Now the merry month of December is upon us it’s time to fire up the festive spirit and prepare to entertain descending hordes of relatives.
But what to do with them? A Christmas-themed afternoon tea or a festive cocktail at one of London’s landmark venues is a surefire way to impress.
This time of year, many hotels and restaurants try to outdo each other by calling in the services of famous artists, architects and florists to really stand out. The best way to judge who’s done the best is to embark on what I like to call a ‘tipples and trees’ crawl.
The Connaught has pulled in the big guns this year, asking British artist Antony Gormley – ‘a friend of the hotel’ – to turn a 17.5m western red cedar into a tapering beacon of light on Mount Street, ditching bulky baubles for illuminated branches.
Last year, the Connaught invited Damien Hirst to decorate its tree, as proof of a trend for big names. This was kick-started by sister hotel Claridge’s seven years ago with John Galliano at Dior, followed by Alber Elbaz at Lanvin, Domenico Dolce & Stefano Gabbana and Christopher Bailey at Burberry. “Collaborating with big international global brands of this nature brings us heightened exposure across the world, particularly now in the growing social media world,” says Paula Fitzherbert of Maybourne Hotel Group. She’s not wrong – these pop-ups are Instagram gold.
Claridge’s installation is one of London’s most impressive. A winter wonderland glade, by the designers Sir Jony Ive of Apple and Marc Newson, changes light from dawn to dusk as birdsong fills the air, owls hoot and foxes cry.
Another display making headlines is at Aqua Shard, on the 31st floor of The Shard. Here hangs Human Nature – an all-white installation of 3D-printed British woodland leaves by the architect Timothy Hatton in collaboration with Sir David Attenborough for his 90th birthday. Up close you see the gossamer details of the leaves dancing in the air; at a distance the piece is a snowflake-like cascade.
To see it up close, book a table at humannatureinstallation.co.uk before 5 January and tuck into the Human Nature cocktail and dessert, sold in support of Fauna & Flora International, a wildlife conservation charity.
Across town in Belgravia, The Goring has renamed and redecorated its evening bar; now it’s the alpine-inspired Cresta Bar, serving Swiss canapés and cocktails inspired by the Cresta run in St Moritz. The Langham has also taken a more traditional approach, teaming up with Asprey to create its pretty glass-bauble and fairylight trees.
On the edgy side, Sketch on Conduit Street has asked florist Carly Rogers to install an entire woodland forest in the entrance hall, complete with snow blizzards and carols.
Once you’ve seen what the big names have to offer, have a go yourself at home. Make your own wreath, scatter generous bunches of pure white roses and heap fake snow – seemingly sold everywhere this year – around the tree. Just add relatives.