The Ritz review
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Oh my Lord. So this is how the other half lives.
I must be honest and say that I was a little bit intimidated before I walked in. I know it sounds crazy, but I wasn't really looking forward to staying at The Ritz. I'm basically a slob, you see. I wear the same shirt all week, shave once a fortnight, and the only suit I own is my birthday suit. So the thought of walking into The Ritz filled me with foreboding. I'm definitely going to get chucked out, I thought. There's no way they're going to let me in. They'll just stand around laughing at me... pointing at me like I'm some kind of loser. Or worse, they'll have me arrested for impersonating a rich bloke. Then I'll be tied to the back of a limo and dragged around town whilst people chuck mouldy old cabbages at me... these are the kind of things that were going through my mind this morning.
As soon as you walk up to the door everyone is very nice and polite and treats you like you actually deserve it. They are probably used to getting a two grand tip from everyone they meet (I might luzz them a few quid if I've got any left). The guy in reception was straight out of Downton Abbey. He had about a bazillion questions to make me feel more welcome... would you like a paper sir (er... can I have the Sun?), would you like a wake-up call, would you like your bag carried up, would you like a tour of the hotel, when would you like dinner, what about room service? It was a blizzard of questions, and I aimed a whirlwind of nods back at him. But the one that flummaxed me the most was the turn-down service. I haven't got a clue what that is mate, I said. Apparently someone is going to come into my room tonight and get it ready for bed, he says. Er... okay. That sounds like something for five-year olds... plumping up your pillows and tucking you in. I wonder if they'll read me a bedtime story too... we will see.
After I checked in I got a little guided tour of the hotel from a pretty blonde bird. She showed me the Rivoli Bar and Palm Court. It looked pretty plush... it's all round tables and gigantic flower arrangements, with posh people suited and booted and sipping their poncy cups of tea. Waiters waltzing around with silver trays of cakes, and a penguin suit tapping out the tunes on his piano.
Then it was up to my room and she even gave me a guided tour of that. Jesus Christ I thought, as I walked into the room, trying my best not to look too impressed. I didn't want her knowing that I normally stay at the Ibis. There were so many cupboards and electronic bits and pieces around that it took her five minutes to point it all out. There was classical music playing on a loop too... I think it was Chopin's "Raindrops" but I dont really know. It was something like that. All I know is that it was posh. That is what greets you when you walk through the door.
What a room! If you knocked together all the downstairs rooms in my house, then I'm pretty sure that the Ritz room is bigger. First of all you've got a little sitting area with two armchairs, a coffee table and a sofa. The table has got big books about ccktails and Van Gogh on it, and the latest issue of Tatler. No Beano though. Then you've got acres of space to the bed in case you want to have a ballroom dance, and then another acre to the window with another set of table and chairs. Then you've got a separate dressing table and a mirror for the ladies (or the men — you never know these days), a big chest of drawers, a writing desk and a chair, two bedside tables... a marble fireplace with a ming vase on it (christ almighty lets hope I don't knock it over!) and a DAB radio with iPod dock. And then another huge cabinet with a sky HD box in it, and a huge widescreen TV on the wall. Another massive mirror on the wall, loads of posh lampshades, five paintings, an umbrella stand (complete with umbrella), a hairdryer, two pairs of slippers, a minibar with six crystal glasses and a tumbler of ice (why doesn't it melt?)... I think that's about it. Oh yeah... and then there's the bathroom.
The bathroom is all red marble and gold fittings. It's got his and hers of everything... his and hers fluffy white towels, thicker than a blanket. His and hers dressing gowns, his and hers sinks. It's even got two toilet rolls in case you want to have a crap together. It's got a vase with a rose in it and two glasses of water. It's got a bath and a shower, and a separate shower too. The mirror is bigger than my dining room table. And of course it's got a phone in there as well in case you want to order a pizza. I reckon two people could kip down in here and be perfectly happy. All it needs is a TV and a blanket in the bath and away you go.
Have you ever been in a room with three telephones in it? That gives you some indication of its size. There's one in the bathroom, one in the sitting area and another by the bed.
Now... bear in mind that this was the cheapest room. But when I say cheap what I actually mean of course is that it was bloody expensive -- 350 quid per night. So Lord knows what the suites are like. They must be like Buckingham Palace.
I'm going to go down to the Rivoli Bar now and check that out. I've got to put my jacket and tie on first though, or they won't let me in...
Okay, I'm in. They let me in, which is a good start. You get met by a waiter who of course is very friendly and polite and speaks in la francais, sits you down and asks you what you want. I'll have a coffee please mate (£6.50!). It comes in a china cup and saucer on a solid silver tray, and the iceburg-sized lumps of sugar have a silver set of tongs to pick them up. He's given me a broadsheet paper to read and a couple of slices of cinnamon cake. Frank Sinatra singing softly in the background — it's like being transported back to the 1950s. It's all art deco browns and golds, waiters in sharp white suits and slicked back hair.
The bar is full of posh wives and widows. There's a few decorated ladies spending their dead husbands money, and a couple of perm-do oldies who look like they are used to this kind of thing. One of them is the perfect stereotype of a posh old doddy with dripping earrings and thick gold rings on her fingers, talking in a voice that's posher than the Queen.
An assortment of black suits, posh frocks, and even a fancy blue bow-tie walks in. Everyone gets met by the waiter who kindly asks them how their day has been. What would you like sir, he says. And he gets met by a question this time... what is the best drink for a sore throat? I would probably go for a Lemsip, mate, is what he should say, but he suggests a whiskey and water. A whiskey and water? It's a good job this guy is not a doctor. He'd be giving out beer on prescription.
I've ordered another coffee and he's bought me another two slices of cinnamon cake, lol. So that is my tip for you — if you want some cinnamon cake have a coffee at the Ritz.
Okay, I've found out what the turn-down service is. Imagine that you've hired a servant to do a load of unnecessary things for you... that is basically what it is. First of all she peels back the bed covers, then she puts a fresh pair of slippers by the bed and a glass of water on the table. Then she goes and hangs up your jacket that you've lazily dumped on the sofa. It's all highly embarassing... I'm a grown man for chrissakes. She's like a mother and a nurse all rolled into one, making sure that there are no monsters under the bed. But she's getting well paid though so I guess it's alright, she doesn't mind. I wonder if she's going to kiss me goodnight too. (no)
The bed is pretty amazing. You sink down about ten feet every time you lie on it. I think they must have put ten duvets under the first sheet, plus a duvet on top. The pillows are about the same size as a suitcase, filled with marshmallows. That is what I am guessing.
Do you know what I've just realised... you are not going to believe this... there is no kettle in here! Oh my god, this is England, the land of tea, so where the hell is my kettle and tea bags? This is an outrage! This is the first hotel I've ever stayed in that doesn't have a kettle and tea-bags in the room. Even the 2-star dumps I've kipped down in do that. It seems like you have to order your tea from room service instead, which costs another six quid fifty. So finally, at last I have found something that I can mark them down on. I was going to give them a 5-star review, but they're only getting one star now. I suppose it's a bit common having rich people pour out their own tea, it would do the butler out of a job. And to think that I was moaning about the number of tea-bags in the last hotel I stayed at... at the Ritz you don't even get one!
I don't normally stay in places where you have to wear a suit to dinner. I eat at McDonalds. That is my kind of level. The breakfast doesn't cost 36 quid at McDonalds (that's how much it costs here). And the evening meal doesn't cost 50 quid (that's how much it's costing me to eat in the Ritz restaurant tonight). So if you spend one night here you are approaching 450 quid for two meals and a room (plus £6.50 for a cup of tea, of course). Have a look at these minibar prices: packet of crisps £4.50, coca cola £6, peanut M&Ms £10, shaving kit £28, scented candle £30, bottle of bubbly £50 to £150. I've stayed in rooms that cost less than the scented candle!
I'm sitting in the Ritz restaurant having breakfast now. Very nice. Lots of round tables all pink and white, flowers everywhere and waiters in their tails. Lots of chandeliers and a big mirror wall at the end with pastel frescos and a giant gold statue. You have to dress up to get in. Never dressed up for cornflakes before.
A steady stream of sleepy suits and grey-flecked hairdos walk in with the Financial Times hooked over the crook of their elbow, they look like captains of industry — the movers and shakers of the business world. The guys behind me are currently discussing emerging markets in the third world, in-between mouthfuls of bacon. They all look totally at home, like this is a normal part of their day. Then a middle-aged couple walk in, all goggled-eyed and smiling like they are in a dream. Oh my lord, they are saying, this sure beats breakfast at McDonalds.
Evening meal now... this is the life. If you ever want to take a girl on a date then dinner in the Ritz restaurant will seal the deal, for sure. Talk about glamour! You've got a quartet playing outside the Palm Court and it's like the golden days of Hollywood. Waiters in their buttons and tails. Low light and flickering candles setting the mood. All the diners in posh frocks and jewellery.
The evening ends with a string quartet playing jaunty waltzes in Palm Court. Then it's off to bed and back to reality.
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