Claridge’s Elegant Evolution

London’s most historic hotel enters a new era with the biggest renovations of its two centuries. But, its service, style and discreet magic remain timeless.

From the moment that William and Marianne Claridge opened their home to guests in 1812, the hotel has woven itself into the colorful tapestry of Mayfair life. In the ensuing two centuries, it has survived wars and pandemics. And it has welcomed world leaders, Hollywood royalty, actual royalty and, very occasionally, me—drawn moth-like to this enduring flame of glamour.

The syncopated rattle of cocktail shakers, the chiming of clinking Champagne flutes and the susurrus of conversation remain the sweetest background music. The hotel’s feeling of friendly grandeur remains intact. The checkered marble floor of the lobby gives every arrival a sense of occasion and, no matter how long the absence, the concierge team greets guests with appropriate words of welcome and a smile. Claridge’s is a living entity and, like the most exotic of living entities, it renews itself over time. Now an elegant evolution is afoot.


The Mayfair Terrace Suite

Over the course of seven years, Claridge’s has undertaken one of the most audacious building works ever seen in Mayfair. Digging down five floors and going up two floors, the works have actually doubled the hotel’s footprint, without moving any walls. This has perfectly positioned the venerable grande dame of Mayfair to offer the finest guest experiences and hospitality for the next 200 years of her life.

For those concerned that the hotel they know and love will be changed beyond all recognition, rest easy. The Claridge’s that we know today has very little in common with the Claridge’s that I first encountered 40 years ago, and next to nothing in common with the modest hotel that first opened in the 19th century. Even within my years, the hotel has moved with the times. I am old enough to recall the days when what is now Claridge’s Bar was the Causerie, where Battenberg cake was served for tea to the sound of a string quartet in the lobby, and when Gordon Ramsay dished out rum baba and foie gras in the restaurant.

One of the things that makes this hotel so special is how it embraces modern life yet maintains the traditional fixtures that make it unique. This is a hotel that has a working lift installed in 1896, yet also has Claridge’s ArtSpace, a gallery that occasionally accepts cryptocurrency. Old favorites, such as the chicken pie, are still served in The Foyer & Reading Room, but there’s also L’Epicerie: a private dining space akin to a gastronomic ringside seat or royal box, from which to observe the theatre of a world-class kitchen. 


The Octagon, designed by Piere-Yves Rochon

This is an institution that feels equally at home hosting the Queen’s reception for the marriage of the Prince of Wales to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 as it does a 2020 music video for The Rolling Stones, which features racy dance moves from actor Paul Mescal. 

On a recent visit to one of the new rooms, my corner suite had been refurbished by Pierre-Yves Rochon yet was in complete harmony with its historic counterparts. This happy meeting of past and present is evident in the way that an 18th-century chinoiserie cabinet, repurposed from another part of the hotel, can sit alongside contemporary modern art and a Bluetooth speaker, in case you’re seized by the urge to “do a Mescal” and dance through the suite. It is high praise to call a hotel a home from home, and this is a suite into which I would happily move from home. It has everything from a terrace overlooking Mayfair’s rooftops to a bathroom stocked with Anatomē unguents, stored like artists’ supplies in screwtop metal tubes.

That painterly packaging is a timely reminder of the role that Claridge’s continues to play in the artistic life of the capital. Claridge’s understands perfectly the transformative power of art. During the renovation, it was thought that the central staircase needed something to reward the eye. With Damascene immediacy, Damien Hirst was called. “Does Damien Hirst even do stained-glass windows?” I hear you ask. “No,” said the artist. “But I do now.” 

The result is the first foray into this centuries-old medium by Britain’s most emblematic artist of the past half-century. Realized by Hirst using the skill of Reyntiens Glass Studio, the effect is staggeringly beautiful, with light filtering through insect wings of every hue. “I love Claridge’s and I love light and I love butterflies,” Hirst tells me. “I wanted to create an optimistic kaleidoscope of hope and light and butterflies, and I think the result speaks for itself. I love how it’s turned out.”


The Ballroom Entrance

Impressive as the installation is, it’s far from the only artistic intervention in the building, the renovation has been carried out with an aesthete’s eye for beauty. The result is jewels such as The Painter’s Room. For generations, it languished as a cloakroom and a banqueting preparation area, but during the 1930s it was a bar—and now, thanks to London artist Annie Morris, it is again. Morris’s whimsical murals transform a space no bigger than a railway carriage into a venue that is a contemporary London riposte to New York’s Bemelmans Bar. If you prefer a bottle of fine wine rather than a cocktail, you can now head underground to the cellar: a temperature-controlled, 21st-century temple to Bacchus, designed to showcase an extraordinary collection of more than 1,000 wines and Champagnes. Director of Wine Lupo Thoenis has composed an epic that takes the oenophile from 19th-century Madeira to the rarest of unicorn wines from the world’s great vineyards.

Claridge’s now extends more than 120 feet below ground. There were many challenges in excavating 35,000 tons of material while remaining fully operational—not least that the only building plans that could be found existed in a one-page article from The Builder in 1931. To avoid disrupting or damaging the lobby, all the materials going onto site had to first pass through an opening no bigger than 6.5 feet by 6.5 feet, then down alongside 61 steel columns that hold up the Art Deco section of the building, before being installed beneath the 90-year-old concrete foundations. Fifteen specialist miners from Donegal used hand-held pneumatic spades to clear the ground while upstairs afternoon tea continued to be served as if nothing unusual was occurring. 


Bryan O’Sullivan’s Mayfair Terrace Suite with its Deco-inspired details

The great renovation has also gone up as well as down, rising nine floors above London W1, making it one of Mayfair’s tallest buildings. At its summit is The Garden Pavilion, The Penthouse at Claridge’s, which, with its own private entrance from which guests are whisked skywards, is an experience unlike anything in London. How many Mayfair hotel rooms have their own rooftop pool, garden, gym and that sine qua non of civilized living, a glass-walled music pavilion complete with bespoke concert-hall Steinway—all set against a captivating vista that embraces London’s famous landmarks?

But arguably the most important underground offering is a restaurant that you are unlikely ever to visit. Muse is the “staff restaurant,” though this phrase scarcely does justice to a venue that would be packed with guests were it not restricted to those who work at the hotel. With exposed brick walls, dark oak refectory furniture and marble-topped tables around an ancient olive tree, an espresso bar and even library alcoves, it is truly extraordinary. 


The view from the Grand Terrace

Little wonder, then, that when I spoke to Head Concierge David Young, he spoke of his pride at working here, ‘‘Each generation discovers Claridge’s for itself. I’m really excited by all of the new developments, because it keeps that spark alive for the next generation of guests. You’ll see them breezing through the famous revolving doors and talking to their own children about how things have changed since they were young. It’s a constantly evolving story—one we are all so proud to be a small part of.”

Explore Claridge’s rooms and suites further at 


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