December 21 2012
Today I know I will have to be very much in control of my diary. It looks fine on paper, but there are lots of back-to-back meetings interspersed with commitments at the hotel. I will be particularly focusing on my team, sorting out various operational matters. I think it is so important to spend quality time together, exchanging ideas and discussing what is going on.
After the regular 9am meeting, my first stop is the kitchen, to see our executive chef, Martyn Nail, and food and beverage director Eugene Leonard. Britishness is at the heart of our brand, and the menus and ingredients reflect that. Martyn and Eugene have been working on some new dishes for next year, so we have a tasting session. The cuisine at Claridge’s is a modern European take on classic recipes, using as many British ingredients as possible.
This morning we are also looking at creating a minibar concept. We have sourced produce such as Mr Trotter’s Great British pork crackling, Pipers crisps from Lincolnshire, and even Peppersmith’s English mint chewing gum. We think it’s very important for our international travellers to feel a sense of place when they are staying with us.
In the fast-changing gastronomic world, keeping our offerings relevant is highly interesting. This year, as part of the celebrations for the Olympics, we thought about what Claridge’s could add to the capital’s excitement – and so we worked on a pop-up partnership with Copenhagen’s Noma, which has been named the best restaurant in the world three times. Working with chef René Redzepi and his team was enormously thrilling and proved a great success.
It’s rather a strange feeling that as London starts to wind down for Christmas (my journey into work is so quick now, with next to no traffic), the hotel actually gets more frenetic as we prepare for one of the busiest weeks of the year. Today is really all about planning how to create the most magical Christmas for those guests staying with us over the festive period. It’s quite a big responsibility making sure everyone has a wonderful time. For some, this will be their dream Christmas, so we have to live up to their high expectations.
All our departments are gearing up for the 25th, from putting trees in rooms to sewing the stockings our guests will receive on Christmas morning, full of pots of our specially created jams and, of course, traditional satsumas, nuts and chocolate coins. We are actually completely sold out for Christmas lunch, with a long waiting list. Many families have been coming for years and it’s wonderful to see generations returning to create happy memories for their children and grandchildren. Each year we have a horse and carriage outside to take guests around Mayfair, and I certainly won’t be sending anyone into the cold without one of our legendary hot chocolates.
Tonight, as is traditional, I take our executive team out to dinner to say thank you for all their support this year. It’s really been an exceptional 12 months. So many highlights, from the excitement of the Queen’s jubilee (when we worked with Getty Images and Walpole to create a photographic tribute to Her Majesty; we are currently choosing some of these photos for our suites, to ensure we have a permanent memory of the occasion), to the Olympics, when we had delegations from more than 30 countries staying with us. This was probably one of the most diplomatically challenging periods in the history of Claridge’s.
I love picking where to take the team, and tonight we go to Zuma – one of my all-time favourites – to enjoy some of the best sushi and sashimi in town. Zuma always has a great buzz about it and we secure a perfect table right by the pass, so that we can see the chefs in action. It isn’t long before the ties come off, and it’s great to see everyone relaxing and enjoying the moment. I get home late, around 1am, looking forward to my trip to Germany to see my relatives. A family Christmas with never-changing rituals and traditions is, to my mind, simply the best.