Gyrating at the Grosvenor House Hotel

For the first time for a while I was at the Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane earlier this year for an Awards Dinner. The Hotel is owned by Marriott and is one of the flagships in the Group.

The do was in the Ballroom, the smaller of the two major hospitality venues in the hotel, capable according to the Hotel of being able to host 550 for a banquet.

The Ballroom Entrance, from Park Lane

That is nothing compared with The Great Room, which is claimed to be able to take 2,000.

The Great Room entrance, a stone's throw up the road

At the beginning of the evening you could imagine being at a mini version of the Brits – glitzy backdrop, strobe lighting, and a pounding bass re-arranging the contents of your stomach even before the meal began.

Then arrived the celebrity compere. He was billed as an actor and stand-up comedian from a successful comedy series. Expectations were raised, and we thought it was “him”. But in fact it was a support actor from the same series.

The applause was thus slightly muted, but our man stormed into his act, doing a jokes routine in a steadily mounting tide of political incorrectedness until on one gag the room seemed to divide between those in paroxysms of laughter and those wincing uncomfortably.

Then it was time for dinner.

The Hotel opened in May 1929, and the Grosvenor name refers to a previous house on the site owned by the Grosvenor family, whose family ownership still extends to large chunks of Mayfair.

In his book “London’s Grand Hotels”, Ward Morehouse III tells of the Hotel becoming the Allied Forces Officers’ Club during World War II, serving more than 5 million meals to 300,000 officers. He goes on to talk of the celebrities who flooded to the Grosvenor House after the War – Orson Welles; Sammy Davis Jnr; Muhammad Ali; Ella Fitzgerald.

The Grosvenor Group today (part of the hereditary Grosvenor Estate) is a thriving property investment and development group. It has just published its latest financial results (profit reported of £81m) with a £860m UK property development programme, most of it concerning interests in London.

Whilst on the grand scale, with its 420 bedrooms, 74 suites and 31 meeting rooms, and a 5 star rating, the Grosvenor House has never had the kudos of establishments such as Claridge’s or the Savoy.

However, it impresses with its sheer size, and even more with the fabulous views across Hyde Park and Kensington Palace Gardens from its upper floor rooms overlooking the multi-lane highway that is Park Lane.

The vastness displayed.
 Dead centre is the Great Room entrance, and then slightly down the Ballroom entrance

On the subject of today’s celebrities, on a quiet Sunday afternoon in April this year you would have found the red carpet out at the main entrance to the Hotel behind the Park Lane frontage. That evening there would take place the Jameson Empire Awards 2012, so follow the link to cop a look at photos of the big names out and about that evening.

Waiting for something to happen

Back to our man in the compere slot. After dinner he had returned, not to tell any more jokes, but to process the award-giving. I say process, as it was done with metronomic drive, clinical photo taking...and absolutely no speeches.

Swiftly on completion of the ceremony, our compere exited with a wave of his arm and no doubt looking forward to a mug of cocoa before bedtime, and it was time for dancing to a live band.

It was then one realised that the people partying were almost exclusively the staff of prize sponsors and prizewinners, with most vigorous celebratory gyrating reserved for the latter.

Guests seemed to move to the bar and then gently withdraw into the night, in good time before “Carriages at 1am”, otherwise known as the long queue of taxis waiting patiently out in Park Lane.

The author is a City of London and City of Westminster Guide,  who does walking tours in the City and in Westminster. For more information see tabs. For another blogpost on a location very near the Hotel, see "Charles Dickens, Mayfair and Little America".