Claridge's, in the heart of London's Mayfair, is a five star luxury hotel favored by royalty and celebrities. For the first time in its long history, this famously discreet institution has opened its doors to documentary cameras. Director Jane Treays has spent a year behind the scenes, upstairs and downstairs, following staff and their guests, some of whom are prepared to pay the price of a small family car for one night's stay.
Cameras are with the chambermaids and housekeepers as they spend days transforming the entire third floor into a palace for foreign royalty who could cancel at a moment's notice. Also in the episode, viewers observe the annual two week stay of the Melchors from California, who have been coming for more than 40 years, re-kindling their relationship with personal butler Michael Lynch; the episode also follows the energetic general manager Thomas Kochs as he travels to New York to drum up new business from the top U.S. travel agents.
Opened in 1854, Claridge's is famed for its art deco interiors and traditional service. Many staff, such as Roman the doorman, have worked there for more than 30 years, giving guests continuity and the sense they might be living in a different century.
The Crown Prince of Yugoslavia is a regular guest, and he returns to stay in the suite where he was born in 1945. Joan Collins, Stephen Fry and the Emperor of Japan also come to visit, as well as 85-year-old Gerry Parker, an ex-East End bookmaker who has breakfasted at Claridge's for the last 40 years.
Given this weight of tradition and expectation, general manager Thomas Kochs takes any change very seriously, and no decision - from new alarm clocks to a £10 million renovation plan - escapes his obsessive attention to detail.
It is mid-summer madness at Claridge's, and it appears the whole world is coming through its doors.
Thirty delegations from around the world are arriving for the Olympics. The red carpet is rolled out five times a day for heads of state and Noma, ranked the world's number one restaurant, is setting up as a pop-up in the Ballroom. With the kitchen stuffed with hay and wood sorrel, Claridge's chefs are faced with turning their back on the traditional fare to provide Nordic foraged food to thousands of guests who have paid £195 per head to sample - among other delights - live ants.
Bill and Laura fly in from Atlanta for the wedding of their dreams, and Stephen the butler prepares a suite for one of the hotel's most regular guests by bringing his furniture, hat boxes and 20 suits out of storage, all for one night's stay.