for weekends like this.
• A luxury suite at Claridge’s (020 7629 8860, www.claridges.co.uk) starts from £1,200 a night.
Claridge’s Christmas Afternoon Tea will return on November 16, including Laurent Perrier Champagne, festively themed finger sandwiches, handmade pastries and Christmas pudding, priced at £80.
The hotel has also launched its Christmas package where guests can enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride through Mayfair, a Christmas Eve reading and Christmas lunch by Michelin-starred chef Simon Rogan. Two nights stays start from £1,750.