"There were angels dining at the Ritz"

24 May 1906, the London Ritz opened in Piccadilly.

“That certain night, the night we met,
There was magic abroad in the air,
There were angels dining at the Ritz
And A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square.“ (Eric Maschwitz / Manning Sherwin)

The Ritz shortly after its opening in 1906.

When Swiss hotelier César Ritz got the boot at the Savoy, he decided to open something newer, better, more Edwardian. He chose a Neoclassicistic Belle Époque building in Piccadilly with arcades in the style of the Parisian Rue de Rivoli and the modern establishment became a smashing success in terms of luxury and service – a bathroom in every suite was unheard of, but soon became a standard in providing accommodation for travellers – or long-term lodgers.

Ritz, who managed the hotel personally for many years, haute cuisine and establishments like the famous Palm Court, the tea room that harboured royalty as well as politicians like Churchill or de Gaulle and accomplished artists like Noel Coward, Evelyn Waugh and Charlie Chaplin as regulars who took their tea at the Ritz.

The place underwent a major 10 years renovation by the end of the 1990s and, restored allegedly to former grandeur, still is one of London’s top addresses and in the headlines every now and then, for celebrities visiting, tax evasion of its proprietors and last station. Margaret Thatcher had a stroke at the Ritz while convalescing.

“Putting on the Ritz”, as Irving Berlin phrased it in 1929, became a byword for a luxurious establishment, a place mentioned in films, songs and novels, where angels indeed dine at the Ritz.

The song quoted above was written in 1939,  sung by Vera Lynn in 1940 and became one of the most famous wartime tunes:

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