Tag Archives: decor

Putting on the Ritz in London

Frequented by Royals, rock stars and the rich and dripping with class, privilege and luxury, the Ritz has long enjoyed a reputation as the best joint in town – any town – Paris, New York, Rome or London. The epitome of all that is exclusive and, often, unattainable, to ordinary folk, it has informed song, in the cheeky “Putting on the Ritz”, story, in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s whimsical “A diamond as big as the Ritz” and popular expressions, in  those stock retorts to dissatisfaction with fare or service at family tables the world over – “What do you think this is, the Ritz?” or even “Where do you think you are, the Ritz?”  So, what, really, makes the Ritz so special? What is it actually like behind that grand façade? What exactly is it that brings in all those big names and megabucks? I popped in for lunch recently to find out.

 

The Ritz
The Ritz

Arrival at the Ritz is a kind gauntlet run (and probably a well disguised presentation and security check, too) past top-hatted, waist-coated and bowing doormen, from the taxi, up the steps, through glass doors (opened and held by more top-hatted, bowing waist-coats) and across a lobby gleaming with polished wood.

The interior is a symphony for the eye – no discordant note of mismatched colour or misplaced decoration here – no, everything, from the perfectly pleated and draped curtains, the deep-piled carpets, the ceiling roses, the choirs of sculpted cherubs, the plaster cornices, the chandeliers bristling with twinkling bulbs, the huge wall mirrors, the furniture, the table linen, the china to the cutlery, is in perfect, soft-sheened pink, green, cream, white, gold, glass and silver baroque harmony. Classical piano music plays quietly against a background of discreet voices and the subdued tinkle of silver – no musak, no bursts of raucous laughter, no clash of stainless steel or crash of smashing plates here. No camera flash distracts the guests or disturbs the subtle lighting. Photographs are not permitted at the Ritz.

My three course lunch, from an unpretentious, English, three-choice menu, probably speaks for all Ritz cuisine. It all looked too good to eat but, in the end, tasted even better than it looked. The monkfish entrée was small, a manageable, melt-in-the-mouth lead-in to the “just-roast-pork-with-apple-sauce-and-four-veg.-but-oh-boy-what-they’ve-done-with-it” main, while the not too sweet and deliciously healthy vanilla yoghurt and fresh fruit dessert was the ideal finale.

Service at the Ritz strikes the perfect balance between the discreet touch and the flourish. Glasses never empty while plates and cutlery come and go as if by magic. Serviettes flap into place with a flick and a twirl while courses are ferried by waiters in single file who lift their silver covers with one accord. Staff are formal but not stiff, friendly but not familiar, attentive but not intrusive, respectful but not obsequious, efficient but not brisk, and mindful of their jobs but not afraid to be themselves.

Undoubtedly, the Ritz is luxurious, classy and exclusive. But the thing that really made my Ritz experience so special and that would certainly bring me back again, is that it is beautiful, comfortable, pleasant and welcoming.

Seri Melayu, a Malaysian showcase

The Seri Melayu Theatre Restaurant, on Kuala Lumpur’s Jalan Conlay aims ‘to provide a holistic cultural experience enriched by authentic cuisine, décor, music and dance and Malay hospitality ….” (Restaurant brochure)

Dancers and guests at Seri Melayu
Dancers and guests at Seri Melayu

Architecturally, the Seri Melayu is a showcase of Malay traditions. Made entirely from local timbers, it is styled on the rumah kampong the old Malay house, with elongated windows and wide eaves. The gabled roof, with the traditional Tunjuk Langit at its apex, is inspired by the dwellings of the Perak and Malacca. A tiled Malaccan stairway leads up to a wide verandah with carved rails. Tall wooden doors, thick with intricate carvings, open into the restaurant’s richly paneled lobby. The huge dining hall is designed and decorated in the luxurious style of the Malay Istana or palace. Its walls are paneled in wood and along its centre are four elaborately carved columns or Tiang Seri. At the ceiling the carvings merge and blossom into a giant hibiscus. The central column is another feature of the traditional rumah kampong and in the old Malay home it was of great importance and significance as the mainstay of the house.

If the Seri Melayu’s décor evokes the ambience of the Istana, its buffet of gourmet Malay cuisine evokes the generous traditions of palace hospitality. Presentation, variety and abundance are hallmarks of this extensive, colourful, sumptuous feast. Catering to local gourmets as well as foreign tourists, there are dishes to tempt and please all palates, from the afficiando to the initiate. There are satays, laksas and redangs, in a dozen different forms, and as many other ikan, goring and acar items. The desserts are delicious and include kueh mueh (little local cakes) and tempoyek (fermented durian) Choice is difficult and over-indulgence a real hazard.

The Seri Melayu’s cultural performance of Malay music and dance is another kind of feast. Featuring some of Malaysia’s famous folk dances, accompanied by the traditional string instrument and drums, in a parade of gorgeous costumes, it is a breath-taking spectacle of sound movement and colour.

For the tourist an evening at Seri Melayu is a total, traditional Malaysian cultural and culinary experience, in a setting typical of old Malaya.  Magical! But please, don’t wear shorts or you’ll be obliged to don a sarong before you enter!