28 June 2016
If you could have anything, right this very second, what would it be? Your own personal music festival, perhaps, with a guest appearance from James Bay? Or how about a private jet to the Maldives, complete with a Michelin-starred romantic meal on arrival, scuba diving with turtles and a vintage £80,000 bottle of Rothschild wine? Or would you prefer a private helicopter to land next to your office and take you and a couple of friends to star in a Hollywood film?
Actress Bo Derek once declared: “Whoever said that money can’t buy happiness, simply didn’t know where to go shopping,” or maybe she meant that they simply didn’t know anyone to shop for them.
In London, there is now a plethora of concierge companies, ranging from family-run businesses to large international organisations, to run errands for the cash-rich and time-poor. One of the better-known is Quintessentially Lifestyle (www.quintessentially.com), which has 60 offices around the world and a membership aged between 30 and 50 years of age made up of sportspeople, actors, leading CEOs and entrepreneurs. But there are smaller, more local operations, particularly in Mayfair, right on the doorstep of those who might need it.
Yet, what they all have in common is unrivalled access, insider information, and the ability to go above and beyond their clients’ expectations. However challenging or unusual the request, they still manage to organise personal couture shopping trips or expeditions to Antarctica, and everything in between.
Click here for our guided list of London's luxury concierges
“Sourcing cars and travel are our top services,” says Paul Macavoy, COO of Matrix Concierge (www.matrixconcierge.com), based in Mayfair. “Africa remains one of our most popular destinations, mostly due to the wide variety of activities available for the adventurous traveller. In 2015, we created a unique self-drive trip to the South Pole that also incorporated driving onto the Ross Ice Shelf – one of the most inaccessible places on earth. Every stage of the trip – including satellite communications, emergency medical support and photography to capture the journey – had to be planned in minute detail.”
But it’s not just about hopping on a plane to the nearest exclusive resort, as Albert Oliver, founder of One Hundred Lifestyle (www.onehundredlifestyle.com), explains. “We obtain access to events, experiences, restaurants, nightlife, cars and watches. We can organise anything. Last year, we arranged a 20-person trip that featured ten supercars, two yachts and VIP passes to the Barcelona Grand Prix. We also arranged a weekend in Cannes for a member and his fiancé, including a beautiful five-star hotel, a Ferrari to drive between the destinations, and a yacht to take them to and from dinner in Monaco.”
Relocation assistance is also commonplace. If a client decides to move to London, having the help and contacts of a dedicated team in the know can be invaluable. “We look after people coming into the city for short or long-term stays from places like the US, China, Russia, and South Africa,” says Alistair Gill, general manager of Mayfair Concierge (www.mayfairconcierge.com). “They might want a house, apartment or hotel. They’ll want transport, to be met at the airport, a fully-staffed house, security, personal shoppers, chefs, hairdressers, beauticians, restaurant reservations and a car.” If they’re relocating, Gill says they’ll require schooling, nannies and housekeepers too. “We’re literally a one-stop shop,” he adds.
Knowing the audience is key; these are successful, busy people who want to enjoy life but don’t always have the time to organise it. And, rather surprisingly, “they want a good deal”, says Clementine Churchward, director of Quintessentially. “These are savvy business people.” Booking a few nights at a resort within an eye-watering budget doesn’t cut it. They’re looking for “a certain tucked-away restaurant where the cocktails are fabulous, or a massage from the best therapist. It’s the little extras that our members rely on,” insists Churchward.
With an extensive network trying and testing the establishments themselves for suitability, the concierge services can find the best options for any request. “It’s like having a best friend in every city,” says Churchward. But that friend is often put to the test. “Once we had to source a Rolling Stone magazine from 1971, signed by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, for one member’s best friend’s birthday in Panama.”
The list of peculiar, bizarre or seemingly unachievable demands is endless, but all are completed to an exceptional standard and on time, whether it is sourcing a bagpipe player in New York to play at a Scottish member’s leaving party in under an hour; organising a full circus troupe to perform in the grounds of someone’s home for a 40th birthday party; or buying every ticket in a cinema – complete with candlelit stairway, naturally – so a chap can have privacy on a date.
But it’s not all glitz, glamour and a private speed boat to Cannes. “A friend of mine, whose client left a Mars bar in a fridge at a hotel he was staying at, actually flew back to get it,” says Gill. And at One Hundred Lifestyle a staff member had to get toilet paper delivered to a client in dire straights at a hotel in Dubai, who didn’t want to call the reception desk. It’s a challenging business to be in and once a company has clients, they’ve got to look after them 24/7. Mars bars and all.