Last week, the Carlton Tower Hotel-Jumeirah Carlton Tower as it now is celebrated its 50th anniversary. On opening, its proudest boast was to be London’s first tower hotel. Beside the Shard, the tower seems something of a molehill, but among the smoke-blackened streets of a city still recovering from the Second World War, it was a beacon of luxury.
In 1961, the E-type Jaguar roared off the production line onto roads that, as yet, had no maximum speed limit, and the first episode of The Avengers appeared on television. The hand-finished E-type and Savile Row-tailored John Steed sought to combine traditional British strengths with the Space Age. The Carlton Tower was much the same.
Marble floors and glass table-tops breathed transatlantic sophistication; only a few years after rationing had ended, the Rib Room made a feature of succulent British roast beef-served in the thick American cut. Talk about tradition: the menu has barely changed. After the opening-night party, a journalist counted 7,000 dirty glasses, 423 empty Champagne bottles, 95 empty whisky bottles and 144 empty gin bottles; ‘the bones of turkeys stood out like empty ships hulls’.
The carnage after last week’s bash must have been similar. Long live what an architectural paper called ‘Functional Tradition de luxe’.