HOTELS • December 2020
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and no one does Christmas quite like the hotels of London. Whether you’re an out-of-towner looking for a spectacular stay, a local in need of a staycation, or simply want to bring some hotel magic into your own home, these London boltholes share their secrets for unleashing the Christmas spirit…
As told by: Angela Ellis, general manager
You couldn’t find a more Christmassy place to spend your holidays. From the roaring fire (ours crackles behind the grate by the velvet sofas – the most popular seats in the house) to the warm welcome from our team (all our guests, no matter the time of year, are welcomed in as friends), The Zetter Townhouse Clerkenwell is luxurious, cosy and extremely Christmassy.
• The hotel is designed like the private home of a slightly mad auntie, and it’s safe to say that our afternoon tea has a little eccentricity, too. We don’t just stick to the usual staples but add in little surprises such as our Santa macaroons and snowman meringues. Although, we did have some challenges with the snowman as it kept melting – art imitating life!
• We are known for our cocktails and have a dedicated lab where we develop recipes, so here the drinks definitely aren’t an afterthought. My personal favourite? The Figgy Pudding Kir Royale made from our bar manager Erik’s own Christmas pudding liqueur recipe.
• Having said that, some traditions do need to stay, and that includes scones. I’m completely biased, but our scones are truly the best in the business. They come out perfectly warm from the oven and everyone always raves about them, so I’m not alone!
• To set the scene, it’s all about the drink on arrival. No one at Zetter will wait more than a few minutes for that first cocktail. And then there’s music – you want to make the room swing. Try mixing it up from the overplayed Christmas tunes!
As told by: Calum Franklin, executive chef
The Rosewood is totally transformed come Christmas: you almost forget that busy London is on the other side of the courtyard. I particularly love the atmosphere in the Holborn Dining Room on Christmas Day, during what is always our busiest service of the year. I think during December I must walk around the building with a permanent grin!
• We start planning our Christmas dinner in April, but you should definitely prep everything you can the day before: cook the vegetables, peel the potatoes, get the cranberry sauce in the bowl, that kind of thing. Or, come and eat with us and we’ll do all the washing up!
• The veg everyone loves to hate, cook Brussels sprouts until they have a little bite, then finish off by roasting in butter with bacon and thyme.
• To get around overcooking the turkey, ask your butcher to remove the thighs and wings from the bird, and cook these separately. And make sure to rest it for at least 25 minutes after it’s cooked – you can always pop it back in the oven to heat up before serving!
• My favourite dessert is panettone bread and butter pudding. Toast wedges of panettone before overlapping in a baking dish. Pour over a mix of milk, cream, sugar and egg yolk and bake at a low temperature. Add chocolate for extra indulgence. I could eat a whole tray!
As told by: Dirk Crokaert, general manager
London’s original winter party venue, our Ski Lodge at The Montague on the Gardens is in its tenth year. Our magical alpine lodge is where outdoor heaters meets falling snow and reindeer meet snowmen. The centrepiece bar serves up après-themed beverages (including boozy hot chocolates and 12 different kinds of schnapps), while our platters are chock full of alpine-inspired snacks.
• Blankets are a must, one for each guest (with plenty of spares) so nobody goes without. We get ours through Johnstons of Elgin in Mayfair. They’re 100 per cent lambswool.
• Fairy lights make it magical: we use a mix of warm yellow and whites and have, in total, more than 500 metres of them in the Ski Lodge.
• If you want social media traction, then it’s all about the props. Ours (piste maps, ski racks, etc) give the Ski Lodge its identity. We run a selfie competition for guests who take the best shot, and so often the winners are interacting with the props.
• If you can, rent or buy a snow machine. It’s probably our biggest talking point and a key atmospheric addition, especially when you enter the Ski Lodge from the hotel’s conservatory – it’s as if you’re really in an alpine resort!
• Great music is a must. We build a playlist on Spotify to really start the party. Driving Home For Christmas just seems to put everyone in that properly happy, Yuletide mood.
As told by: Antoinette Lettieri, director of events
The Lanesborough Christmas experience starts at the exterior, this year with a magical (and mammoth) installation from Dickinson & Doris florists. Inside, live music, a pink Peggy Porschen afternoon tea and several Christmas packages (the ‘Festive Shop & Stay’ will have you whisked to Harvey Nichols in one of our chauffeur-driven cars) await those in search of the holiday spirit.
• I’d say the primary materials in vogue this Christmas are eucalyptus (recognisable by its muted, almost frosted-looking green leaves) and dainty white blooms – our florists recommend narcissus or helleborus, or both.
• Wreaths are a great touch. The Dickinson & Doris creation at The Lanesborough this year is ten feet wide and has 4,000 fairy lights. On it you’ll spot little gold crowns – a nod to the hotel’s crest. I saw them at a trade show earlier this year and knew they’d be perfect for it.
• While most tend to focus on visuals, don’t forget scent. We’d recommend buying a couple of scented candles to perfume your entrance and living room, particularly pines and eucalyptus, or pomegranate and berries.
As told by: Elon Soddu, head mixologist at The Beaufort Bar
Dressed in black and gold, The Beaufort Bar at The Savoy is already a pretty glamorous destination but, once those decorations go in, there’s an extra sparkle in the air. 2020 may have been a strange year, but the hotel has once again managed to create the most elegant Christmas scene.
• Usually we keep the drinks the same at Christmas as our menu is already full of delicious Champagne (our biggest seller) cocktails. However, this year we’ve got a bespoke festive selection. Creating a Christmas cocktail bar at home is a fun way to bring on the holiday spirit!
• Give a classic snowball cocktail a try. My recipe starts with 25ml of gold rum, shaken with 50ml of advocaat and 15ml of vanilla and cinnamon syrup. Then strain into a highball glass over plenty of ice and top with soda. A real crowd pleaser!
• Mixing drinks is a lot like cooking: a great set-up and the proper equipment will yield the best results. To start, you’ll want a good quality shaker and some cocktail measuring cups. Then, once the foundation is laid, it’s all about experimentation. Follow cocktails recipes precisely to begin with, then start mixing things up based on your own preferences.