The Ritz is practically a metonym for glamour, eliciting mental images of shameful decadence and outrageous extravagance. While the Rivoli Bar does nothing whatsoever to undermine the sense of awe the hotel in which it’s housed inspires, I’d like to present you with a different Ritz-related episode from my weekend that will perhaps cast it in a different light. The Ritz, you see, offered me some welcome respite from London’s bustle and I have now filed it in my head for future episodes of exhaustion when around town.
It was cold out when I visited. Cold, windy and drizzly. I’d been for dinner in my friends’ neighbourhood and found my journey inhibited by the deluge of concert-goers flooding Earls Court Station, so wondered to South Ken to catch a train from there instead. My plans for the latter part of the evening were in Green Park and I found myself there excessively early.
Not one to balk at the misfortune of arriving prematurely, I assessed my surroundings. Plenty of restaurants filled with families and couples. That wouldn’t do. Cafés with churning cappuccino machines were also abundant but they, too, we’re not agreeable. Too light, too noisy.
Then I saw it. The Ritz. Shimmering before me wantonly. I’d almost missed it, so used was I to walking past the liveried doormen and continuing on to lesser establishments. Doormen tend to make one feel unwelcome indeed and as I am generally shod in All Stars and in a state of mild dishevellment, I have always felt the Ritz doormen to be disinterested in my custom. And they’d be right, I am often a poor customer indeed and favour a camomile tea over champagne.
But there it was, and there I was. So I thought it better to stop prevaricating and just waltz on in and have myself a fancy camomile tea.
The interior is breathtaking, like a living museum in which you can relive the golden age of hotels. Muted golds and glittering lamps make for an enchanting atmosphere. When passing from reception into the main hotel, a sharp right leads you to the Rivoli bar.
I was surprised at the clientele. While almost wholly clear of European millionaires, office workers and hipsters that flood many a London hotel bar nowadays, this lot still seemed a little incongruous with the surroundings. I’d been hoping for Bond or Bardot, not barristers in black suits.
Once comfortably occupying a window seat (to which I was escorted with minimum hauteur), I weighed up the menu. The Ritz takes orders of £20 upwards so if I was to have my beloved camomile tea, I’d have to bulk things up a bit with a cocktail or two. I ordered two – it was near to closing time and I felt it best to be prepared for a wait. While not cheap, the drinks come with snacks and the tea with shortbread (which was too sugary, but nonetheless considerate). The drinks, and joy of people watching, were entirely engrossing and time flew by.
Once paid up and on my merry way, I considered the cost/pleasure equation of stopping at the Ritz and decided that I couldn’t have spent a nicer two hours in town by myself – I’d avoided the cold and the hustle of the London streets and instead had a quiet break with a cocktail. For that pleasure, I would gladly pay the same again.