To mark the launch of our latest Goring collaboration, we spoke with managing director David Morgan-Hewitt about outrageous requests, regal connections and how a certain wedding put the hotel on the map
You’ve been with The Goring for more than 25 years. What’s the best thing about your job?
I am now in my 28th year at The Goring having started as Restaurant Manager in 1990. At that time the hotel was an absolutely splendid four-star hotel. I am delighted to say it is now seen as one of the top five-star hotels in London and the world, and consistently wins awards for both the hotel and its staff. Without a doubt the best thing about my job are the people I work with and the people I meet. The world of luxury is a magical world, whether you are producing an exquisite suitcase or creating a dream stay, it boils down to the same attention to detail, obsession with quality and focus on the client. A hotel such as The Goring attracts an incredibly wide and varied range of guests. Some, of course, are extremely well-known and high-profile but most are not. Over half our guests are American and the next biggest chunk are home visitors from around the UK. Meeting these people and talking to them is fascinating, they all have such interesting lives and it is a joy that they choose to spend a little of those lives here at The Goring.
How do you stay level-headed when things get hectic?
A luxury hotel is like a swan: it is always hectic below the waterline but it never does anything but glide above it. Of course the hotel is busy, in fact busier than ever these days, but we all learn to take everything in our stride. With 69 gloriously appointed bedrooms there will always be a loo that is not working quite right, a shower that might not drain as fast as it should and an air conditioning unit playing up. Our problems are always mechanical or IT related – I am delighted to say they never relate to the staff who work here.
Can you reveal any outlandish requests you’ve had from guests?
One of the glories of The Goring is that the guests feel at home. As they walk through the front door into the exquisite front hall with its hand painted Fromental wallpaper you see the troubles of the world drop from their shoulders. It is because they feel so at home that they tend not to bombard us with outrageous requests. Of course they will always want tickets to Hamilton or any other show it is impossible to get into. Undoubtedly, they will want a last minute table at the hottest restaurant in town, which has been booked for months. Centre Court tickets at the Wimbledon finals always have to be found. Fortunately, our concierge team can always deliver on any request no matter how large or small.
What makes The Goring such an institution – does being family-run make a big difference?
The greatest difference The Goring has from its competitors in the London luxury hotel market is that it is still owned and run by the Goring family who built the hotel in 1910. One cannot underestimate the impact that the Gorings make on their hotel. They have hospitality coursing through their veins and their dedication to the enjoyment of their guests runs throughout the whole hotel and all its staff. It is because this company is more interested in its guests than its profits that it has remained so successful for well over a century. The family continue to invest heavily in the structure and the facilities here within the hotel. This is not an asset, it is a vocation for the family.
All eyes were on The Goring in 2011 when Kate Middleton stayed here the night before her wedding. How did this VIP booking come about?
For decades, The Goring has had connections with our next-door neighbour, Buckingham Palace. Royal visitors have quietly come in and out of the hotel for almost as long as it has been here. We have always been extremely willing to help the royal household in any way we can and we were delighted to be asked to play a very small part in the wedding between HRH Prince William and Catherine Middleton.
What impact did the Royal Wedding have on the hotel’s profile?
Until the Royal Wedding, The Goring was slightly under the radar. Those who knew it loved it and kept it a secret. All that changed on 29 April 2011 when 2.2 billion people saw Catherine leave the hotel with her father in one of the Royal Rolls-Royces on her way to Westminster Abbey. The following week we discovered we were now on the London Bus Tour commentaries. The impact of the Royal Wedding was enormous. Over 5.5 million visitors to the website were recorded in that month.
The new Goring Special Edition suitcase uses silk from The Goring bedrooms, which is the same material that lines some of the royal carriages. What do you like about Globe-Trotter as a fellow British heritage brand and do you ever spot them in the hotel?
I have personally used Globe-Trotter for the last 30 years. They are a magnificent British brand and their elegance is always spotted as I travel around the world. They are commented on by check-in staff, chauffeurs, bell boys and porters. In fact, Globe-Trotter never fail to cause comment. Their craftsmanship belongs to a different era, the colours and the design of the ranges are all totally inspiring. I am delighted to say many of our guests, including some of our most famous ones, are often seen travelling with their Globe-Trotter cases. They also last a lifetime.
Finally, what do you always make sure to pack when you’re on holiday?
My handmade velvet slippers with my initials on them. If you arrive at a hotel room and put your own slippers on you immediately feel at home. The world’s great hotels should always be seen as a home away from home.
The Goring Special Edition