A Very British Hotel: Nigel Bowen, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park London

02 March 2017 by
A Very British Hotel: Nigel Bowen, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park London

A Very British Hotel on Channel 4. Katherine Price chats to him about shipping breast milk across the Atlantic and sourcing the strongest rum in the world.

What was it like being followed around by the cameras for the making of A Very British Hotel?

At the beginning a little daunting. And you're always careful not to say too much or disclose too much, at the discretion of our guests. But after a little while you tend to block it out. Oxford Scientific Films were here filming for over six months, so I guess it becomes part of your daily routine knowing that they're around.

Tell me about 'the breast milk story'?

We had a guest who had a child that was being minded by her mother and father in New York, they had run out, and she had to extend her stay due to business and therefore had to send some breast milk to feed the child. We had it placed in a freezer, picked up in a cool bag, frozen cryogenically with liquid nitrogen in a special pack, and then sent to New York overnight. It's just all in a day's work for a concierge. That's not necessarily a strange request. When you think about it, it makes perfect sense.

What kind of strange requests have you had?

Nothing's too strange for a concierge. I've arranged for breeding guard dogs to be quarantined and sent to the Middle East. A guest's wife had bought a bottle of perfume and it had run out and there was no label or packaging and I had to discover what the fragrance was. We sent it around to various perfume experts and we managed to get all of the notes and have the fragrance recreated.

We had a guest who always wanted his hands to be perfectly clean, and we had to find a really over-proofed rum for him to wash his hands in, because he didn't like the smell of antibacterial hand gel. We had to find the strongest rum in the world - it happens to come from Guatemala if you're ever looking for extremely over-proofed rum.

A Very British Hotel, Mandarin Oriental Hotel
A Very British Hotel, Mandarin Oriental Hotel
How do you feel about the documentary being screened?

It's come very quickly. I'm a little nervous, not in what I've said, but just to be on television. It's not the norm for me, but it may be something we'll be doing a bit more of in the future, so it's exciting in the other respect.

Are you looking forward to seeing your colleagues on television too?

One individual on my team in particular, Francois-Xavier Girotto, is going to get a lot more attention. Francois is one of the biggest characters front-of-house in this hotel, and our guests respond to that. He's just one of many great individuals in the hotel.

Were guests happy to be filmed?

There are a lot of things that haven't made the final cut, and that's for the protection of our guests. We had quite a few guests with high profiles who didn't want to be filmed, understandably so, but some of our very regular guests were very open to being filmed; they're part of the family. They're as much a part of the fabric of this hotel as the staff are.

What do you hope people take away from it?

Not only are we mindful that a lot of young people out there don't perhaps turn to hospitality naturally, they kind of fall into the industry, but we'd like young people to think of it as a natural career choice. I'm biased of course, but I'd love to attract more people to the world of concierge.

Read more interviews with staff from the show here:

A Very British Hotel: Gérard Sintès, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park London >>

A Very British Hotel: Chris Thompson, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park London >>

A Very British Hotelis a three-part series on Channel 4 starting 9pm on Thursday 2 March.

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