Travel

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Hotels without room service? Say it ain't so!

This is one American trend that we definitely shouldn't follow, according to Hannah Betts

Published 07/06/2013 | 04:00

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Hannah Betts reflects on her Christmases past.

One of the greatest experiences of my life was sampling the delights of Claridge's butler service, aka The Most Astonishing Room Service of all Time.

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One of the greatest experiences of my life was sampling the delights of Claridge's butler service, aka The Most Astonishing Room Service of all Time.

Michael Lynch, the genial Irishman who was the star of December's BBC documentary, unpacked my La Perla, created a lobster club sandwich in my honour, unearthed me an Evelyn Waugh novel, and acted as champagne-supplying therapist for a lavish 24 hours. As he walked me out, I was bereft. How would I survive without his tender ministrations? Answer: badly.

Room service of some sort has been a defining pleasure of my adult existence. From martinis in the bath at the Georges V and Sandy Lane, via intricate oriental breakfasts at Pretty Woman's Beverly Wilshire, to cheese on toast and a bottle of pale ale in a Sheffield Travelodge, the beauty of a hotel is surely never leaving one's room?

I have had shaving equipment supplied for a lover who turned up gigolo-style sans luggage at the Connaught; and condoms brought to me at the UK's Cliveden House. If one is greedy, lazy, antisocial or disorganised, room service is The Thing.

Which is why I view with nothing short of hysteria the news that it is on the wane. This lamentable trend started in America, and, as we know, what begins Stateside all too rapidly travels here.

At New York's boutique jewel, The Hudson – where I once consumed a splendid mac and cheese in my bijou billet – waiters no longer ferry food to rooms.

Instead, guests can arrange to be greeted in the lobby by staff wielding paperbag breakfasts. Wielding what? "Most hotels are doing it," says a concierge. "Who's got time to sit down for breakfast?" A pitifully hungover woman still in last night's frock watching Game of Thrones on a loop, that's who.

Apparently, the city's Hilton Midtown, the Big Apple's biggest hotel with 2,000 rooms, is also taking room service off the menu.

A spokesman for the chain, whose other hotspots include the Waldorf Astoria, has been quoted as saying that it has witnessed a decline in requests.

Rivals are believed to be keen to make similar cuts.

In an age in which expense accounts are being ever more severely curtailed, tourists are becoming ever more thrifty, too.

Is nothing sacred? Do these people not understand the meaning of tertiary industry? One may as well be happily at home if hotels start requiring you to fend for yourself, hunter-gathering among breakfast tables and smuggling buns up to the comfort of your room.

And what of the lone voyager, looking for respite from the hideousnesses of the day by taking sanctuary behind closed doors?

For many of us, our workaday travelling personae are created in a spirit of functional autism. And we can all see through "We're a social establishment and have thus provided a group table" patter – a euphemism for "Regardless of your pleasure, we strive to get bums on seats."

The demise of room service would be the death knell for James Bond, cinq à septs, and a fresh new hell for the benighted business traveller.

Happily, Claridge's has assured me that it will never dispense with such attentions. "A Claridge's without room service would be Claridge's without its charm," confirmed a spokesman.

Amen to that.

Irish Independent

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