Magazine article The Spectator

Ritz Crackers

Magazine article The Spectator

Ritz Crackers

Article excerpt

All I knew about the Ritz Hotel in London was that it was where important oldfashioned people took other important old-fashioned people out to lunch. Oh, and in Notting Hill it was where the Julia Roberts character stayed, and Hugh Grant pretended to be a night waiter called Bernie when caught visiting her in the midnight hours by her nasty actor boyfriend. Other than that my knowledge was virginal, as I always lived in London, and when the time came that I didn't, I usually stayed with friends. I used to drive past the Ritz, and admire it, but it never occurred to me to stay there. It seemed impenetrable, with its proud gold letters, gleaming down Piccadilly.

This July, when I checked in, I felt nervous, as if I was going to stay with someone's daunting maiden aunt for the first time. I also felt a bit like I was cheating on my usual hotel, but I did visit them for tea.

I arrived, late at night, in that rosy gilded lobby, to the most rapturous welcome. As he whisked me to my room, the angelic assistant manager, Jonathan Hennessy, told me (while politely averting his eyes from my denim clad legs) that jeans were not acceptable in the Ritz. This was said in such a sweet way, that I became excited about all the other things I could wear, that were not jeans. Demure tea dresses, court shoes and cashmere twin-sets. My Ritz uniform would be divine. Alas, on unpacking, I realised that I had no such things, and until further notice I would be upstairs, minding my own business in my nightie.

No bad thing. My room looked like it belonged to a comtesse from the court of Madame de Pompadour, who had flitted off in the middle of the night for a liaison and never returned. The walls were covered in silk, and the linen sheets were pale flesh pink, the bed ineffably comfortable.

In my room I felt grand and lucky. My breakfast was brought promptly, minutes after I ordered it. At the Ritz they even have goats' milk if you ask. My jean-clad girlfriends came to visit, and we didn't want to go downstairs to have tea, because upstairs was just too nice to leave.

This caused big problems for housekeeping, because when they wanted to come and tidy, they had to fight through droves of girls drinking tea on the floor. I don't think this is usual at the Ritz.

In order to give housekeeping a break, I worked (rehearsing in the garden of Buckingham Palace, preparing to entertain the Queen and lots of children for her 80th birthday, terrifying). …

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