Catwalk models, butlers and £300 plates of sea snails for visiting royals
Monday 25 April 2011
Truffles sparkling with gold leaf and £60,000 bottles of champagne are some of the treats awaiting the foreign royalty who descend on London for this week's wedding, as the capital's five-star hotels, exclusive restaurants and luxury services industry – which includes everyone from chauffeurs to shopping chaperones – prepares for perhaps its richest single influx of customers ever.
Forty crowned heads of state have been invited, with the Sultan of Brunei, the King of Tonga and the Crown Princess of Sweden (and her fitness trainer husband the Duke of Västergötland) among those dropping anchor in Britain in the next two days. Add in all the consorts, security, children and hangers-on looking to spend to excess and it is little surprise that the most expensive shops, eateries and hotels are looking to make a quick buck in austere times.
Tomorrow night, The Dorchester hotel will be picketed by Swazi demonstrators, protesting against the presence of the autocratic and polygamous King Mswati III of Swaziland, who will be staying upstairs with his 50-strong entourage, South Africa's Mail & Guardian newspaper reported.
The Langham hotel's three penthouse suites were booked up long ago, before official wedding invites even went out. First to be booked was the Infinity Suite, a 235-sq metre room with views across the city. At the May Fair hotel, sources said several members of European and Middle Eastern royal families have booked suites, the most sought after of which is the Penthouse Suite, with a sun terrace away from the hubbub of the city below.
Other five-star hotels unsurprisingly booked out this week include the Connaught, the Berkeley, Claridge's – where the two penthouses come in at a mere £6,300 apiece, and guests get personally monogrammed pillow cases and bathrobes – and the Hyatt Regency. The £36,000 "royal opulence package" there allows six people to stay four nights in the royal suite, a 4,000-sq ft complex with marble bathrooms, private gym, baby grand piano, chauffeur-driven Daimler, chef and a butler who previously worked for the British royal family.
As for entertainment, the foreign royals long ago made their bookings for nights out while they are in the UK. On Thursday, the evening before the royal wedding, Hakkasan Mayfair has a reservation for "an A-List" guest. The client has pre-ordered several signature dishes including the whole dried abalone (sea snails), priced at £328, and several rounds of the Peking duck with Royal Beluga caviar for £165.00 a plate.
Sketch restaurant has a reservation the same night in the Library Room, where a seven-course tasting menu costs £95 a head, for six guests, with a request for a table directly next to them for their security team. Other haunts popular with the visitors will include Abracadabra, home of especially expensive bubbly and particularly popular with Russian oligarchs, and the American brasserie Automat.
The foreign dignitaries' presence is already obvious on London streets according to James WJ Wilson, a director with the luxury concierge service, AuWays.
"A lot of models are flying in at the moment, which is usually a sign that the wealthy will be in town," he said. "There are a lot of expensive import cars in town as well, chromed-out Phantoms with Arabic plates." These are often accompanied by trucks carrying huge Louis Vuitton trunks.
Many royal wedding guests have been invited to satellite parties months in advance, with sheer wealth being an important qualification for getting in. "There's nothing worse for a billionaire than going to a party and being the only one there that's got any money," laughed one party organiser.
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