Congratulations are in order for Bradley Davis. As the first-ever recipient of Expedia U.K.'s Concierge of the Year award, the Connaught's main "never say no man" is finally getting the recognition he deserves. The competition was tough (he was just one among hundreds of nominees pooled from the concierge association, the Society of Golden Keys), and the judging process fierce (after Davis submitted a written entry, he was then spied upon during an undercover visit). What finally swayed the panel was Davis's keen knowledge of local events, his ability to fulfill even the oddest and most thought-provoking requests, and his natural talent for dealing with high-profile guests such as Jack Nicholson, Ralph Lauren, and senior members of the royal family. In between jobs, Davis took some time off to discuss with Travel + Leisure the lengths to which he has gone while on call, what he won't do, no matter how nicely you ask, and what it would take for him to reveal some of the sights and sounds he's witnessed within the hotel's walls.
1. How many years have you been a concierge?
I have worked in London hotels for nearly 20 years. My grandfather influenced me, telling wonderful tales of working at the Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland as a pageboy and as a cocktail barman at the House of Commons.
2. Could you describe your typical day at the Connaught?
Each day I start at 7 A.M., first checking on all the cars before looking at our diary to see what has to be done that day. I then look over the arrival list to see if any of my regular guests are coming. Next, I check all the e-mails and any outstanding correspondence, and arrange to meet and greet guests upon arrival and handle all their daily requests.
3. What's the strangest request you have ever received?
Every day is different. On an average day we handle approximately 30 to 40 requests, ranging from booking a restaurant to chartering a helicopter. Two examples I have had this week: A Mexican guest wanted a ceramic handle for an antique high-level water system for a toilet. We found one at John Lewis, in Oxford Street. The second was a request from an American guest who wanted a ladder or stool for the 12-foot-high bookcase in his library. I managed to track down an antiques shop in Fulham with an entire selection of them. To find items like these, you have to be strategic with your efforts and patience.
4. Has there ever been a request that you could not, or would not fulfill?
We would always refuse to oblige procuring paid female company for a guest.
5. You just received Expedia's first-ever Concierge of the Year award. What makes you so exceptional?
Understanding people. Looking, watching, and listening. You have to be a human radar. And, after receiving the trophy, the level of expectancy has gone up a notch. It was high already, but some people use the award to expect miracles. I'm not Moses.
6. Has the concierge business changed over the years?
The advance of technology has sped up everything we do. When I first started, every reply was written by a secretary, after it had been seen by the head of department and the general manager, and then sent by mail. The fax machine was just introduced, but it wasn't liked. Nowadays, the introduction of e-mails makes everything instant.
7. What's the hardest ticket to get in London?The hardest restaurant reservations?
Although it hasn't started yet, a new play opening in October, Breath of Life, starring Dame Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, is going to be the hardest ticket in town. The most difficult restaurants to get into are still the Ivy and Gordon Ramsay's Chelsea restaurant but one to watch is definitely Locanda Locatelli [8 Seymour St., London W1].
8. What are your favorite places in London to recommend to your guests?
A nice walk from the hotel to Buckingham Palace, cutting across Green Park and then into St. James's Park, before arriving at Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. When you have also seen Westminster Abbey, why not jump on a riverboat, to take you to the Tower of London?
9. What is the proper protocol for tipping a concierge after one has assisted you?
A good concierge would never expect a gratuity, as it is his job to excel. But, if I were asked, I would say it is completely at their discretion.
10. As the eyes and ears of the hotel, I bet you see all sorts of interesting things. Any stories in particular that stand out?
When Princess Diana used to come in for lunch, the first thing she would do was to kick her shoes off under the table. Other than that, we have to sign the official secrets act, and you would have to torture me to find out these things.
Interviewed by Hillary Geronemus