Craig’s review… I thought I would really love this place, but do you know what? I don’t think I do. I don’t like the Waldorf (I’m very hard to please). Once you’ve stayed in The Ritz then nowhere else comes close.
But before I explain why I don’t like it, let me get all of the plaudits out of the way first. The outside looks fantastic with its warm yellow lamplights and fancy black iron work (especially on a rainy night), and the location is great. It is situated right on the bend of Aldwych about five minutes from Trafalgar Square and two minutes from Covent Garden. You can even walk to St. Paul’s if you’re feeling energetic.
The room is nice and big. It’s probably the second largest room that I’ve ever slept in after The Ritz. But it’s all shiny white. It has white walls, white doors, a white bed… a bottle of water and clean glasses on the side. Mirrors absolutely everywhere (seven of them). The bathroom is white. Everything is white. This entire room is white. Whenever you see a lunatic locked up in a padded room, the room is invariably white. It’s like sleeping in a goddam hospital. There are a couple of black and white photos of Marlene Dietrich above my bed as well (or somebody like that – I don’t know exactly who), and in my hospital frame of mind I’m imagining them as being backlit x-rays of my skull. Any minute now I’m expecting a doctor to walk in and deliver me some bad news.
I’m probably being a bit harsh… if the only thing that I can complain about is the whiteness of the walls then it can’t be too bad, can it? I’d be no good as an eskimo, that’s for sure. This igloo is too damn white! Happily you do get plenty of extras: a big TV, a clock radio, ironing board, teapot, dustbin, carpet, wallpaper, teabags and coffee, minibar, dressing gown and slippers (both white).
You also get about ten light switches but only seven lights. I wonder what the other ones are for? That is one of the annoying joys of moving into a new hotel room: trying to work out which switch does what. Sometimes they try and confuse you with a master switch, which toggles off all the other ones before you’ve even had a chance to turn them on. And it was whilst I was standing there doing this that I discovered that this room has got something I’ve never seen before: a night light. It’s just a dim little lightbulb by the skirting board, about six inches off the floor. Have you ever seen such a thing? You literally have to get down on your hands and knees to see it.
One thing that really winds me up about 5-star hotels is the crazy amount of money they want for trifling things. For example, (and you are not going to believe this), for two-days access to the hotel’s Wi-Fi they want £26 quid. No joke! You get free Wi-Fi in McDonalds and Starbucks for chrissakes, so why is a 5-star hotel asking for twenty-six quid? That is a total rip-off. There are no other words to describe it. (Obviously I still paid it, though, because I’m an idiot.)
Things improve considerably when you get out of the room and into the bar. It’s just a tiny little room decorated with dark wood and pretty women, low lights (barely on), soft jazz, and I definitely don’t belong. But I can just about blag it as a smart man today because I’m wearing my funeral trousers and job interview shirt. I can be smart when I have to (when I’m forced to). They very nearly ruined my mood by serving up the coffee in a thimble-sized cup, but I am even prepared to forgive them that because the atmosphere is so great. This coffee is super-strong, though. It’s almost like smoking a cigarette and I have to do my best not to cough.
The waitress must think I need cheering up because she’s just lit a candle and brought it over. I seem to be the only person in here with a romantic candle. Er… thank you. (What else can you say?) Normally I would blow it out, but I’ll leave it burning tonight. I’ll leave it burning on the table top, like they do at the foot of a tomb. Like they do in the churches. Like they do at a funeral. I hope it doesn’t set fire to this rose that they’ve put inside a vase.
The breakfast is nice. It takes place in a big dining hall with faux-Roman columns down the side (imagine a mini-Banqueting House, but without the Rubens on the roof). There are lots of super-smart staff floating around, lots of city suits and shirts and ties and talking business over breakfast, and that soft acoustic jazz in the background again. Then you help yourself to all the usual stuff: sausages, eggs, bacon, beans, toast, cereals, yoghurts, etc.