Review by Fiona Duncan, published 13th April 2010.
Thank heavens for The Ritz. Pampered and preserved by its private owners (since 1995, the Sir Frederick and Sir David Barclay, who also own this newspaper), the hotel looks remarkably the same today as it did when César Ritz opened hisLondon branch to ecstatic acclaim in 1909. For me, it's the one hotel left in our capital where it still feels like a really special treat to be there.
There are many reasons to adore The Ritz. Its Long Gallery and Palm Court are ravishing; its dining room is one of the loveliest in Europe; its bedrooms and suites – salmon pink, rose pink, yellow and blue – have been restored in their original XVI style. No ''guest designers'' indulging themselves here, as in rival hotels. It's always party time at The Ritz, with dinner and dancing (£90 per head) on Friday and Saturday nights – what other London hotel offers that?
Since 2005, historic William Kent House, just behind, has been seamlessly joined to The Ritz to provide lavish private function rooms and the hotel's two top suites.
But there's more. There's the staff and their uniforms. From the doormen with their white gloves tucked into their epaulettes and the pair of bellhops who open the double doors to each arriving guest to the frock-coated flunkeys, the white-coated barmen and the chambermaids in their pinnies and caps, I found them faultless.
There are characters, too. The old-school showmen-cum-concierges man their desk with a bravado that borders on anarchy, but always puts the guest first. One sounds like Del Boy; listening to another on the phone, securing the best table in a top restaurant for a guest, made me think of a music hall turn.
There's just one minor flaw at today's Ritz and it's a fly with an appetite for tea and scones. Every day, a major London tourist attraction takes place at the heart of the hotel: the ritual of Afternoon Tea.
When I checked in at 2pm, when I descended at 7pm, and when I left at noon, the raised Palm Court was packed with people and littered with cake stands. In César's day, afternoon tea was taken in the afternoon; now it's so popular that there are five daily sittings stretching well into the evening.
Before dinner, we drank Buckingham Bubbles in the bar. The hotel's only new addition, the Twenties-style Rivoli Bar, is far more sophisticated than those at Claridge's or the Connaught, plus it's the empire of head barman Alan: twinkle-eyed and drop-dead gorgeous.
As we left the bar and glided down the Long Gallery, it made a bubble-bursting sight to pass tourists still working their way through their tea, but it was only a momentary blip.
Dinner was sheer enjoyment, the food superb and the set menu, at £47, a bargain for the privilege of spending time in that gilded, garlanded, music-filled room, opened at the turn of the 20th century and just the same today.
- 150 Piccadilly (020 7493 8181; www.theritzlondon.com)
- Doubles from £420 per night, including breakfast.
- Access possible for guests with disabilities.