The Savoy – London’s most famous hotel

The Savoy Hotel is a luxury hotel located on the Strand in the City of Westminster in central London. Built by impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte with profits from his Gilbert and Sullivan operas, it opened on 6 August 1889. It was the first in the Savoy group of hotels and restaurants owned by Carte’s family for over a century. The Savoy was the first luxury hotel in Britain, introducing electric lights throughout the building, electric lifts, bathrooms in most of the lavishly furnished rooms, constant hot and cold running water, and many other innovations. Carte hired manager César Ritz and French chef Auguste Escoffier, who established an unprecedented standard of quality in hotel service, entertainment and elegant dining, attracting royalty and other wealthy guests and diners. Winston Churchill frequently took his cabinet to lunch at the hotel.

The hotel became Carte’s most successful venture. Its bands, Savoy Orpheans and the Savoy Havana Band, became famous, and other entertainers (who were also often guests) included George Gershwin, Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne andNoël Coward. Famous guests have included Edward VII, Enrico Caruso, Charlie Chaplin, Harry Truman, Joan Crawford,Judy Garland, Babe Ruth, Laurence Olivier, Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, Elizabeth Taylor, Barbra Streisand, Bob Dylan, Bette Midler, The Beatles and numerous others.

The hotel is now managed by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. It has been called “London’s most famous hotel” and remains one of London’s most prestigious and opulent hotels, with 268 rooms and panoramic views of the River Thames acrossSavoy Place and the Thames Embankment. The hotel closed in December 2007 for extensive renovations and reopened in October 2010.

The restaurants

The hotel has two well-known restaurants: the Grill Room (usually known as the Savoy Grill), on the north side of the building, with its entrance off the Strand, and the Savoy Restaurant (sometimes formerly known as the River Restaurant, now recast as Kaspars), on the south side, overlooking the River Thames. The latter has long been famous for its inventive chefs, beginning in 1890 with celebrity chef Auguste Escoffier. Escoffier created many famous dishes at the Savoy. In 1893 he invented the pêche Melba in honour of the Australian singer Nellie Melba, and in 1897, Melba toast. Other Escoffier creations were bombe Néro (a flaming ice), fraises à la Sarah Bernhardt (strawberries with pineapple and Curaçao sorbet), baisers de Vierge (meringue with vanilla cream and crystallised white rose and violet petals) and suprêmes de volailles Jeannette (jellied chicken breasts with foie gras). Another signature dish is the Omelette Arnold Bennett.

Under Ritz and Escoffier, evening dress had to be worn in the restaurant, and Ritz was innovative in hiring popular musicians to play background music during dinner and in printing daily menus. Even today, elegant dining at the Savoy includes formal afternoon tea with choral and other performances at Christmas time. The Savoy has a Sunday brunch, including free-flow champagne, and special events, such as New Year’s Eve dinner. August Laplanche was head chef at the hotel from 1946 to 1965, Silvino Trompetto was maître-chef from 1965 to 1980 and Anton Edelmann was maître chef des cuisines for 21 years, between 1982 and 2003. As part of the 2010 refurbishment, the restaurant has been completely redecorated in the art deco style, with a leopard pattern carpet. The head chef is Ryan Murphy.

Gordon Ramsay has managed the less formal Savoy Grill in recent years, employing his former protégé Marcus Wareing, during which it earned its first Michelin star. The Grill was originally “where people go to eat a modest luncheon or to dine on the way to the theatre without spending too much time or too much money”. It later became “the home of power lunching in London”. Since November 2010, the chef patron has been Stuart Gillies, with head chef Andy Cook.

In 2013, the River Restaurant became Kaspar’s Seafood Bar & Grill, named in honour of the hotel’s mascot Kaspar. Hurwitz’s chrome and resin sculpture, “The 14 Guest”, sits at the entrance to the art deco-styled restaurant. The menu features oysters, cured and smoked fish. The interior design follows the hotel’s 1920s style and the hotel’s black and green livery, and the room has views of the Thames and some of London’s landmarks. The restaurant is open all day, seven days a week. Reviews for the restaurant have improved: “The smoked and cured fish here is to die for, and a whole roast sea bream for two was simply brilliant”.


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