Christmas at Claridge’s

“When I pass through the revolving doors into the glamorous lobby of Claridge’s in London, I always feel a thrill. You enter a world of sophistication and wonderful service… Claridge’s is my ultimate treat.” - Lulu Guinness


Visiting Claridge’s is always special, but during the festive season it takes on a certain kind of magic. 


One of London’s most glamorous and longest-established hotels, Claridge’s started life as a single house ran by William and Marianne Claridge.


They ambitiously bought the adjoining five buildings in 1854 and the hotel was transformed into the art deco masterpiece that it is today. 


Favoured by Royalty and distinguished figures of every generation including Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Bing Crosby… The Queen! In 1945 Winston Churchill and his wife Lady Clementine moved into Claridge's penthouse suite during the war.


The interior is opulent and grand. More so at Christmas. The art deco revolving door takes you inside to the legendary black and white marble lobby with the famous sweeping staircase, once a turning area for horse-drawn carriages. 


An open fireplace and the stunning Christmas trees capture the magic of the festive season. 


Each year Claridge’s ask a famous designer to design the Christmas tree, putting their own unique mark on it. Chanel's genius Karl Lagerfeld was entrusted with creating the 2017 masterpiece.


His version is an inverted, 16-foot-high tree with silver gilded roots, topped with a mirrored star and hung with traditional icey lametta and snowflake decorations. It's been a huge hit and is surely the most Instagrammed Christmas tree of 2017. It's worth a visit to see this alone. 


But I had an even better excuse to visit.... I took my mum for Festive Afternoon Tea. A special Christmas themed Afternoon Tea complete with festive treats, Champagne and Christmas pudding.


We were shown through to the Foyer where Afternoon Tea is served. A pianist and harpist played gentle Christmas carols over the clinking of bone china and peoples appreciative “oh’s” and “ah’s over the cakes being served. 


Champagne was poured overhead while we deliberated over our choice from over 24 different tea leaves. I chose ‘White Silver Tip’, a precious white tea from the mountains of Fujian in far eastern China.


Mum went with ‘Cloud,’ a black tea from the LaKyrsiew tea garden in the forgotten forest region of Meghalaya.


Our finger sandwiches arrived, each and every one as delicious as the last, so much so we accept the offer of a second round.


All made to precision the Claridge’s way, perfect equal lengths and the filling accounting for one third of the sandwich width. 


The scones were warm, light and golden. Just the right size. 

While we contemplated how we would survive the final round, a flaming Christmas Pudding surprise arrived. Extinguished by a rich brandy sauce.


Then the cakes….


Roasted plum frangipane tart.


Kalingo dark chocolate mousse.


Golden bauble macaroon.


Yorkshire parkin. 


Service was exceptional and carefully orchestrated, the theatre of Claridge's is provided by the staff, ever attentive but equally discrete.


You only have to raise your eyes for a nanosecond to catch their attention. Our waitress, Renata, was perfect, nothing was too much trouble. 


Claridge’s is very careful about respecting and protecting its tradition. Everything is done just so. The fire in the lobby is lit at 6am sharp, the Christmas puddings are made in August to a century-old secret recipe. The hotel apparently has the oldest working lift in the UK. Installed in 1896 it is the only lift in London still operated by an attendant.


In the increasingly competitive world of luxury hotels, success depends on the aptitude of the business to evolve to meet new challenges. Something Claridge’s has done for over 150 years.  

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often” - Winston Churchill

Claridge's sets itself apart by excelling in customer service. Anything is possible. Imagine a world where no request is too outrageous, the word "no” doesn't exist. Even the “Ladies Room” is a place of art, complete with a lady who turns the taps on for you and passes you your hand-towel.


Dame Barbara Cartland was a regular at Claridge’s, rumour has it that when she was on her way for Afternoon Tea the hotel would have her secretary confirm whether she was in pink or turquoise, so they could lay her table in matching colours.

A Japanese pop star once booked into the penthouse, costing nearly £7,000 a night, for a whole month. Four days before arriving her team demanded her suite have a Jacuzzi. “It doesn’t have one,” replied General Manager Thomas Kochs, “but it will.” The next day the bath was removed and a Jacuzzi installed.


Claridge’s isn’t just a hotel. It’s an experience. A wonderful one at that. You’re made to feel like the most important guest while you’re there and you leave feeling utterly special. As Spencer Tracey said, “Not that I intend to die, but when I do, I don’t want to go to heaven, I want to go to Claridge’s.” 

The Festive Afternoon Tea runs until 1st January 2018. 

The Wolseley, London

“How do you like your eggs in the morning?”… I like mine at The Wolseley. 

A self-proclaimed ‘café-restaurant in the grand European tradition,’ The Wolseley is located next to the Ritz in a Grade II listed building. Constructed in 1921 it was originally designed as a prestigious car showroom for Wolseley Motors.

However, the cars didn’t sell well and by 1926 the company was bankrupt.

Barclays Bank acquired the building and a banking counter was installed, as well as a post box and stamp machine, which are still on display today.

Decades later Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, the original restaurateurs behind the Ivy and J Sheekey, took ownership and set about a major renovation project.

Black and cream geometric marble floors and baroque ironwork were introduced to take the building back to it’s 1920s authenticity. Inspiration was taken from the grand cafes of Vienna, Milan and Paris. The interior is beautiful, with soaring columns and arched windows under a 30ft-high ceiling.

The Wolseley opened its doors in 2003 and has since experienced great success, gaining iconic status and achieving the highest grossing turnover of any individual restaurant in the UK. It has rumoured sales of over £10 million a year. 

It has also become a favourite with London's celebrity set due to it oozing glamour but being equally discrete. Kate Moss is a regular while Madonna, Sienna Miller and Jake Gyllenhaal have all dined there in recent years. Lucian Freud loved the place so much he ate at the same table every single night.

Keen to see what all the fuss was about, I visited for breakfast with a friend one Sunday morning. Having previously reviewed sister restaurant, The Colbert in Chelsea, we knew roughy what to expect.

Great service, simple but delicious food and well-heeled people reading a variety of international Sunday papers.

We began with a pot of tea each and a glass of freshly squeezed vitamin c. I ordered my usual eggs florentine and my friend had an omelette.

We couldn’t resist ordering a buttery pain au chocolat each, having fallen in love with the pastries at The Colbert.

The food was delicious, exactly what we needed after one too many cocktails the night before. Comfort food at its best. 

Unlike The Colbert, The Wolseley was a hive of activity with a noise level to match. Smartly dressed waiters dashed around the place tending to everyones needs. The restaurant runs like a well-oiled machine, akin to the luxury cars that were sold in the same building nearly a century ago. 

There was a whole variety of people dining, the famous sitting alongside tourists, children eat with their parents, all different nationalities. The Wolseley suits everyone and every occasion. With a varied menu serving breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, the restaurant transforms itself from cafe to tea-room to late night dining every day.

The Wolseley is definitely worth a visit, particularly for breakfast, which it does so well. So much so writer A.A. Gill dedicated a book to ‘Breakfast at The Wolseley.’


They say you should “eat breakfast like a King.” It appears this might mean Jeremy King. Having enjoyed The Wolseley as much as I enjoyed The Colbert, I’m certainly going to visit some of King and Corbin’s other ventures in the city.

The duo have landed upon a winning formula.

Sloane Square Hotel, London

Sloane Square was designed in 1771 and named after Sir Hans Sloane. It has long been one of the most exclusive areas in central London, situated between the Kings Road and Sloane Street. It’s the perfect address to thrill shopaholics, surrounded by the world’s most luxury boutiques.

Aside from the excellent retail therapy opportunities, the Square also has several historical buildings, including the Peter Jones department store, the Royal Court Theatre and the Sloane Square Hotel. 

Housed in a 19th-century building which was formerly The Royal Court Hotel, it has played host to many celebrities. Early in February 1962, The Beatles stayed for several weeks and in the following year they used the building as a venue for photographic sessions. The hotel also played host to the first meeting between Paul McCartney and his future girlfriend Jane Asher.

In 2005 the building was completely renovated and reopened as Sloane Square Hotel. The ideal location for my recent trip to The Glamour Beauty Festival at The Saatchi Gallery. The Gallery is conveniently just a two minute walk from the hotel. 

As per usual, I arrived at the hotel well before my scheduled Check In time. The intention was to drop my bags and grab some breakfast in the hotel’s French inspired Cote Brasserie. It was a nice surprise to be told that my room was ready, giving me the opportunity to have a quick freshen up before the Festival began. The staff at reception were all charming and extremely welcoming, setting the tone for the rest of my stay. 


I arrived in my room to find a handsome little fella sat waiting to greet me. We exchanged pleasantries while I inspected the room. 

The hotel’s rooms are elegant and luxurious, with bespoke ornate wallpapers and beds dressed with luxury 300-thread count Egyptian linens. Comfort is paramount with soft pillows on the huge King size bed.

My room had a lovely window seat looking out across the square and was pretty spacious, even by London standards.

After a quick spruce up, I bid my friend farewell and made my way downstairs to meet my (human) friend for some french toast before we set off for the Saatchi Gallery. 

The Glamour Beauty Festival is a two-day beauty event which launched in 2016 and returned to London for its second year.

The event was sponsored by Fiat, which staged a 'pool party', offering guests the chance to immerse themselves in a party experience with DJ music, a gelato van and parasols. We grabbed ourselves a prosecco sorbet and soaked up the party atmosphere.

The Festival is an opportunity to experience professional beauty treatments and gain expert advice, as well as watch talks with some of the industry’s leading figures. Brands supporting the festival included Nars, GHD, Garnier, Elizabeth Arden and Nails Inc. 

Youtube duo Pixiwoo kicked off the talks, followed by make-up guru Mary Greenwell and hair expert Sam McKnight. They spoke to presenter Angela Scanlon about how the beauty industry has changed and gave a fascinating insight into what it was like working with Princess Diana.

Fearne Cotton spoke all things food with celebrity nutritionist Amelia Freer. 

Dermot O’Leary was interviewed by Glamour Editor Jo Elvin on his new skincare range for men. 

Glamour’s Beauty Director, Alessandra Steinherr, interviewed a group of gorgeous ladies as to their Desert Island essentials. The group consisted of singer Frankie Bridge and bloggers In The Frow, Samantha Maria and Niomi Smart.

Winnie Harlow spoke to Erin O’Connor about working in the modelling industry. 

After all of the talks we had our hair done by GHD before heading next door to Gallery Mess for some much needed food. 

Gallery Mess has a beautiful setting within the grounds of the Saatchi Gallery. The decor of exposed brickwork, high ceilings and unique displays of art make for a lovely relaxing atmosphere. The perfect place for a long leisurely meal in readiness for some cocktails in Chelsea. 

Returning to the Sloane Square Hotel in the evening, we enjoyed a complimentary glass of prosecco in the hotel bar.

When I returned to my room a lovely little surprise awaited. The room had been turned down, with my bed made ready to slump into. A chocolate had been left on my pillow and a bottle of water on the bedside table. I’m can’t be sure who the kind and thoughtful person was who did this for me, but I have my suspicions. He’d even left out a mug for me to have a late night feast of hot chocolate and cookies. What a gentleman!

Prêt-à-Portea, The Berkeley

The most exciting of English rituals that I adore is that of high afternoon tea. Even though I am not English, I love it and always try to find some time to have a proper tea-time once in a while. You must respect it and indulge in the full ceremony of it.” - Manolo Blahnik

The Berkeley's Prêt-à-Portea is an afternoon tea designed with fashionistas in mind. The menu features sweet treats to reflect items shown at London Fashion Week. The Berkeley's chefs even attend the catwalk shows for inspiration.

Prêt-à-Portea has recently marked it’s 10th birthday. To celebrate, Pastry chef Mourad Khiat has chosen 10 of his favourite creations from the past decade.

If you love fashion and sweet delights, this is the ultimate dining experience. The menu includes edible replicas of fashion classics, from the Burberry trench to Jimmy Choo shoes.

On a very wet and windy Saturday afternoon, my friend and I scuttled along Knightsbridge towards The Berkeley. The doorman spared me my blushes and averted his gaze as a gust of wind blew my dress up, à la Marilyn, right in front of the large glass facade of the hotel. 

We skedaddled in through the revolving door to find a roaring fire and two cosy armchairs crying out for us to sink ourselves into. Not wanting to be late for our reservation, we resisted and were shown to our table in the Collins Room. 

This room is beautiful with a contemporary decor of silver and greys. Petal chandeliers add an air of glamour while cherry blossom motifs with quirky birds have been playfully dotted around the room.

Having selected our teas from the menu, a silver three-tiered cake stand arrived and our afternoon tea began.

Starting with a selection of finger sandwiches on a variety of freshly made breads, including onion which was delightful. We sipped on Laurent Perrier Champagne while devouring the savoury section. Then onto the cakes…

Moschino Sugar & Chic Sponge Cake Bag - blood orange Victoria sponge ‘Yellow M’ handbag encased in quilted red chocolate

Jimmy Choo Praline Pumps - velvet praline cream cake with gold hazelnut croquant and sweetheart chocolate bow.

Jason Wu - The Catwalk Coconut Cherry Compote with a playful pink skirt and a cancan leg for good measure. 

Dolce & Gabbana - Blackcurrant Bavarois Star Anise Pannacotta, topped with a Chocolate Owl.

Burberry Tea Trench Biscuit - classic trench coat chocolate biscuit with creamy royal icing. Guests staying at The Berkeley will also find a Burberry trench in their room.

Charlotte Olympia Bootie Biscuit - a dramatic cinnamon biscuit boot with black and red icing.

Monolo Blahnik Biscuit - designed with the most iconic of Monolo’s shoes in mind, the Hangisi. It comes in an array of colours and has glitter decorations. 

Lanvin - Draped Honeycomb Delice - almond sponge with honeycomb mousse and a light meringue ruffle. 

Simone Rocha Salted Caramel Eclair - tulle dress vanilla éclair filled with salted caramel crème pâtissière with sugar flower decorations.

Nicholas Kirkwood Pearl Pump Sachertorte - layered with raspberry, chocolate ganache and Valrhona crémeux topped with delicate silver pearl decorations. 

This was possibly the most colourful and picturesque afternoon tea we’ve ever had. It was interesting to compare the cakes to the photos of the fashion items from the catwalk (presented on a stand on the table). We had a lot of fun taking photos. Not only did the food look fantastic, it tasted incredible too. 

We couldn’t quite finish all the food so were given a doggie bag to take home. Don’t be fooled by “dainty cakes", this afternoon tea is plentiful so go hungry! Our lovely waitress even slipped in a couple of extra cakes for the journey home. 

We also purchased a book which has been released to showcase a collection of over 20 secret recipes and baking techniques from Mourad Khiat, to recreate at home. 

After our afternoon tea, we visited the hotel’s Blue Bar, the perfect place to enjoy a sophisticated, colourful cocktail or two. The cocktails are inspired by the bold colour of the room and are categorised into green, yellow, red and blue. Each one denotes a different potency of mix.

Feeling suitably full from the food and merry from the cocktails, we headed back to our hotel. But not before having a little rest in those comfy chairs by the fire. 

The afternoon tea menu at The Berkeley changes every six months to reflect the changing fashion seasons. So there is always an excuse to return to see the new offerings from the Prêt-à-Portea team. 

“There is nothing more English than a hat, except perhaps high fashion tea served at The Berkeley” - Philip Tracey

Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge

Often dubbed the younger, more fashionable cousin of Harrods, Harvey Nichols has become a playground for beauty connoisseurs. 

The ground floor of the Knightsbridge store reopened last summer following a ten month refurbishment. It is now home to ‘The Beauty Lounge’, a concept space offering express blow dries, makeovers, brows, lashes and manicures.

It has been designed for busy people in need of quick treatments between meetings. For those with a bit more time on their hands, Harvey Nichols also offers a unique Beauty Concierge service. A team of beauty experts help you select exactly what you’re looking for from the vast number of products on offer. 

It is the ultimate luxurious environment to be pampered and preened. There are 130 of the best beauty and 50 of the top fragrance brands all under one roof. 

The designers created an open, fluid space to allow as much natural light as possible. A mixture of luxurious materials such as marble, bronze and rose gold are set against glossy whites and greys.

It’s a step away from the usual loud, noisy beauty halls in so many department stores. The sophisticated and elegant space takes you away from the hustle and bustle of Knightsbridge into a peaceful beauty retreat.

My friend and I were invited along to have our makeup done before having afternoon tea at The Berkeley. The Concierge team emailed us in advance, asking what kind of looks we were hoping to achieve and the brands we tend to use. It was decided that the Nars beauty team were best suited for the task. 

I met with Noor, who set about working on my request for a slightly smokey eye with a nude lip. I emphasised that it had to look very natural, as I didn’t want to look too made up for afternoon tea. It also had to take me through to the evening when we were going out for cocktails. 

She selected the correct products for my skin type and explained the purpose of each product. I’ve never been one for using primers but Noor explained that this would ensure my makeup lasted all night. 

She also introduced me to the infamous Nars Orgasm Blush (a cult product amongst beauty addicts.)

Noor did such a great job with my makeup I had to stop myself from purchasing all the products to take home with me. Justifying some spending with the fact that I’d earn loyalty points on my Harvey Nichols app, I walked away with the following:

Smooth & Protect Primer SPF50 30ml £27.00 & Night Series Eyeliner £19.00

I’m pleased with all the items I bought and have used them every day since. Noor created the perfect look for our afternoon tea and it took us well into our night of fancy cocktails….

*Cocktail Saturdays was a guest of Harvey Nichols.