In a world where flux is the norm, constancy can prove strangely alluring. Such is the case at the Ritz London, the famed institution which has become synonymous with opulence and luxury. Last year was a banner year for the legendary hotel, which saw it open Ritz London Cigars (a cigar shop and sampling lounge), acquire a bespoke Ritz Rolls-Royce Phantom Extended Wheelbase (in natty Ritz blue of course), and launch its first-ever Ritz London cookbook. Its rooms have also been quietly upgraded over the past few years: where red and gold once reigned supreme, now comes a new lighter, fresher palette of pale blues and whites, which instantly creates an uplifting, airy feel. An array of modern conveniences, such as bedside USB ports and lighting shortcut switches have also been installed.
But its most ardent fans know it’s the Ritz’s unchanging aspects that give it its famed appeal, one which through the ages drew boldface names from every sphere of society, including Winston Churchill, Noel Coward and Jacqueline Onassis, who proclaimed the hotel “a paradise". Old-world craft still prevails here. An unabashed ode to neoclassical decor, the Ritz London’s interiors are filled with Louis XVI-style furniture, antiques and glittering chandeliers at every turn. The rooms may have been refreshed, but the gold-leaf ceiling motifs in each are still laboriously applied by hand, the bathrooms are glorious extravagances of marble and, every turn is met with the fragrance of crystal vases filled with blowsy alabaster blooms – the famous Ritz rose specially bred for the hotel in Holland.
A must-try is the Ritz London’s famous Afternoon Tea, enjoyed among the rarified surrounds of the hotel’s Palm Court. This is the place that, over a century later, still defines the quintessential English tea, with its gourmet sandwiches and artisanal teas served on silver salvers against an opulent backdrop of abundant florals, mirrored walls and birdcage chandeliers. So popular is the service that its five daily seatings are typically booked a month ahead, and the dress code (jackets and ties for gentlemen) as exacting as its menu. Don’t miss a chat with Ian Gomes, Ritz’s resident pianist since 1995, while you’re here. Gomes, who has an encyclopedic repertoire of songs spanning the globe, often has a colourful anecdote or four to share about his encounters with greats like Frank Sinatra.
Renowned travel writer Pico Iyer recently wrote: “At heart, home is the place where you have memories; the place that goes so deep inside you that the story of your life seems to unfold there." Wherever you are at the Ritz London – whether you’re checking in at the counter presided over by a majestic royal warrant (granted by the Prince of Wales in 2002), or enjoying Crepes Suzette (prepared tableside) under cloud frescoes in the Michelin-starred Ritz Restaurant – the story practically writes itself.