Even though the century-old The Ritz London needs no introduction, it deserves applause for its royal decor, delectable food, excellent service, and the unforgettable experience they offered us
By: Karishma Suri
Posted on: July 23, 2014
Even though the century-old The Ritz London needs no introduction, it deserves applause for its royal decor, delectable food, excellent service and the unforgettable experience they offered us
When Piccadilly opened doors to The Ritz in the 1900s, London was brimming with an air of finesse and style. And when large copper lions and a smiling doorman greeted me, I was set to discover a property that offers nothing but the best. Adding another dimension to the otherwise noisy side of the city, I would recommend visiting this property that has ranks of soaring chimneys and projecting dormers that cleverly break the skyline. This is one property that effortlessly fuses hospitality with the cherry of luxury and topping of warmth.
With a direction and promise to please Londoners, renowned hotelier César Ritz started this property and strived to make it one of the most prestigious ever. A member of The Leading Hotels of the World, this property makes it to our list of must visit places in London.
Owing its architectural design to the successful partnership between Frenchman Charles Mewés and Englishman Arthur Davis, the property commands a few moments of admiration. Once inside, the palatial proportions will engulf you with pleasing thoughts that are reminiscent to Cindrella when she entered the ball.
This way please
César Ritz’s innovations for the hotel are quite evident as you take a walk through the property. A quick tour was seasoned with “oohs” and an impressive nod here and there as I appreciated the brilliant refinement of detail and articulation - not only in the structure, but also the team that brings a smile to faces every second.
While sneaking a peek at their recently renovated guestrooms, it is lovely to observe that their Louis XVI style décor has been retained, while the antique guestroom furniture, decorative gold leaf mouldings, original light fittings and chandeliers have been meticulously restored. Impossible to miss are the four principal colour schemes that are used for the bedrooms – salmon pink, rose pink, yellow and blue. The curtains in each room, handsomely swagged and draped with both Jacquard and damask silks, perfectly offset the lovely views of Green Park outside.
The 133 guest rooms are large and comfortable with immaculate detailing, high ceilings, classical proportions and spacious bathrooms - perfect for families, couples or business travellers alike. My loyalty, however, lies with the Signature Suites that offer a unique style but the same exceptional quality for which The Ritz London is renowned. Guests staying within Signature Suites can take advantage of complimentary airport transfers in The Ritz Rolls-Royce and also benefit from the attentive service of a designated butler, available around the clock to ensure every need is met. When luxury stands to greet you at every corner, what more could you possibly ask for?
An air, to please
With its French chateau style architecture, the interior detail of the hotel is as impressive as its exterior and represents the influence of various Parisian architectural traditions. It was Mewés’ idea to carry out all the interiors in one style with the ground floor dominated by the single Louis XVI theme. The Long Gallery, a vaulted gallery running the length of the building and linking a series of elegant public rooms, was considered a masterpiece in hotel architecture and still manages to cause amazement and wonder. Unhindered by either dividing doors or walls, the eye is drawn along the length of the Long Gallery to the far windows of The Ritz Restaurant and through these to the Green Park. But if a closer look is what you fancy, book a table at the famed Ritz Restaurant along long windows that give you a close-up of the garden.
The Ritz Restaurant, often described as one of the most beautiful dining rooms in Europe, appears to be permanently ‘en fête’ with its sumptuous chandeliers, joined by gilt bronze garlands around the room. The vast floor to ceiling windows, the rich and varied use of soft pink, pale green and veined white marble, and the dazzling garlands of chandeliers reflected in the wall of panelled mirror, combine to create one of the most spectacular interiors in London, as charming by day as by night.
Throughout its 107 year history, The Ritz has attracted the famous and the fashionable. During its early years, the hotel enjoyed the patronage of The Prince of Wales, later to become King Edward VIII, and the English aristocracy. King Alfonso of Spain and Queen Amelie of Portugal met in the hotel; Pavlova, the Russian Prima Ballerina, danced at The Ritz; Aga Khan and Paul Getty had suites; and Churchill, de Gaulle and Eisenhower met for summit meetings in the Marie Antoinette Suite during the Second World War. The Ritz also became the favourite of Hollywood stars. So while Charlie Chaplin required 40 policemen to escort him through his fans into the hotel in 1921, Nöel Coward wrote songs at The Ritz. Amidst all this high profiled frenzy and famed history, it was enchanting as I took my place at a table along the windows.
For you, madam
Executive Chef John Williams has been at the helm of the hotel’s dining service for past many years and has made it his mission to ensure The Ritz hallmark of excellence is delivered with every meal. This philosophy has never been more apparent than in The Ritz Restaurant with its rich culture of ‘palace-style’ food and service, its selection of menus featuring great classical dishes alongside British specialities, and its strong focus on seasonality.
The Ritz Restaurant is well-known for its extraordinary ‘Les Arts de la Table’ menu (priced at £75 per person for three courses including a glass of Ritz Cuvée Champagne). Les Arts de la Table is the forgotten art of table service and the Ritz Restaurant remains one of the few restaurants in London that are keeping this timeless tradition alive. It involves classic dishes prepared with the finest ingredients which are then presented to the guest before being expertly carved or filleted and beautifully plated at the tableside. Changing regularly, it includes iconic dishes such as Bresse chicken demi-deuil, Sea bass en croute and leg of baby lamb. Desserts may include Paris-Brest, or an Ice Bombe.
Having made a reservation for lunch, I was presented a special vegetarian menu as was my companion. Promptly, a waiter took our order for drinks and while I opted for a lovely wine pairing with my food selection, my companion left it to the team to serve up something innovative. Named after the famous actress Tallulah, she was served a drink that had the attention of every soul in the room. Served in black high-heel glass slipper was an elegant blend of Shochu Japanese spirit, Jasmine Pearl tea, Cinzano Bianco, geranium essence and Piper-Heidsieck champagne. The much talked about bespoke 'glass slipper' houses a drink that has been created by head bartender Walter Pintus, and commemorates the moment in Ritz history back in 1951 when American actress Tallulah Bankhead sipped champagne from her slipper during a press conference to celebrate her arrival in London. Poured from a classic scent bottle, the drink is a perfect ladies companion being on the sweeter side with a strong hint of rose, it just brought alive all the senses.
What started off with a green pea soup (with mushroom, Parmesan and truffle) and a minestrone soup for my companion, led to a perfect start to an otherwise gloomy London day engulfed with dark clouds. The pea soup is a lovely amalgamation of strong tastes of pea and truffle and will fill you up quickly. The minestrone soup, being as wholesome and nourishing as it was, gave off a perfectly delectable aroma and tasted as good as it looked with all the colours tempting even at first sight.
We then opted for the Montgomery Cheddar Tortellini with mushrooms and green asparagus along with a portion of sauté gnocchi with sprouting broccoli, cauliflower and truffle. While the presentation of both these dishes was worthy of many Michelin stars, the taste may feel a little bland for the Indian palate due to it being quite cheesy and creamy. Having said that, care was taken to see that all ingredients were perfectly cooked.
For dessert we opted for strawberries and vanilla ice cream which, though took a long time to come out from the kitchen, was worth every camera click and every taste bud dance. A brilliant concoction of sugar and strawberries, I rather you see this divine creation for yourself. Clubbing molecular gastronomy and vivid sweet dreams, this is a dessert that sounds so simple, but comes together as a candy land on your platter.
Once you are done with this meal, I strongly suggest a walk along the gallery, or maybe even to Regent's Park, to digest the food. Do keep in mind that a formal dress code is observed in The Ritz Restaurant for lunch and dinner. Jeans, sportswear and trainers are not permitted and gentlemen are required to wear a jacket and tie.
Setting a benchmark for the hospitality industry to follow, The Ritz London captures the epitome of hospitality, great food and a perfect ambience. I bet you are including this in your next trip, aren't you?