Synonymous with luxury, the Ritz in London is open to all who can afford the very expensive afternoon tea (£49.50 per person), lunch (£57pp) or a room (starts at £445.20). Nicky and I have been twice, once for the said afternoon tea (a gift to us both from the staff at our then office) and secondly for Sunday lunch, this time as guests of friends. We thought the whole place overrated, afternoon tea just ordinary and lunch competent but the extraordinary mark ups on wine produced severe wallet palpitations – sure they will have eye watering overheads (and I wonder what their staff are paid) but mark ups of six times cost price seems well, greedy is an understatement.
We felt that most guests were there for the the first time (possibly only time) at both tea and lunch and these first timers were just (a lot) intimidated by the OTT kitsch of the dining room and some of the waiters’ antics.The Ritz still operates a dress code and one review speaks, with outrage, of not being allowed in to dine because they were both wearing trainers. Cue American accent “But the combined cost of these trainers was $1600” (has the world gone mad?). “It is our dress policy”. Ok, not one we would enforce but its their place and their rules. Did I imagine the review where a woman said she had to borrow a skirt? I am not sure.
The real question is “How far is Hammet@Castell Malgwyn different from the Ritz”. The simple answer is not that much, in that like the legendary destination hotel, we do rooms, afternoon tea, breakfast, lunch and dinner at much lesser prices. But we are in the same business of serving a public looking for a treat, be it a night away or a special meal. What amused me most, looking at the reviews, was the fact that even the Ritz is not immune to criticisms about its water supply or the fact that updating is required. Like us, it occupies an old building, not as old as Castell Malgwyn admittedly, but still old. Old buildings require constant TLC and the use, by the public, of facilities on a daily basis, is grievously punishing and means endless repair and replacement. To many people a night at Hammet@Castell Malgwyn is undreamed of luxury. To many many more, a night at the Ritz is even more remote but, and it is a big but, dinner with us costs very little more than three courses at many pubs and for the small increase in cost, diners eat delicious and expertly crafted food in a lovely room, surrounded by real rather than corporate artwork, served by friendly local people paid more than the industry norm, with linen table cloths and linen napkins.
And our rooms, all right the starting price will not get one of our very best rooms but one that is perfectly serviceable and comfortable, start at only £100 for two without breakfast or not much more than a B&B.
And since we are VAT registered, a whole one sixth of everything we sell is collected by us on behalf of a rapacious and greedy government and HMRC has more powers than the Nazi SS or apartheid South African police force. But that is for another day. But, do you know what? TripAdvisor rating for the Ritz = 4.5. TripAdvisor for us = 4.5. That’s nice.