Exclusive Tour Inside The Ritz London & Cigar Lounge
The Ritz Hotel London's astounding Palm Court where Afternoon Tea takes place
112 YEARS HISTORY. UNIQUE ACCESS. HIDDEN INSIGHTS REVEALED
A hundred and twelve years ago, in 1906, Swiss hotelier Cesar Ritz opened The Ritz London Hotel, after successfully launching the first Ritz in Paris. Famous and stylish guests rapidly flung through the doors and the hotel’s reputation of prestige and 5* luxury became synonymous. With the passing of a century, tradition has remained but growth has exceeded with the times. The increase of smokers enjoying Cuban cigars has risen, leading to The Ritz Cigar Sampling Lounge which launched earlier in May.
We at EGM Cigars explored the establishment’s intriguing secrets and beguiling insights with the knowledgeable and charming Assistant Food & Beverage Manager Koula Michaelides.
Drinking green tea whilst smoking an aromatic Ritz London Cigar 1906 Laguito.
"one of the most luxurious"
RITZ CIGARS – Our latest Where to Smoke editorial: The Ritz London Cigar Sampling Lounge, reveals an in-depth look at the newly-built cigar shop and lounge, which we believe is one of the most luxurious in the world. Cigar sommelier Alex Sumerauer has been with the hotel for five years and began smoking cigars four years ago. Like many a first-time smoker, he made the mistake of inhaling, none other than a Montecristo No. 4 Cigar. Since this experience however, Alex has become a fine sommelier and aficionado.
BEGINNER SMOKERS - Having received basic training with Hunters & Frankau before acquiring his own wealth of understanding, Alex shared a recommendation for those new to the luxury of Cuban cigars: “I would say the Petit Corona from Por Larranaga, is a beautiful cigar for starters. The first couple of puffs are slightly bitter, but once you get through that, really easy light – nothing too overpowering.” The Cigar Sampling Lounge is adjacent to the seated Rivoli Bar, which is the perfect spot to taste the hotel’s signature drink – The Ritz 110 cocktail, made with gold leaf. Some cocktails are named after iconic staff members – those who have worked at the hotel for decades.
The dazzling Palm Court where Afternoon Tea takes place between 11:30am - 7:30pm. The menu is changed seasonally.
"only certified tea sommelier in a hotel"
UNIQUE STRUCTURE IN THE PALM COURT – The award-winning Ritz London Afternoon Tea lives up to its famous, outstanding reputation. Serving between 400 – 450 guests per day, the Palm Court houses the only certified tea sommelier in a hotel, Giandomenico Scanu, who sources tea from the world’s best tea plantations. When Cesar Ritz built the court area, he left an open panel on the ceiling to enable natural light. All the stunning bay windows clothing the exterior, were added to make it feel as though you are outside.
MODERNISATION - Koula explained how Afternoon Tea has expeditiously surged in popularity, with a now competitive market. To appeal to modern day diners, cutlery and crockery is routinely updated and for those with specific dietary requests – vegan, gluten-free etc., the hotel can often accommodate. If they are unable to (chefs will not change a dish if it effects the service they offer), they will recommend you to one of their other outlets, restaurant, or another place.
The Rivoli Bar is an intimate, seated cocktail lounge with options ranging from club sandwiches to caviar.
"Traditional British cuisine made fresh"
HOW THE RESTAURANT DELAYED THE RITZ OPENING – Voted one of the most beautiful dining rooms in Europe, when the Ritz Restaurant first opened, the handmade chandeliers were too heavy for the ceiling, so the ceiling collapsed. This postponed the hotel’s opening. The restaurant’s restored hand-painted ceiling looks exquisite besides the mirrored walls and large fairy-tale windows, alongside the statue of Neptune gracefully positioned at one side. Chef John Williams helped the hotel receive its first Michelin star, as well as create the hotel’s first Ritz Cookbook.
CONTEMPORARY MARRYING CLASSIC – Traditional British cuisine made fresh and light summarises The Ritz Restaurant menu. “We have this long reputation of being 5* luxury, British service, but actually the team are really friendly and really nice – we’re much more approachable” says Koula. The Ritz London carefully balances heritage – traditional dishes with expected elements such as a cheese trolley and digestive trolley, with modern accessibility. Several promotions run throughout the year, with a mostly young team at the helm. Thus keeping longstanding guests happy while equally introducing new.
"constantly develops the menu"
CONTINUING INSTITUTION - The Ritz London remains one of the only hotels to continue dinner dances. Each Friday and Saturday night, a live band entertains diners and the restaurant allocates space for a dance floor. A signature dish to try is the lobster with cardamom and lemon. William’s sous chef Spencer, constantly develops the menu with him, amidst full freedom to explore.
KITCHEN CURIOSITY – Almost everyone who appreciates design, loves to wander through a kitchen. We felt a swell of anticipation at wondering what bustle remains in their lair of creativity. The kitchen is one – if there is food in the hotel, it is crafted here. Head Chef John Williams stood centre, with chefs circling him preparing for dinner. Besides the herb garden, the hotel last year installed colonies of bees on the rooftop. Made with sustainable pine wood, The Ritz is committed to the protection and environment of their bees, who can roam freely in a six-mile radius. After learning about the cuisine, we toured the hotel's adjoining mansion.
One of the most beautiful dining rooms at The Ritz Restaurant. Team members weekly receive training sessions and taste new dishes
"private rooms with a special theme"
STORY BEHIND PRIVATE DINING – Every owner after Cesar Ritz has tried their luck at purchasing what was once the Wimbourne House next door – previous home to the Prime Minister. Finally, in 2004, the hotel’s current owners managed to succeed and the now William Kent House situates five of the hotel’s six private dining rooms. The continual flow from The Ritz building to the House – elegantly bridged as though all one construct, has won an award. The hotel's maintenance team transformed a car park to an opulent walk-way, taking you to rooms which make Parliament seem minimal.
HONOURING KENT HOUSE DESIGNER – Prime Minister Henry Pelham (served from August 1743 until his death in 1754) commissioned the residence, and the designer at the time was William Kent – hence the William Kent House name. “We host several champagne dinners, wine dinners and opera dinners throughout the year. Weddings usually hire the house exclusively” says Koula. To do so, a maximum of 200 guests can marvel at the interior and experience each private room with a special theme.
The magnificent banquet room, with handmade chandeliers and a breathtaking Italian Renaissance style ceiling
"dining one envisions at a castle or palace"
THE GRAND HALL SUITES – Overlooking the splendour of Green Park, two signature suites – The Royal Suite and The Prince Of Wales Suite located in the Grand Hall. The Royal Suite use to be the Prime Minister’s bedroom. By the staircase, an awe-inspiring mural featuring Lord Pelham and designer William Kent is exhibited on the wall. The suites are continually refurbished and every corner and lining is immaculately inspected.
QUEEN ELIZABETH & WILLIAM KENT ROOM – A luxurious red banquet room – an Italian Renaissance style ceiling which your eyes cannot peel away from. The William Kent Room is spacious and stately – dining one envisions at a castle or palace. Through our tour with Koula, we were left breathless standing in this room’s grandeur, particularly upon noticing the centrepiece chandelier. After, we headed to the adjoining Queen Elizabeth Room, a reception area comprising an original fireplace.
Left: The wonderful Green Park views from the Grand Hall Suites, Right: The Ritz London hotel exterior at night.
ORIGINAL PIECES - “We tend to not move the furniture, because we have original furniture still in the building – even original carpets”, says Koula. Despite Piccadilly on its door-step, noise cannot be heard due to the double glazed windows. The private dining area was originally downstairs in the casino and was showcased as big ballrooms. The casino is now a private members’ club operating independently, but by the same owners.
Fully-booked and decorated for Christmas, our time at The Ritz London felt unique and enchanting. From the Limited Editions Cigars in the humidor such as the Romeo y Julieta Tacos Cigar, to the Cigar Sample Lounge and tour with Koula Michaelides. If there was ever a place to smoke our favourite cigars for sale online, we are confident we have found it.