Sometimes it’s nice to feel special. To do something which has the sense of the unobtainable – like you’re punching above your weight in life. London is full of grand old hotels and houses and restaurants; places where the lookyloos are kept at bay and the lucky few can pass some time away from it all. For many people, including a large selection of my non-native friends, this is everything they hate about London. It’s selective and it’s exclusive and it looks down its nose at you.
Indeed, the exclusiveness and high profile of some of these places has been their downfall, in that their not seen as “cool”. If your Nan went there when she was your age, why would you want to go there now? There’s a hipster bar in Shoreditch calling your name. But, it’s my personal opinion that this sense of continuity and heritage is very important in a place like London. London embraces change far more quickly than other metropolises, but somewhere like Claridges barely changes. The gilded revolving door (which you actually have to push), the sweeping staircase, the great vases and cushioned armchairs – how long these fixtures been here? How many people have pushed that door, and what awaited them on the other side? A mysterious rendezvous, a meeting of old friends, a secret?
That’s what Claridges is to London – a fixture. A constant. And part of me wanted to go there just to say I had! Yes the cocktails are expensive but the devoted service is second to none, and you’re made to feel important. It’s perfect if you want to give your evening a sense of occasion, which is lovely when you consider how commoditised and everyday dining and drinking out can feel nowadays.
When we arrived there were no tables available in the bar (Claridges has two bars and we selected the lighter and more casual of them), so we were seated on plush high stools and doted on as the barman prepared our champagne cocktails. To our delight, when a table did become available we were informed and swiftly moved, with no prompting on our part – it was such a nice feeling to be remembered by the host and moved. I’m not saying it’s not expensive – don’t go here if you’re after a cheap tipple – but I have no doubt they used the best champagne, the most premium raspberries, and the cleanest vodka that money can buy in making it. And it was delightful. Make sure you don’t miss out on the cheese straw nibbles on the tables as well – they are so moreish and flaky… definitely the best cheese straws I have ever had.