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The Savoy - © Richard Bryant/Arcaid
The Savoy - © Easyvoyage
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In very much the same way as the opening of The Savoy caused tongues to wag furiously back in 1889 with its electricity, new fangled lifts and en suite bathrooms, the reopening after three years of renovation on 10th October 2010 was the biggest talking point in the British, if not world, hotel industry. Brought back to its full Art Deco and Edwardian glory, The Savoy is now bigger and better than ever. The jewel in the crown of London's hotels now has several new features and much of what came before has had a full face lift. Immaculate rooms, exquisite dining and the finest of décor make of The Savoy the only place to stay in this town. It proves that class is timeless.
The Savoy is situated in the heart of the English capital on The Strand with Covent Garden to the north, the Thames Embankment to the south and Trafalgar Square to the west. Many of London's theatres are within walking distance as are attractions such as The National Gallery, The London Aquarium, The National Theatre, the Royal Opera House, the London Eye, Somerset House and so many more. There are of course a plethora of restaurants and bars in the vicinity to suit all pockets as well as excellent shopping. There tens of buses which run either along The Strand or close by to the hotel and there are several Tube stations around the hotel, the closest being Covent Garden and Charing Cross. In addition, four Barclays Cycle Hire docking stations surround the hotel (Tavistock Street, Wellington Street, Embankment and William IV Street). Heathrow Airport is about an hour's journey away by road, although you can catch the Heathrow Express to Paddington and then catch a Tube or take the Piccadilly Line from the airport to Covent Garden Tube. Driving from Gatwick Airport will take roughly 90 minutes, although the Gatwick Express gets you to Victoria Station from where you can take a taxi or catch the Circle or District Line Tube to Embankment. From London City Airport a taxi will take circa 40 minutes or you can catch the DLR to Bank and then take the Circle or District Line to Embankment. Or if you are coming from Stansted either take a taxi (90 minutes) or a train to Liverpool Street followed by the Circle Line to Embankment.
When impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte opened The Savoy hotel next to his theatre where his friends Gilbert and Sullivan were wowing audiences, it was the first of its kind in this country. With electricity, 'ascending rooms' (or lifts as we call them today) and en suite bathrooms it was ahead of its time. He brought in César Ritz to manage and Auguste Escoffier to cook and between them they attracted the crème de la crème to society to the hotel including Dame Nellie Melba for whom the famous chef came up with the Melba Toast and Peach Melba. After WWI the hotel welcomed the likes of Coward, Gershwin and Bernard Shaw, while later Hollywood stars such as Jolson Flynn and Hepburn also favoured The Savoy. The 1960s saw guests including the Brando, Fonda and The Beatles while today the rich and famous continue to patronise this most famous of London landmarks. Pierre Yves Rochon was entrusted with £220m to bring the hotel into the 2st century while ensuring that the golden age of travel lived on at The Savoy - and that's exactly what he has done, with incredible success.
The main entrance to the hotel is set back from The Strand, just next to the Savoy Theatre. Before arriving at the original revolving doors of the hotel, you pass an Art Deco water fountain and, to the left, a flower bed with an immaculate arrangement. There may well also be a hive of activity in front of the hotel as well heeled guests step out of taxi cabs and luxurious cars and have their luggage taken by well turned out porters in morning suits. Upon entering the hotel lobby you will be greeted without fail by a smiling face and no matter how many times you pass through during your visit there will always be someone available to talk to. The lobby itself features many of the original elements found before the renovation such as the Bertram Pegram frieze 'An Idyll of a Golden Age' around the top of the walls, which has been re-coloured in celadon green. Three of the hall's four corners are filled by a seating area, each centered around a coffee table with books, while the fourth corner is home to the concierge desk. The space is loosely split in two down the middle long ways by several grand marble pillars, while the gas fireplace and collection of antiques dotted around give it a more homely feel. Check-in is done, as is becoming more and more common, within the comfort of the guests' room, although there is a large reading room just off the lobby where guests can register if they so wish. Along the corridor to the left of the hall, leading to the American Bar, is the Savoy Museum. Here are displayed fascinating items from the hotel's vast archive which will revolve on a quarterly basis. Amongst the artefacts on display are letters from former illustrious guests, menus from functions of yesteryear and a few personal belongings from previous patrons.
The hotel does have a small fitness and wellness centre including a gym with state-of-the-art machines, an indoor swimming pool and one treatment room offering a range of massages and beauty treatments. Each guest to the gym receives a complimentary towel, water, fruit and headphones.
For those needing access to the internet, there is a business centre which guests are invited to use free of charge and those with a laptop can connect to the hotel's wifi service for £10, although if you join the Farimont President's Club (free) you will not have to pay. Membership also allows free local calls.
As you wander through the hotel, you will come across two distinct styles: Edwardian, which is defined by clean lines and sober colours, and Art Deco, which is a bit jazzier in terms of both shapes (look down at the carpet) and colours. Wandering through these corridors, and elsewhere in the hotel, you can't help but get caught up in the romanticism of it all and notice how much pride and care is taken in the upkeep of the hotel.
The Savoy now boasts 268 guestrooms and suites, including an extra 38 rooms which were added during the renovation. There are five categories of guestroom which vary in several ways: the size (they range in surface area from 30m² to 43m²), style (either Edwardian or Art Deco) and view (most have either a city or courtyard view, save the River View Deluxe which gives on to the Thames). As you'd expect, the rooms are excellently appointed with the highest quality of furniture and with bespoke Savoy furnishings. Every room features an exclusive leather-topped writing desk, a well-stocked minibar and an armchair. Other amenities common to all rooms include a safe, bath robe and slippers, iPod docking station, flatscreen television and air conditioning. The marble bathrooms all feature bath tubs (free-standing in the case of the River View Deluxe) with monsoon shower heads while some have separate walk-in showers. Toiletries are from Miller Harris.
The suites, which range in size from 42m² to 325m² (the Royal Suite, which has a service kitchen), also differ in terms of view and whether they have separate living areas or not. Some have two bedrooms, ideal for families, while others pay tribute to some of the hotel's famous guests of years gone by such as Chaplin and Sinatra. Common to all suites are bathrooms with both tub and shower, flowers in the room, artwork, photos and a small library. Every suite also has a dedicated butler and an unpacking and repacking service on upon arrival and departure. Those suites with a Thames view take in such sights as the Festival Hall, Parliament, the London Eye, Canary Wharf and the Gherkin, as well as seven of the river's bridges.
There are of course a range of extra amenities available on request such as irons and boards, cots, DVD players and everything you need to be able to work in the comfort of your own room such as printers, fax machines and computers.
The renovation saw the enhancement of The Savoy's pre-existing restaurant and bars as well as the addition of two outlets. At the heat of the hotel, under a magnificent glass dome inspired by a guest's drawing chanced upon within the hotel's archives, is the Thames Foyer. At the centre of the room is a winter gazebo beneath which a pianist tinkles the ivories in the afternoon as guests partake in that most famous of Savoy traditions, the afternoon tea. As well as the usual finger sandwiches, scones and pastries, there is a wide selection of teas, wines, champagnes and other beverages to be enjoyed in the most civilised of settings. A continental breakfast can also be taken at the Thames Foyer as can light meals between 11.30am and 2.30pm from 6.30pm until 11pm. Expect sandwiches, salads and more substantial dishes such as pasta, lamb sausages or Scottish beef.
The Art Deco, loosely cruise ship-themed River Restaurant, which was formerly under the control of Escoffier, also serves food throughout the day against the back drop of the Thames. Not only is the restaurant decked out in a leopard skin carpet, but the floor-to-ceiling windows open completely, giving the impression of dining al fresco. In the kitchen, Ryan Murphy, who was trained by Ducasse, Vongerichten and Boulud, serves modern French cuisine with dishes such as slow poached monk fish or pan seared veal sweetbread to begin and baked ratatouille or roasted poulet noir filled with chestnuts for mains.
On 29th November, the Savoy Grill, an iconic London restaurant and favourite of Churchill and his cabinet during the war, opened as part of Gordon Ramsay Holdings at the hands of Stuart Gillies and Andy Cook. They pay homage to the great Escoffier with dishes such as charcoal grilled chateaubriand with pommes soufflés and iced Peach Melba.
On the bar front, there are two options. The first is the legendary American Bar which, in line with tradition, is home to the finest cocktail barmen around. Also with its own grand piano on which American jazz is played every evening, the bar's white-coated waiters serve up both classic and more modern cocktails as well as champagne and all other tipples. In the least touched part of the hotel during the renovation, photos by celebrity photographer Terry O'Neill grace the walls. It is not possible to reserve at the American bar so if you want to be sure of a place, turn up in the evening at around 5pm. Another option for a drink is the all new Beaufort Bar which used to be the hotel's cabaret stage. The Art Deco venue, which has £38,000 of gold leaf on its walls, will host nightly entertainment and music as well as cabaret acts from time to time. With one of London's longest champagne lists, this is set to become one of the capital's hottest night spots.
And finally, the other new addition to the hotel is the Savoy Tea, a bijou store inspired by Burlington Arcade. Selling teas, jams, biscuits and pastries all made on site (you can watch the patissiers at work through the viewing platform), this is also the place to acquire the hotel's bespoke china tea service. Look out also for the gorgeous toile de jouy telling the story of tea in Asia.