I’ve never felt as festive as I did last year on my tipples ‘n’ trees food and drink crawl of Old London Town.
To regain my festive mojo, I’ve been schlepping the streets again in search of the best Christmas decorations and installations to visit with family and friends at this wonderful time of year.
Standing in the Instagram hotspot that is Claridge’s stairwell lobby, the Karl Lagerfeld-designed upside down tree is trad-with-a-twist. Festooned with this year’s must-have accessory – the clear-glass bauble – and retro silver streamers, the real tree is hovering in the air.
A cradle of silver roots reaches to the ceiling and the tree top skims the floor, amid some very hygge sheepskins masquerading as snow (with little children rolling in it). Meeting old friends for a Christmas lunch at Claridge’s has become a tradition for the folk I chatted to. This year, a children’s choir upped the heart-warming factor by serenading guests enjoying afternoon tea.
Sister hotel, The Connaught, always has its tree outside, and this year it’s Tracey Emin’s turn to work her magic. Richard Rogers’ festive installation is over at The Berkeley, making quite a trio of star names for the Maybourne hotel group.
New for 2017 is Nobu Hotel Shoreditch, which opened this summer. If its table-top shoji paper tree in the lobby is a bit of an oddity (with its scary blue LED glow), they’ve scored a huge hit with their new keenly priced all-you-can-eat (and drink) weekend brunch.
Meeting old friends for a Christmas lunch at Claridge’s has become a tradition for the folk I chatted to.
The restaurant’s calm wood-panelled restaurant has well-spaced round tables and booths to choose from. Not only do you help yourself to buffet delicacies (the mini beef curry was melt-in-the-mouth), but the slick waiter service also brings you individual dishes throughout your meal (from £45). Try every pudding at your peril.
Next up was Sketch. Whatever you think of it (and again the afternoon tea room was packed), Sketch is always surprising. This year the artist Chris Levine has gone all trippy with his sound-and-light installation Silent Light.
Last year Sketch had snow-making drifts up to your armpits – and the traditional woodland glade gets another outing this year around the famous pod-loos upstairs – but this year Levine is communing with the universe, with a deep “OM” soundtrack as you come in, alongside beams of coloured lasers and lightbox portraits.
And finally, to the tree-of-trees, at Aqua Shard. The Shard was, of course, originally known as The Shard of Glass, and this season the product and interior designer Lee Broom has collaborated with glassware brand Nude in a cleverly playful 10-metre suspended tree referencing London Bridge’s great monolith, bringing their Tree of Glass to the 31st floor.
Delicately hanging from the triple-height ceiling are 245 conical handblown glass pendant lights, making up a conical tree, which is reflected in the windows of the similarly shaped Shard of Glass itself – a simple artistic concept that every diner will appreciate.
The festive tipple here is a home-brew plum wine, accompanied by the most delicious poached pear, deconstructed Christmas pud and ice cream. And bargains this Christmas abound – each of the limited-edition lights is for sale at £150, £100 of which goes to charity.