If someone invited you to re-enact one of the most famous moments in British pop history, would you tell them Goodbye or Say You’ll Be There?
Those in the latter camp can now relive Girl Power on the staircase where the Spice Girls filmed their Wannabe video – with a pro photographer shooting their every Posh pout, Sporty high-kick and Nineties peace sign – at London’s St Pancras Renaissance Hotel.
In its interim life as the abandoned Midland Grand, the hotel served as a filming location for movies including Batman, Harry Potter and Bridget Jones’s Diary, as well as the video for the world’s biggest-selling single by any girl group, ever: Wannabe.
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And 23 years later, as the Spice Girls reunite for a UK stadium tour, the hotel has launched a Wannabe Suite Package featuring an overnight stay in a suite, a themed cocktail-making class and a private photo shoot on the iconic stairs.
So I got some friends together to try out the experience and relive those childhood Spicemania dreams. And while I wouldn’t say I’m a superfan, if you had told nine-year-old me she’d grow up to re-enact the Wannabe video with her mates in the hotel it was filmed in, she would have lost her mind.
Stop: First impressions
On arrival in the Chambers Grand Junior Suite there’s a plate of five pastries, decorated with caramel and various shades of pink icing, each one representing a different Spice character: pink sprinkles for Baby, leopard print decoration for Scary, and so on.
The suite itself is plush and roomy, with a Victorian-meets-modern design (fireplaces, coving, high ceilings, contemporary art prints and a jagged gold-framed mirror). The junior suite sleeps up to three, but if you (really really, really) want to take part as a gang of five, you can book another room.
The package also gives you access to the hotel’s Chambers Club, serving complimentary food and drink all day, including afternoon tea and pre-dinner canapes. Wine and beer are free between 3pm and 10pm – which I’d have definitely indulged in, if there hadn’t been cocktails on the way.
2 Become 1: The mixology class
Bartender João, from the hotel’s Booking Office bar, is on hand to Spice Up Your Life with a half-hour cocktail-making session from a portable bar cabinet set up by the staircase, stocked with glassware, spirits and a signed picture and Spiceworld gold disc for decoration.
We’re making the five cocktails from the Re-Spiced menu – all available in the hotel’s Booking Office bar and each created with a different member of the group in mind. João uses some unique ingredients and nifty equipment, so we even learn some new bar skills.
Ginger Kick is a summery mix of Aperol, Campari, citrus and ginger beer, while edible chocolate grass and a chewing gum football top the gin-based Good Sport. A super-sweet coconut Baby Colada cocktail is garnished with mini-marshmallows and served in a blue sugar-coated glass, and then the Bloody Scary is a deliciously smoky, chilli-infused mezcal with strawberry purée and aquafaba foam.
And since Victoria Beckham won’t be there for the tour, they nearly made hers just an empty glass, but in the end went for a fitting mix of citrus vodka, elderflower and gold leaf. The result, Posh on the Rocks, is served over ice that’s been shaped into a perfect sphere in a brass mould (the discovery of this contraption really spiced up my life).
João makes each cocktail for us to try, before teaching us to make another one each of our choice. For me, it’s the Mel B cocktail – the Bloody Scary. It’s smoky, sweet and moreish, and the chickpea-based aquafaba comes out a bit like canned cream. Aside from the Baby Colada, they’re all quite strong. And if you’re not used to being the subject of a photo shoot – which none of us are – I’d say drinking them is the best way to prepare.
Something Kinda Funny: The shoot
Getting ready to swing it, shake it, move it, make it on the stairs involves a rummage through a 1990s treasure box of Spice Girls props. This is definitely the best bit: there’s a leopard-print scarf, a fluffy pink Emma Bunton-style headband, some inflatable microphones, a Mel C baseball cap, a huge Union Jack flag, masks of all five members, a ginger wig and some sequined Geri-esque Union Jack heels, which my friend heroically totters up the steps in.
And said staircase area in the restored five-star hotel looks a lot like it did in the video – the same Minton tiles, stone columns, red-and-gold wallpaper and churchy, gothic windows. You can definitely picture it.
So the next half-hour is filled with good, clean 1990s fun, as we mess about striking poses in various combinations of attire from the props box, breaking out a few high-kicks and peace signs, safe in the knowledge that our memories will Viva Forever in photographic form.
The Wannabe Suite Package is available during summer 2019 at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, London, for £659. stpancraslondon.com
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