Given that The Ritz is one of the oldest and grandest hotels in London, I presumed that it would take itself terribly seriously. A home-from-home for royalty of the real (it was the first hotel to receive a royal warrant from the Prince of Wales) and fashion kind (Anna Wintour stays twice-yearly during London Fashion Week) it could almost be excused for being stuffy and uptight...
Instead, the more than century-old iconic establishment on London’s Piccadilly exudes the warmth and good humour that you would expect from the city itself. My husband and I visited with our spirited three-year-old, Cecilia, and our baby daughter, Ursula – a stressful combination at the best of times, let alone in a 24-carat, gold-leafed five-star hotel. But it was like being welcomed by elegant grandparents who had nothing to prove and had long forgotten to try to be cool – and our trip was a memory we will treasure as a family forever. Words: Claire Brayford Photography: Caroline Leeming. Additional images: courtesy of The Ritz London.
Famed for its afternoon tea, the hotel’s latest speciality is luxury for little ones. The Very Important Kids service includes unlimited ice-cream in the Palm Court Cafe and a host of in-room treats including games consoles, Ritz teddy bears, mini robes, slippers and special children’s toiletries. The Ritz Salon offers haircuts and styling for children, and Cecilia loved the Princess Manicure with her own mini bottle of Orly nail polish to take home. There’s babysitting services so parents can dine in peace beneath the opulent frescoes in the Ritz restaurant, and a teenage concierge service ensures that even the most demanding older kids are entertained. I loved that bedtime is made extra-special – from the bedside books (for Cecilia it was a selection of Mr Mens) to the glass of milk (in a silver-plated cup, of course), with chocolate hazelnut treats one night, lemon macarons the next. As my daughter chatted to her bears long after lights out, it was either from the sugar-high – or she felt the pinch-me-I’m-dreaming experience too.
The next morning (much like my three-year-old) I woke up far too excited to sleep. Our two-bedroom interconnecting suite overlooked Piccadilly to one side, Green Park to the other, and after a luxuriant soak in the floor-to-ceiling marble bathroom and probably far too long discussing which jewels we’d choose from the Ritz Fine Jewellery images on the TV, we headed down to breakfast. “Good morning Cecilia”, Michael De Cozar, the head hall porter called cheerily – one of the hotel’s most loved characters he has been there for 43 years and even starred in the film Notting Hill (remember the bit with the Horse & Hound press conference). Instead of a high chair, one of the waiters brought a cushion for Cecilia asking: “Miss, may I?” before lifting her on top. Even as she plopped the precisely cubed melon pieces into her water – “look tutti-frutti-water mummy!” – the waiter smiled in a “we really should have thought of that first” way.
The service was unparalleled. Never mind dropping a fork, when my youngest grizzled in her pram a waiter asked in earnest whether the doorman should push her around Green Park so that she might sleep in the fresh air. Quite honestly the question is not ‘when can I go back?’ It’s ‘when can I move in?’. The Ritz London is one of The Leading Hotels of the World. Prices start from $3,300 for a Two-Bedroom Suite; $2,670 for an interconnecting Junior Suite and Deluxe King Room, and $1,550 for a Junior Suite with complimentary extra bed. All rates are based on a family of four. Subject to availability. Telephone: +44 020 7300 2222, email: [email protected] For more information, go to www.lhw.com