Travel review: The Savoy, London
Well, I felt that I had finally arrived! We were staying at the ‘most famous hotel’ in the country – The Savoy.
But, would it live up to all the expectations? From the minute you arrive at The Savoy you know why it is a landmark in the city of London with the bell boys at the entrance and the limousine with the S8 VOY number plate.
You imagine yourself following in the footsteps of all the many famous visitors walking through the revolving doors into the expansive hallway with its mahogany panelling, art deco style furniture and black and white squared tiling.
Everything about the five-star hotel , run by the Fairmont Group, is quintessentially English. Service is a class above anywhere else I have stayed from the minute you check in, which is in a private area – the Reading Room.
Originally opened in 1889, The Savoy has played host to royalty, world leaders and legends of the stage and screen. Famous visitors include John Wayne, Fred Astaire, Marilyn Monroe and The Beatles – the list is endless. It was also the first hotel in the world to be lit by electricity and to have an electric lift.
This iconic hotel shut for nearly three years for an ambitious hotel restoration which cost in the region of £220 million. It reopened in 2010.
We were staying in a junior suite at The Savoy with a river view. We were told that the Savoy’s river entrance was the main one in the olden days and you could imagine all the guests arriving by boat.
The huge windows of our suite gave us panoramic views across the Thames towards the London Eye, Big Ben and in the opposite direction the Oxo Tower.
Class just oozes from every part of our junior suite with silk wall coverings, a Murano glass chandelier, glamorous curtains, a roll top bath and luxurious shower.
There is then a knock on the door and our own personal butler introduces himself and asks whether we have any requirements and he tells us he’s there to ensure we enjoyed our stay. A text then arrives welcoming us to The Savoy and asking us whether they can assist with anything. After a request for tea bags we were asked whether we would like a snack to go with our tea. This was taking customer service to a completely new level.
The Savoy hotel is in a superb location, just a stone’s throw from Covent Garden, theatres and museums.
Just across the road is the Adelphi Theatre, which is where we were for the afternoon to watch Kinky Boots – a colourful and extraordinary musical.
Songs from the show are by Cyndi Lauper and the musical tells you the story of a struggling shoe factory and ends on the glamorous catwalks of Milan.
After a fun-filled afternoon, it was then on for dinner at Simpson’s on the Strand, which again is full of British tradition with oak panelling, chandeliers, ornate plasterwork and booths.
The restaurant, which is part of the Savoy empire, and home to chess in the 19th Century closed for a refurbishment early last year and reopened with a more modern twist on its traditional menu.
It still serves roast meat from silver-domed trollies and carves the food at the table, but also running alongside that are signature dishes.
The meal was delicious, starting with scallops, then duck and lamb and finally in keeping with the traditional menu Baked Alaska and rice pudding for the dessert.
And the atmosphere was not stuffy as I was expecting, but you could imagine the likes of Charles Dickens and Winston Churchill being regulars at the restaurant.
It was then off for drinks at the American Bar at The Savoy, which is the longest surviving cocktail bars of its kind. Harry Craddock created Savoy Cocktail Book, which is still regarded today as the bartender’s bible.
Last year, the American Bar showed it is still pretty special as it won the title of World’s Best Bar at the World’s 50 Best Bars awards.
We dipped into the ‘Coast to Coast’ menu, which is a journey across Britain from south to north. I went for Gilbert Rumbold named after an Art Deco illustrator and my friend went for Oast House Fizz, named after the Kent landscape.
Gilbert Rumbold was Grey Goose vodka, Italicus Rosolio, lime juice, cucumber juice, eucalyptus and peppermint syrup and Champagne.
Tracy’s was Bombay Sapphire gin, Cocchi Rosa aperitif wine, hop and herb tincture, pineapple syrup, lemon juice, soda water and egg white.
Both were refreshing and the bartender explained how the cocktails evolved.
We then wandered back to our room to find we had the turndown service with Savoy slippers by our beds.
After a sleep fit for a Queen, we went for breakfast at the Thames Foyer, which is at the heart of the hotel.
Natural light floods into the room through a glass dome and just below is a gazebo grand piano. Eight paintings hang around the foyer by British Pop Artist McAlpine Miller. Each painting features a star of the stage or screen that enjoyed staying at The Savoy – Katherine Hepburn, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Alfred Hitchcock, Marlene Dietrich, Charlie Chaplain, Ava Gardner and Maria Callas.
There is so much attention to detail, including crockery designed by Wedgwood exclusively for The Savoy. We both went for The Savoy breakfast, which could not be faulted and you felt at ease in this classy location.
We could also have had breakfast in Kaspar’s which has a dramatic art deco style and dazzling glass designs. In the evening it is a seafood and oyster bar.
Pottering around the hotel there are other pictures of famous visitors such as Duran Duran and Kristen Scott Thomas.
There’s also shops at The Savoy with beautifully packaged Savoy teas, bespoke accessories plus handmade jams, biscuits and a fresh patisserie. There’s also Boodles with exquisite crafted jewellery and the latest addition is Melba, a take-away gourmet counter.
Elegant and decadent, the hotel also has a spa and pool. Just everything about The Savoy is luxurious with special little touches and so British. Perfect for a couple of British ladies.
- Rates are from £484 for B&B. For details see www.fairmont.com/savoy