By Edward Poultney
Nothing brings to mind the style of Edwardian England quite as much as images conjured up by The Ritz.
Nothing brings to mind the style and sumptuousness of Edwardian England quite as much as the mental images conjured up when one hears The Ritz mentioned.
And the reality lives up to all expectations, from Cockney doorman; "‘Ere let me help you with that sir", as he whisks away your luggage as you climb out of the black London cab, "what name are they expecting you under if I may ask?". I couldn't have felt more like last century's haut monde had I been stepping out of my liveried carriage.
While your luggage is taken up to your room (through the back entrance obviously), you climb up the stairs to the old style revolving doors to find the concierge waiting for you on the other side; "Mr Poultney? Right this way sir." he says, extending a hand. This act of prescience explains what the doorman was whispering into his Secret Service style earpiece as we went through the door, but the personal touch it brings gets your stay off to a great start.
Set in central London's Piccadilly, overlooking Green Park on the one side and Jermyn Street on the other, and a stone's throw from Buckingham Palace, the world class tailors of Savill Row, Regent Street, Berkeley Square and Park Lane this is about as old upper class as it gets.
Guests are reminded of this at check-in when the concierge quietly informed me a la Jeeves and Wooster that although guests were free to dress as they chose in their rooms or the lobby, a shirt, tie and jacket was obligatory for gentlemen wishing to enter the dining part of the hotel - and then indicated through glass doors to everywhere beyond the entrance hall.
To emphasise the pedigree a black and white picture of Cesar Ritz himself looks benignly down at his guests from the vantage of the mantle next to the gilt mirror. The decor was as you would expect, plush, refined elegance that would scream money, were it ever to do anything so vulgar as to raise its voice.
The majestic dining room was equally awe-inspiring, with the gold leaf decor complemented by hand painted frescos to aid the digestion of one's morning coffee overlooking the park, or listening to the small orchestra while enjoying a pre-dinner snifter at the bar.
The clientele during our stay was older, perhaps the price tag dissuades too many younger guests, but all were as distinguished as the surroundings. We even saw two former world leaders, European royalty and current politicians crossing our path.
And, in essence, this is what the Ritz is about; style and reputation. When you have been around for as long as it has you become an institution. Something epitomised by the four-month long waiting list for all five sittings of the Ritz' tea sessions (jacket and tie compulsory, of course)!And while there are newer hotels or ones with more amenities, there's nothing that can quite replace the charm of becoming a part of one of the world's longest-running hospitality traditions, or the pride in your mother's voice as she rings relatives to inform them that her son is staying at the Ritz... A real taste of old England.