A VERY BRITISH HOTEL: Obviously pricey, but curiously watchable

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A VERY BRITISH HOTEL: Obviously pricey, but curiously watchable

March 03, 2017 - 21:11
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Hotels in London's west end are notoriously expensive. And quite rightly; this would explain why I personally will never stay in one. I simply could not afford the ludicrously high amounts five star hotels at the posh end of London charge for their rooms.

A Very British Hotel

By Andy Simon @AndySimon55

Hotels in London's west end are notoriously expensive.

And quite rightly; this would explain why I personally will never stay in one. I simply could not afford the ludicrously high amounts five star hotels at the posh end of London charge for their rooms.

However I would not say no If I were given insight into how these five star hotels are managed and run. After all; if you are charged thousands of pounds a night for a room and services, it's not a bad idea if you get an in-depth look into what those services you are paying for actually are, and how they are provided.

So welcome to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Hyde Park folks, a real five star Hotel Babylon, and the subject of Channel Four's 'Fly-On-The-Wall' documentary, 'A Very British Hotel'.

Set in the centre of the British capital and overlooking Hyde Park and Knightsbridge, the five star Mandarin Oriental boasts luxury, elegance, a breathtaking spa and fine dining restaurants that can cater for up to 650 hungry guests.

And with 181 rooms and 40 luxury suites, and a Guest Services Manager on every floor to cater for any needs you have, this hotel has certainly got everything covered, for the right price.

If the sheer opulence of the main entrance lobby was anything to go by, those who can afford to stay there, will want for nothing.

I mean let's face it: who wouldn't love a sneak peep at how the other half live, where royalty, celebrities and movie stars pay thousands of pounds to stay? These super rich people will think nothing of paying thousands for a bit of sheer luxury.

The Royal Suite for example costs 15 big ones a night!

And with a staff of 610-strong, this hotel guarantees that your every whim, whatever that may be will be catered for.

And this policy was certainly put to the test when in the opening episode, a middle eastern princess came to stay. She wanted a room safety-proofed for her kids, another one completely blacked-out, and yet another one turned into a nursery for her babies?

When she eventually arrived, the luggage for her stay, which arrived separately, turned up in a lorry filled to the brim!

A bit of a headache for Steve, the Bell Desk manager.
No pressure then.

Next to greet you are Concierge Nigel Bowan and his colleague Francois-Xavier Girotto. Francois' voice is so incredibly rich, I wouldn't say no to having him voice my thoughts.

Without doubt; Francois is one of the biggest characters of this documentary and the guests clearly respond positively to him.

According to the documentary's narrator, 80% of the staff employed in the hotel industry are overseas workers.

Erica for example; is Polish (I think) and is the valet laundry boss, making sure everything worn and slept on is pristine and clean.

Max (also Polish I think) is one if Erica's many assistants who earns just £7.20 an hour + tips for ironing everything including your socks and underpants! And at £7.20 per hour, I'm wondering how the heck does he manage to live in London on that salary?

At least later in the first episode, he got a letter from Erica, informing him that he has received a six month extension on his employment, so life on the street is for now, not an option.

Aga (I think I've got her name right) from Poland, is the breakfast manager from a village with a population of 300, who plans to elevate her career to 'Grooming Ambassador', for the hotel.

Grooming Ambassador. Sounds a bit pervy?
Another character to watch is Darvin, the hotel's doorman.

We first see him when he welcomes Rolling Stones band member Ronnie Wood to the hotel. Darvin, an Olympian before injury sadly cut short his career, also parks the guests cars some of which, would make the likes of Jeremy Clarkson envious.

He looks like being quite a character, and I'm hoping we will see more of Darvin, as this three part series continues.

The middle eastern princess who arrived earlier needs careful looking after and handling, so there is Patricia; head of sales middle east on hand to ensure all goes well and trains staff on the varied 'Do's & Don'ts' of middle eastern culture, and advises on all aspects of middle eastern etiquette.

The size of the princesses bill will be the concern of Front Office Manager Roman. As the princess has stayed all summer, the bill understandably will run into hundreds of thousands. So naturally, Roman worries somewhat about the bill being paid.

I'm pretty sure it was.

The whole place is watched over by Gérard Sintès, the general manager, who has been at the helm for the last two years.

When asked how the viewing public would take to this documentary by Katherine Price; reporter for The Caterer, his response was positive. "The public will love it because it tells the story of people. It goes into the personalities, the charisma of individuals who provide service in a five-star, luxury environment."

At the end of the day, it was good telly.
We do seem to have a lot of Fly-On-The-Wall documentaries.

Personally speaking; I don't mind them, because unlike Coronation Street, EastEnders, or Emmerdale, this is about real people, with real lives, living in real places, and dealing with real situations.

At the very least, this documentary gives the viewer, a privileged glimpse into a hotel environment, and explores the lives of those who live and work there, and brings it all to our living rooms.

And for the armchair curious; like me,
that's not a bad thing.

Channel Four's latest three part Fly-On-The-Wall documentary, A Very British Hotel continues next Thursday, at 9pm.

Fortunately for us though,
it won't cost a fortune; to watch.

Thanks for reading.

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There is 1 Comment

GeordieArmani's picture

There is something fascinating about these amazing hotels that have a history. I thouroughly enjoyed watching this show and getting to know the characters, as Andy says the French Concierge will turn out to be the star of the show. Having lived in the Middle East for many years I can say that the Princess will have paid her bill, but it will be when she decides to pay it and at the amount paid will also be decided by her.

Great review Andy.

GA x