The expensive glass chandlier seemed like a perfect metaphor for life at Claridge's: a little recklessness could result in disaster
One of the early shots in Inside Claridge's on BBC Two on Monday night (9pm, two more parts to go) showed the hotel's white Dale Chihuly glass chandelier being lowered for cleaning. It cost a million pounds (or whatever), the voiceover intoned, and each of its 800-odd parts had to be cleaned by hand. Given that it's a Chihuly and not, say, from Habitat or even Harrods, replacement parts are not going to be easy to come by.
It seemed, at first, like the perfect metaphor for life at Claridge's: a lot of effort needs to be taken to care for the fragile egos of its demanding guests; a little recklessness could result in disaster.
As the programme went on, however, I revised my view. Yes, its guests are terribly fragile: the 'Japanese Britney Spears' who wanted a jacuzzi installed in the penthouse; the elderly American couple who had their rooms rearranged to how they had been for the past 40 years of their visits; the Middle Eastern royal family who took over an entire floor which had to have kitchens and dressing rooms installed and nearly didn't even turn up.
Pictured above: The lobby at Claridge's
But their fragility is never an issue because of the strength, resilience and flexibility of the embrace of Claridge's staff, as repeatedly demonstrated. Service in England is not well-regarded, but when there is pride in it, forethought, care, imagination and reward - all of which were evident from Inside Claridge's - suddenly it doesn't matter that your guests have egos the size of Texas and skins thinner than a cigarette paper: you never felt that the staff were in any danger of screwing up.
It is the confidence its own staff have in Claridge's that will burnish the hotel as a result of Inside Claridge's: this is not one of those nightmare Channel 5 shows where chambermaids mistake rat poison for Pledge and the bathtubs are filled with exsanguinated corpses.
Rather, Inside Claridge's is evidence of a hotel running like a Rolls-Royce engine: sophisticated, innovative and at never less than full power.