At Red Carnation, we’re proud to offer our guests some of the city’s best concierge services. From day trips to restaurant guides, our experts have their fingers on London’s pulse, and it’s their job to give you the best advice on what to see and where to go. We sat down with Darren Briggs, Head Concierge at The Chesterfield Mayfair, for his advice on where to start, what kind of research to do in advance, and how to get the most out of the concierge service.
You’ve been Head Concierge at The Chesterfield for a number of years now. In your experience, what makes a great concierge service?
In my opinion, a well-trained, knowledgeable team that works well together is key in providing a great concierge service. It’s important to read a question before making recommendations and to get to know your guests in order to find out what they’re really looking for. Knowledge is also paramount, along with great contacts. This is what unlocks doors across the city. We talk to concierges from our other hotels to make sure we can provide guests with the best service, whether they’re looking to stay local, or to explore other areas of London. It’s about thinking on your feet.
Faced with so much to see and do in London, it can be difficult to know where to start. What information should guests give in order to get the best concierge tips?
We would recommend that guests find out exactly what they’re interested in doing, and pass this information on to their concierge. If they want to go on a tour of London, what type of tour would they like? Is it a Big Bus tour, or a private chauffeur driven tour with a guide? If guests provide us with as much information as possible, it is far easer to cater to their needs.
Would you advise guests to put in a little local research before their trip then? Or is it just as easy to organise an itinerary on the spot?
Doing some research before a trip is incredibly useful as it helps us to make relevant suggestions that will really appeal to the individual interests of the guest. Nowadays, most people email us before arriving. It’s a good idea to organise the specifics well in advance of a visit – that way everything will be booked, arranged and set up before guests arrive and there won’t be problems getting a table in their preferred restaurant or booking tickets for the theatre.
With so many great sights and venues on offer across the city, what do you base your recommendations on?
Really our recommendations are based on the needs and interests of the guest. Mostly we’ll recommend tried and tested places that always prove popular and where we can guarantee a good service for our guests.
Do you have a selection of top recommendations in London that go on every itinerary, or does this change depending on the individual?
It does depend on the individual and their specific interests, but there are a few favourites that feature quite often. For art lovers, I’d always suggest the Royal Academy of Arts, the National Portrait Gallery and The V&A. Restaurant wise, if they like Indian food I don’t like guests to leave without trying Tamarind, a Michelin-starred restaurant located just around the corner from the hotel. The Greenhouse is another favourite of ours, along with the Nobu restaurants (Berkeley Street and Park Lane) and Novikov’s two new restaurants.
Some first-time visitors to London may find the city a little overwhelming given the vast array of things to do and see. What city spots would you recommend to a London novice?
We always recommend that first-time visitors spend their first day in London on a Big Bus Tour. It provides a great introduction to the city and it’s easy to arrange – they pick up just around the corner at the Ritz and we have the tickets here at the front desk. We then follow up on these tours with our guests in order to build on their experience and pick out the places from their tour that they’d like to see in greater depth.
Another great option for first time visitors is the London markets. Borough Market in particular is a great choice, especially for foodies, and also Portobello Road.
For fine shopping, obviously the big department stores like Selfridges and Harrods are popular, but also areas like Savile Row and Jermyn Street, which offer specialist boutique stores and a bespoke service are perfect if guests are looking to get measured up for a new suit.
And for those who have spent a lot of time in London? Do you have any insider tips or hidden London recommendations?
For people that have been here time and time again, we always like to suggest something a little different. There’s a beautiful spot at the back of London Zoo where you can take a boat ride on Regents Canal, which provides a nice alternative to a Thames River cruise.
Another one-off experience that I would always recommend is the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London. This is an after-hours evening ceremony held at the Tower, and must be arranged by guests in advance of their trip. It requires a little forward planning, but it’s well worth the effort for a unique insight into one of London’s most famous sights.
Just around the corner from the Chesterfield, the cobbled streets of Shepherds Market are perfect for those looking to explore the local area. There’s a lovely little restaurant here called Le Boudin Blanc, which serves beautiful French food. The Kings Arms is a great traditional London pub option for more casual British food.
If you had a day to yourself in London to spend at will, what would you do and where would you go?
The Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London would definitely be on my itinerary. I’d also stop by Borough Market and maybe take a local walking tour. For dinner, I’d go to The Greenhouse.