There are very few hotels who claim a respect from its guests, and which are not just seen as a means to an end, but also as a chronicle of a nation's history. The Ritz London is one of them
Posted on: April 10, 2011
There are very few hotels who claim a respect from its guests, and which are not just seen as a means to an end, but also as a chronicle of a nation’s history. The Ritz London is one of them
Conceived by renowned hotelier César Ritz, The Ritz London originally had opened on May 24, 1906 – more than 100 years back. The Ritz owes its mighty architectural design to Frenchman Charles Mewès and Englishman Arthur Davis. Their respective nationalities tremendously helped in giving the hotel the exceptionally royal character that it still retains today.
César Ritz’s innovations were unique for their time. Bathrooms for every bedroom, double glazing, a sophisticated ventilation system, walk-in wardrobes, and brass, rather than wooden, beds – all defined extreme luxury in those days. With its French chateau-style architecture and all its interior decorations and furnishings in the style of Louis XVI, the hotel was, according to César Ritz, “a small house to which I am proud to see my name attached”.
The exterior of the hotel is influenced by various Parisian architectural traditions. As per Mewès’ brilliant idea, only the ground floor of the hotel is dominated by the single Louis XVI theme in the vaulted gallery which runs the length of the building. The Palm Court epitomised the elegantly frivolous comfort of Edwardian high life while The Restaurant, often described as the most beautiful dining room in Europe, appeared to be permanently ‘en fête’ with its sumptuous chandeliers linked by gilt bronze garlands around the room. The bedrooms and suites on the upper floors, with its gold leaf, plaster mouldings, marble fireplaces and traditional furnishings, offered the quintessential cosiness of an English stately home.
The Ritz was an immediate success. During its early years, it enjoyed the patronage of the Prince of Wales, later to become King Edward VIII, and the English aristocracy. It was the first hotel to which young, unmarried women were allowed to go without chaperones! This hotel instantly attracted the famous and the fashionable - King Alfonso of Spain and Queen Amelie of Portugal met in The Hotel; Pavlova, the Russian Prima Ballerina, danced at The Ritz; the Aga Khan and Paul Getty had suites; the Prince of Wales and Mrs Simpson dined and danced in The Palm Court; and Churchill, de Gaulle and Eisenhower met for Summit Meetings in the Marie-Antoinette Suite during World War II.
The Ritz also became a favourite of Hollywood stars. Charlie Chaplin required 40 policemen to escort him through the fans into the hotel in 1921; Noel Coward wrote songs at The Ritz; and Tallulah Bankhead sipped Champagne from a slipper during a press conference in the 1950s.
In 1995, The Ritz was bought by Sir David Barclay and Sir Frederick Barclay’s private company, Ellerman Investments. A meticulous and complete refurbishment began. Fourteen years later, The Ritz was fully restored!
Owing to its class, service and uniqueness, in January 2002, The Ritz London received a Royal Warrant for Banqueting and Catering Services, awarded by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. The Ritz is the first and only hotel to have been honoured with this most prestigious of awards.
In late 2006, The Ritz opened William Kent House, an 18th century town house situated at Arlington Street, which now adjoins the hotel. Designed in the 1740s, the historic mansion includes a collection of lavishly decorated rooms and suites restored carefully by The Ritz to their original Italian Renaissance style décor.
Three new residential suites have been created on the upper floors of the house - The Royal Suite (£5000 per night); The Prince of Wales Suite (£5,500 per night); and The Arlington Suite (£1000 per night). So put your feet up in plush surroundings as a personal butler takes care of everything around you.
The aristocratic decor of the rooms has been skillfully combined with contemporary technological facilities. All suites in the hotel feature a desk laptop. The Royal and The Prince of Wales Suites also offer an iPod docking station and a full CD and DVD library as additional in room entertainment facilities.
In addition to the three new suites in William Kent House, there is a choice of a further 21 suites in the hotel, from the one bedroom Superior Suites to the generously proportioned luxury of the Piccadilly and Green Park Suites. The Trafalgar Suite is an elegant new edition addition to the hotel’s portfolio. The 7th floor of the hotel houses two more unique suites: the one bedroom Park Suite and the adjacent (interconnecting if required) two-bedroom Berkeley Suite.
These suites, of course, have nothing wanting in terms of facilities. The design, the lavishness and the extremely hospitable service won’t make you feel less than a king or queen yourself!
The Ritz Restaurant is considered by many to be the most beautiful hotel restaurant in the world. And not without reason! 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 mirrors, combine to create one of the most magical interiors in London. Awe-inspiring we should say…
The Ritz Room, a small private dining room with draped curtains screening it from the restaurant, offers secluded dining for up to 14 people, while The Restaurant Terrace, overlooking the pretty landscaped Italian Garden, offers further seating for diners during the warm summer months for alfresco lunches. On Fridays and Saturdays, The Ritz Restaurant is host to ‘Live at The Ritz’, the hotel’s cabaret evenings featuring a four course dinner menu and dancing to a live band in true British style.
The scrumptious buffet breakfast offers a full range of cereals, fruits, home-made yoghurts, York Ham, Scottish smoked salmon and a selection of cheeses. Lunch at The Restaurant is wholesome with a full à la carte menu and a three course Menu du Jour. Complementing the à la carte menu, The Restaurant offers three and four course Du Jour dinner menus each evening (except Fridays and Saturdays).
For the Glow
Not forgetting your beauty needs, The Ritz Salon is situated on the 7th floor of the hotel. It provides an extensive range of health and beauty treatments including ladies’ and gentlemen’s hairdressing, bridal hair and make-up, manicure and pedicure with Orly products, waxing, reflexology and a separate therapy room for specialised body treatments. Your skin is safe with the exclusive Aromatherapy Associates product range used in The Salon for the treatments.
You don’t need to miss your fitness regime during your travels. A private Gym and Fitness Studio is located immediately opposite The Salon. Offering state of the art exercise equipment, including a multigym, treadmill, step machine with a virtual reality viewing screen, rowing machine and weights, the fitness studio is for the exclusive use of hotel guests.
The night tale
When The Ritz opened in 1906, the architects designed a cocktail bar that ran from inside the Piccadilly entrance along the length of the front of the building to Arlington Street. The original Rivoli Bar was a fashionable haunt and a celebrated meeting place until 1972 when it was transformed into a parade of shops.
Re-opened in November 2001, The Rivoli has been recreated by designer Tessa Kennedy and is once again, a fashionable and popular meeting place. The Rivoli Bar is highlighted by five gilded ceiling domes, each with their own delicate Lalique style chandelier. Windows overlooking Piccadilly stretch the length of the room are dressed in voile.
To the left of the entrance is an onyx marble bar which glows from lighting. Glasses, bottles of spirits and liqueurs, silver cocktail shakers and Champagne buckets sparkle with brilliant reflections from the rear wall set in glass. Described as ‘an Art Deco jewel box’, The Rivoli is panelled in polished camphor wood veneer and decorated with golden keystone nuggets and magnificent Lalique glass panels.
It goes without saying that The Rivoli Bar offers an envious choice of fine wines and Champagnes along with the signature martinis and cocktails.
Being a true hotelier, César Ritz always considered the well-being of his guests paramount. The management and staff at The Ritz today also understand and share his spirit, working tirelessly to maintain an atmosphere of warmth, comfort and timeless elegance.