As you walk through the doors you are engulfed in a world of high class and extravagance. You are greeted by half a dozen members of staff, dressed smartly in uniform. One of them escorts you to the cloakroom and takes your belongings off your hands, another gives you a numbered ticket for when you want to retrieve your coat. You are then collected by the Maître de who shows you to your table checking off you names on the reservation list as you go. You feel a little self conscious crossing the floor in front of so many people but are soon sinking into a chair held out for you and accepting the napkin that is unfurled and laid in your lap. Once you are seated a waiter glides gracefully over and says politely “good afternoon madam, have you had a chance to look at our menu and decide on your choice of drinks?”
“Yes thank you” I reply, “I’ll have a hot chocolate please” and, bowing slightly, he leaves to fetch my request. Meanwhile another waiter comes over holding an ornate cake stand full of delicately cut sandwiches and beautifully presented pastries and cakes. Just as he departs, our previous waiter returns with my delicious looking hot chocolate and carefully placing it on my saucer, smiles and leaves again. Before I take a sip of my drink and a bite of a sandwhich, I sit back in my chair and take in the atmosphere and beauty of my grand surroundings.
The walls are covered in golden statues of cherubs and beautifully designed pictures and patterns. In the background you can hear the tinkling piano, the chinking of tea cups and champagne glasses and the chatter of women on their afternoon out.
As I click back into concentration mode I sip my hot chocolate and the sweet taste explodes in my mouth, giving me a lovely warm buzz inside. I then remove the neatly folded napkin from my knees, excuse myself from the table and make my way down a small winding staircase to the powder room.
As I enter I take a look around – it’s amazing! There are women everywhere, some combing their hair, some re-applying make up, others perched on the sofa in the corner discussing what to do later or where to go for dinner.
I make my way towards a mirror and getting my cosmetics out from my bag, I start touching up my make up. When I finish I walk over to a table with a jug of water on it, I pour myself a glass and take a few sips which allows me to look around for a little longer. Everywhere the golden opulence of the tearoom is replicated but here it surrounds mirrors and gilt edged occasional furniture. I pluck a tissue patterned with the distinctive Ritz symbol from its box; put the empty glass back on the table ( it is quickly removed by a cleaner running around removing used towels and tidying things up ) and make my way back to my table.
When I sit back down and replace the napkin on my knees I make a choice from the delicious pastries – it’s not easy. There are meringues and mille feuille, choux buns and chocolate cake. I would like to try them all really. I decide on a mini chocolate éclair and eat it slowly, savouring every delicious mouthful. I watch all the guests at our neighbouring tables do much the same: some are groups of friends who look like they are celebrating a special occasion, other tables are occupied by couples who talk quietly and smile at one another over the rims of their champagne glasses. All are revelling in the genteel atmosphere that contrasts so starkly with the rush and noise of the traffic outside on Piccadilly.
About half an hour later, after lots of conversation, laugher – and more pastries – it is time to go. We leave the table, walking slowly to collect our things from the cloakroom and make our way to the door. The doorman who wishes us goodbye politely opens in for us and as I walk down the steps I briefly glance back and at the moment, I feel very privileged to have been able to enjoy such a treat for my twelfth birthday.
Before we set off to catch our train home, we decided to go for a stroll, along Bond Street and window-shop at all of the most desirable stores: I recognise many names that I’ve before seen in the glossy pages of magazines. As we drew level with the window of Louis Vuitton I pull my Mother’s arm to get her to stop, for there, in the display, is the most beautiful monogrammed canvas trunk that I have ever seen. I think to myself, I will buy that one day…