The Ritz London needs no introduction. When Swiss hotelier Cesar Ritz opened the hotel in 1906, the iconic landmark became a favourite bolthole for international elite guests visiting the capital. In the decades since, it has served as an enigmatic place for social gatherings of all sorts, even providing distraction and respite from the rigours of two World Wars. It was at the Marie Antoinette suite that Churchill, De Gaulle and Eisenhower convened in 1942 to discuss their war strategy.
The Ritz is always buzzing, and at the heart of it all is the Palm Court, where for decades the quintessential English Afternoon Tea has become an institution. The place to be and be seen, it brings a sense of occasion with its French neo-classical décor and cuisine, with musical accompaniment from the resident pianist and harpist to add an extra touch of refinement. The Palm Court is one of few places in town that still imposes a dress code regardless of the guest’s status. Apparently, Mick Jagger was once denied entry to the Palm Court for not donning a jacket and tie.
Perhaps he found satisfaction at the Rivoli Bar next door, where the atmosphere is more relaxed and intimate. The bar had been closed for nearly three decades, then reopened in 2001 to replace a parade of souvenir shops. The interior depicts the sophistication of the Art Deco period, which interior designer Tessa Kennedy brilliantly brought to life with her rendition of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express bar. Guests who have journeyed on board the luxurious train will notice the similarities, although the Rivoli Bar goes all out to showcase the opulence and joie de vivre of the period.
Stepping into the Rivoli, my eyes were immediately drawn to the ceiling’s scalloped domes covered in gold leaf. Dangling from the centre of each is a glass chandelier resembling the stamen and pistil of a lily. There is plenty here to indulge the senses. Walls are coated in a delicate layer of exotic camphor wood and embellished with horizontal bands cleverly made to resemble gilt bronze used in 18th century French furniture. Panels of opaque Lalique crystal with semi-bas-relief of voluptuous nudes reminded me of those on the Orient Express carriages. In fact, these were made from original moulds used for the train.
Kennedy is known for her bold, over-the-top style, so it’s no surprise she went for a leopard-print chair upholstery, which might have looked ostentatious elsewhere. Indeed it works well here, lending a chic quirkiness to the setting. Regular guests undoubtedly have their favourite corner, but wherever they may be seated, there’s a piece of art to admire, such as the Tamara de Lempicka painting hanging in a quite corner of the room. The table directly across the entrance is perfect for watching who comes and goes.
The bar may be small, but packs a punch with its creative concoctions. And if Humphrey Bogart were here today, he’d be blown away by the whisky-based cocktails in the Seasonal Collection, such as Draw the Curtains, a heady mix of Dalmore 15 Years Old, Del Duque Sherry and Grand Marnier, balanced with Jasmine Foam with Aperol and Vanilla. Or there’s the intriguing Transcendence, a blend of Macallan 12-Year-Old Sherry Oak washed with Biscoff, Mancino Vermouth Sakura Flower, Cointreau, Lemon Juice and Ameo Lavander Bergamot Essential Oil. After a stunning glass or two of Agave Azul, which blends Patron Silver Tequila with Hibiscus infused Agave Kahlua, Lime Juice and Rose Syrup, he might even find himself raising the stakes at The Ritz Club casino down below, or dancing at the Michelin-starred Ritz Restaurant, where the sounds of a bygone era entertain guests during a ‘Live at the Ritz’ dine and dance event on Saturday nights.
On a hot summer day, The Extraordinaire refreshes with its unusual mix of healthy beetroot juice, zesty Yuzu juice and Elderflower Presse, mingling with Absolute Elyx Vodka and Chambord. Another enticing cooler is The Hills, a light, invigorating concoction of Silent Pool Gin, Tamarillo, Grapefruit Juice, Apricot Pure, Chamomile Syrup, Umeshu and Electric Bitters.
Having survived two World Wars and hosted distinguished guests from all over the world, it’s only fitting to create a cocktail that commemorates The Ritz London’s extraordinary history. Guests celebrating a special occasion can toast with the Ritz 110, a lavish blend of gold infused Absolute Elyx Vodka, Grand Marnier and Peace Liquor, finished with Champagne.
The Ritz has always stood out as an icon of refinement and magnificence, and there’s no place in the world quite like The Rivoli Bar, where the glamorous setting makes the cocktail experience truly memorable.
The Ritz is a member of The Leading Hotels of the World | https://www.theritzlondon.com/dine-with-us/rivoli-bar/