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I visited The Savoy just before Christmas and had cocktails at the American bar and dinner at the Savoy Grill (Gordon Ramsay's new restaurant). I have to say that once I had got over the timeless elegance and class of the lobby and hotel interior I was actually quite disappointed.
The American bar was very busy and we ended up queuing for over 40 minutes to get in. We had be assured by a friend that it was well worth the wait however we were seated in a cramped corner with barely enough space to move. The cocktails were nice but average and the service was poor. I was also very disappointed with the dress code. The ritz for example requires that a tie be worn and no jeans etc in the bar. However in the American bar there were some people in tuxedos and others in wellies and jeans. This completely undermined the integrity of the bar and made people feel silly for having dressed up (which in a place like that should never be the case). A dress rule certainly needs to be enforced or at least made clear.
I enjoyed my dinner, however my friends complained that their steaks were overdone and the waiters were very slow to respond to our table. They served our after-dinner drinks at spearate intervals from eachother and even forgot some of them.
I think it was having teething problems from not being open very long, however for the amount of money you pay to go to this kind of place, especially with the amount of hype surrounding it I would have expected it to be faultless. I would be willing to go back and try it again in the future but after the teething troubles have hopefully subsided and it has once again become an established london landmark.
The Savoy hotel London.
There is nothing more quintessentially British than a stay in the Savoy hotel.
I was fortunate enough to be taken there for a two night stay as part of a Christmas present. We were lucky enough to stay there a few days before it closed for a two year closure for upgrading and refurbishment which is costing £100 million. There was a massive charity auction of its Art deco pieces and fixtures and was due to reopen in May this year but during the refit and stripping back some of the original features have been discovered, preserved and incorporated into the refit. It is due to re-open in 2010 and will offer an improved service but more about that later.
Where is the Savoy?
The Savoy hotel is situated just off the Strand in London in its own little private road right in the heart of London and very handy for the theatres and all London travel sites. This road is the only road in the UK where it is permissible to drive on the right and si called Strand court. Taxis have to be able to make a complete turn here when dropping off guests and are able to due to the design of the mini roundabout! It is close to Charing Cross stations and the tube network of either Charing cross, embankment or Covent garden. Buses pass nearby along the strand all day long.
The King of England Henry the 3rd gave a piece of land down by the river Thames to Count Peter of Savoy in 1246. He then built a palace here which eventually burnt down during the peasant's revolt of 1381 and lay in ruins for a couple of hundred years. On the death of Henry 7th in 1512 he left instructions in his will that a hospital should be built for the poor and a massive hospital was built on the site which had three chapels in it. The hospital was used as a hospital until 1702 then as a prison and partly rebuilt.
In 1864 the buildings burnt down again fortunately one of the chapels survived but the rest lay in ruins until 1880 when the site was bought by Richard Carte to build the Savoy Theatre to stage Gilbert and Sullivan operas. He then built the hotel next to it which took five years to build in a very opulent style.
The entrance is very grand and being in its own private courtyard it is quiet and feels exclusive the minute you turn into it. On reaching the door at the main entrance it is stunning which is covered by a sheltered glass awning with beautiful brass lamps. There is a simple engraving of letters in the front of the awning with the word SAVOY. The suited doorman welcomes you to the hotel and guides you towards the huge spinning doorway. You do not have to go through this entrance there is an ordinary swing door on either side of this door.
Entering the foyer is stunning with marble flooring and decoration. The reception staff are amazing and extremely professional and welcoming. After credit card details are taken the receptionist escorts and accompanies you to your room. She was very graceful and made us feel very welcome.
From its very beginnings it has played host to some high powered, famous and important people including Edward the 7th, Lillie Langtry, Oscar Wilde, Claude Monet, The Beetles, Shirley Bassey, Charlie Chaplin, Elton John, Frank Sinatra, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, Winston Churchill, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 2nd and Prince Philip made their debut here as a couple for the first time at a public reception
The first manager of the Savoy was César Ritz who went on to start the Ritz hotel and group. The hotel has passed through several ownerships in its time and is currently owned by Sheik Al- Waleed bin Talal but managed by the Fairmont group of hotels.
The hotels décor is in the style of an art deco theme which runs all the way through the hotel. Some of the décor is original including two of the lifts one red and one green. These lifts are lined with leather and there is an upholstered bench to sit on to take you to your floor. In the past glory days there used to be a lift operator who would man the lifts taking you to which ever floor you desired.
The hotel has 268 rooms including 52 suites decorated in Edwardian and art deco styles. The 2 bed roomed Royal suite is currently undergoing a £2.5 million refit. Our room, note I say room, as I think the royal suite was somewhat our of our price range but then it wasn't available anyway so I was not disappointed, was one of the best hotel rooms I have ever experienced and stayed in. When you open the door to your room you enter a small vestibule where you may leave your coats and shoes in a wardrobe cupboard. Slipperettes are provided for your comfort. There is a door leading to the bathroom and the other door leading to the room itself. The inside of the room is not symmetrical square or oblong but is round shaped and the walls are made of wood and incorporate wardrobes, cupboards, mini bar and television. The workmanship in creating these rooms is a marvel. There is a writing table and bureaux a lamp stand and bedside cabinets. There are also a couple of easy chairs. The bed was the most sumptuous bed I have ever slept in and slept so well that on the first day we slept in and disappointedly missed breakfast.
The bathroom is very tastefully decorated with a huge bath and a variety of bath salts are provided, a his and hers sink and the most brilliant rain head shower in a double shower cubicle which was really powerful. The penhaligan toiletries provided were of the highest quality and smelt divine. The bath towels were huge, white, fluffy and absorbent, sheer luxury and there are two thick fluffy white dressing gowns hanging up for your use. The bathroom and room were as you would expect spotlessly clean.
This has to be one of the most brilliant experiences one could have. For breakfast we took this in the river room restaurant which overlooks the Thames. There was the widest selection of breakfast foods I have ever seen from fresh fruit, dried fruit, every kind of cereal you can think of, Yogurts, cheeses, hams, cooked breakfast of scrambled, boiled, fried or poached eggs, different types of pancakes and accompaniments, bacon sausages potato cakes, tomatoes, beans, salmon, kedgeree, breads and pastries of every description and type, The selections of jams and other conserves was extensive. There was also noodles and oriental breakfast offerings all of which were self served. Copious amounts of tea and coffee served in tea and coffee pots and fruit juices. I have never seen such a selection on offer and it was all high quality food being surprised that you could actually have a banquet to start you off for the day. Breakfast was taken in an unhurried manner and certainly set us up for the day. The table cloths were brilliant white and the dining crockery was of the finest chinaware.
Afternoon tea is synonymous with the grand hotels of a by gone era and are especially special in this day of fast food restaurants. It is served in the Thames foyer. To experience afternoon tea is one of the must dos of any tourist and although may seem tacky to some it certainly is a grand experience. It is a wonderful tradition that sadly is a rarity these days rather than the norm.
There are wide selections of teas that you can order which will be brought to you by the impeccably dressed waiter or waitress. They will pour the first cup for you. Next a triple layered stand is placed in the middle of the table on the bottom plate delightful finger cut sandwiches of salmon, cheese and ham. On the middle tray are a selection of beautiful cakes and pastries. You will die for these they are absolutely moreish and delicious. The top plate of the stand has scones on it and accompanied by clotted cream and jam. As a matter of interest depending on how you apply the cream and jam to your scones which will determine whether it is a Devonshire or Cornish cream tea. Devonshire cream tea is when the scone is split in two and first the clotted cream is applied then the Strawberry Jam. A Cornish cream tea is when butter is applied then strawberry jam then cream although butter is never applied in high class establishments. Besides who needs butter when there is a fantastic taste of clotted artery clogging cream but hey it's a treat and what the heck! If you are feeling particularly decadent the cream tea can be accompanied with champagne.
The restaurant also known as the Savoy grill.
This is a fantastic place to eat and it is here that the dessert Peach Melba was invented to honour the opera singer Dame Nellie Melba. Melba toast was also invented here too after she ordered toast and was served extremely this dried toast. Traditionally it is made by toasting a slice of bread then once it is toasted it is sliced in half and the untoasted sides are toasted making it very dry.
The food on offer here can be as expensive as you like and the selection is massive. This of course is a formal dining room and there is a dress code. On a Friday night they have a dinner and dance. Don't expect to come away with any change from £200-£300 including drinks and 12.5% service charge. It can of course be more expensive depending on what you are drinking.
The Maitre'D showed us to our table and seated us then one of the waiters came and asked you if you wished to have an aperitif. While perusing the menu our drinks arrived. The wine sommelier took our order for wine after some consultation with him and his recommendation we were not disappointed. We had a carrot, pepper and tomato soup which was absolutely yummy. Roasted beef and a selection of vegetables followed by chocolate mousse drizzled with a passion fruit coulis and raspberries served from the desert trolley. There are traditional desserts like sherry trifle. We finished dinner with some cheese of which there was a good selection and port.
The American Bar.
The American bar is situated just off the lobby reception area and it was here that quite a few cocktails were invented in the 1920's. A lot of bars throughout Europe were named the American bar to celebrate the invention of cocktails and also prohibition of the sale of alcohol in the United States. The bar is always full and gets really busy before and after shows at the Savoy theatre next door. Harry Craddock was the first cocktail bar man and wrote a book of cocktail mixes which is still sold today.
Some of the ther eateries
The Perrier champagne bar. When newly reopened it will be known as the Beaufort bar,
The river restaurant.
The Thames foyer.
Private dining rooms for 4 - 500 people.
Modern glass gymnasium with state of the art equipment.
A pool and spa.
In room safe.
In room dining.
Night turn down service.
A tea shop where not only can you buy teas but exclusive patisseries and other gifts.
Usual room facilities.
We stayed in the hotel the weekend before it closed for its refit and it is taking longer than they originally anticipated. It was due to open in May this year but having discovered original fittings under the building and behind the walls they are trying to preserve this and incorporate it into the updated design. They are going to get rid of the reception desk so that you can either check in at the airport and be chauffer driven directly to the hotel and straight to your room or on arrival at the hotel you will be greeted by name and taken to your room where the check in process will be done there. The service that will be afforded comes with a price of course and you will pay for it in your stay here. Check out will also be streamlined. Butlers will be available to pamper you. There will be no bar bills to pay as it will all be recorded electronically. The refurbishment hopefully will make the hotel more efficient and retaining or recapturing the atmosphere of the grand hotel it once was,
We were treated like Royalty from the time we arrived to the time we checked out. It was a beautiful place to stay although I think some of the staff think they are a cut above you. Generally there is nothing they will not do for you of course because you are paying for it. I would like to think that some of the staff truly love their job there and treat it with the due respect it deserves. The hotel is very tastefully decorated and there appears to be a lot of history in the building. No wonder famous people want to stay here. If I ever got the opportunity to stay here again I would drop everything at a moments notice. Our stay was absolutely fantastic and at first I was a bit agog when I discovered where we were staying there. I would love to go back to the Savoy after the refurbishment is completed just to compare the before and after. The hotel is superbly decorated to the highest standard and I hope they did not get rid of some of the original features for example the lifts.
Would I recommend it.
OH boy yes if money was no object but for me it was just a dream that came true.
The Savoy hotel.
Website : http://www.fairmont.com/promo/savoy