Meet luxury hotel guru Paula Fitzherbert of The Maybourne Group
From Michelin-starred restaurants to suites fit for royalty, The Berkeley, The Connaught, and Claridge’s epitomise London luxury. However, it can be quite a task to ensure that a heritage brand such as The Maybourne Group continues to stay connected and engaging to the modern day guest.
Paula Fitzherbert, the Group Director of Communications, has been the powerhouse largely responsible for fortifying the group’s position as not only a golden standard in luxury, but also one that adapts to its dynamic clientele.
Luxury travel and food writer Ina Yulo chats with the woman considered to be one of the most influential individuals in the hospitality industry and finds out what it takes to manage such a renowned brand.
What did your 10-year-old self think you would be doing at this point in your life?
I really wanted to be a photographer. I always used to use my father’s camera and was in charge of the family holiday photographs. Ironically, as I am very active across our hotel’s Instagram accounts, I am actually a photographer! Everyone is these days.
You’ve been with the Maybourne Hotel Group for a while now. How do you keep things exciting and dynamic?
Yes, I’ve been with the Maybourne Group for nearly 20 years. It’s actually easy to keep things exciting and dynamic as we always have so many new, creative projects on the go across the three London hotels. From a new restaurant at Claridge’s, to a project with the hotel’s archives, to the Connaught Christmas tree, to the Dior Prêt-à-Portea collection at The Berkeley, we are always looking for new opportunities to keep our hotels relevant and exciting. Things have changed a lot in 20 years—our communications job [now involves] actively seeking out creative collaborations and developing content to help tell interesting, authentic stories across the group that will make guests want to come and stay with us.
What does luxury mean to you?
It can be a number of things at any point, and more often enough it’s nothing to do with money! Luxury is an unexpected cancelled meeting, allowing for the luxury of some time to breathe and think. Luxury is still silence, allowing the noise of the day to disappear and to think quietly. Luxury can even be the perfect crema on the top of a cappuccino …that can make me very happy! Luxury is also still enjoying your job after 20 years!
Who is the funniest celebrity you’ve met?
I used to work for Punch magazine, a humorous cartoon magazine (rather like the New Yorker). Editor Alan Coren (father of Giles) was a great wit and bon viveur, and that was when I also met a new upcoming impersonator called Rory Bremner. He would make us laugh till we cried at the famous Punch lunches.
What is one of the biggest myths about working in the hospitality industry?
That a job in the hospitality industry is a stop gap and is poorly paid. It can really now be a truly exciting professional career—chefs and restaurateurs are the new rock gods!
What do you love most about your job?
The genuine diversity of every day. Yesterday we were looking for a stuffed fox for a visiting French patisserie chef, meeting Joan Collins in the lobby, overseeing a photoshoot for our new Dolce Vita Summer roof at the Berkeley, followed by cocktail tasting for the Blue Bar menu. It’s all true.
Dish, cocktail, dessert. If I can only have one of each at any of the group’s hotels, what would you recommend?
Lobster Risotto at The Foyer at Claridge’s, a Connaught Martini from the Martini Trolley at the Connaught Bar (no more than two!), a slice of the Marcus Wareing custard tart from Marcus at the Berkeley. It’s the one he made for the Queen.
Favourite place to holiday and why?
Capri. [It has] everything I love about Italy—the weather, scenery, lemons, and fresh pasta!
Claridge’s is opening a new restaurant with Daniel Humm and Will Guidara of Eleven Madison Park fame. Can you tell me more about that and what guests can expect from the new venture?
Yes, we are very excited about the opening of Davies and Brook at Claridge’s in September. Much of the details are still under wrap, but it will be a dynamic new addition to the Mayfair scene with delicious food served with their legendary panache, and a really creative new bar with NY-style cocktails.
What makes the London hospitality scene so special?
There is something for all tastes and budgets.
What is the best compliment you have received from one of your guests?
You’re still alive! 🙂
Aside from the new restaurant, are there any big events within the group that we should look forward to this year?
As well as the arrival of Davies and Brook at Claridge’s, we will be opening a new bar at The Berkeley called The Berkeley Bar, Helene Darroze at The Connaught will re-open with a new look, and we will open our first patisserie shop on Mount Street, so watch this space.