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The red brick Claridge’s is the quintessential luxury Mayfair hotel, decade after decade proudly proclaiming good taste in discretion as administered through glittering Deco accents. The building dates to 1894 (when Gilbert & Sullivan’s producer rebuilt it), but modern amenities are installed among the gilded plasterwork and (non-working) fireplaces, the fitness center and spa are huge and up-to-date, and neither floorboards nor exacting staff grumbles upon your approach. From the bathrooms—heated floors, high-tech toilet/bidets—to cavernous wardrobes and plump beds as big as some studio apartments, there’s not much to complain about. Its main lift is the last in Central London to be operated by hand—there’s a sofa inside should you tire during your five-level journey to the top floor—and its clubby cocktail bars and Fera restaurant are favored by modern-day fashion icons (your Von Furstenbergs, your Jaggers, your Eltons—wealthy Americans, in particularly, love it, and so did the Queen Mum) who value luxury and exclusivity without the snooty exclusivity that can make the Ritz such a drag. The annual Christmas tree, decorated by a world-class design luminary, is an ongoing legend, and room we stayed in recently even had an original Picasso. This grande dame isn’t cheap, but few in the industry would dispute that it sets the flawless tone for five-star hotels around the world.