London Lantern

Putting the Spotlight on London

Famous London Hotels - The Savoy

14/01/2004, By Pam Carter

Reader Rating: 2.9 from 14160 votes


The Savoy opened its doors to an eager public in 1889. A member of The Savoy Group which includes The Berkeley, Claridge's, The Connaught and Simpson’s-in-the-Strand in London, as well as The Savoy Theatre, The Savoy was the brainchild of the Gilbert and Sullivan impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte.

The hotel took five years and vast expense to complete and when it opened on 6th August 1889 incorporated unheard of features, including full electric lighting and what for the time was a startling number of baths: 67 in total. Richard D' Oyly Carte had laid the foundations for The Savoy's heritage - British style and tradition coupled with innovation.

New Savoy Grill

Masterful timing resulted in a glittering first season and D'Oyly Carte ensured The Savoy's continued success by employing celebrated Swiss hotelier César Ritz to be its Manager, accompanied by Maître Chef Auguste Escoffier, and Louise Echenard, a master of wine, as Maître d'hotel.

Escoffier created dishes for Sarah Bernhardt, Lily Langtry, Dame Nellie Melba and the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII; Ritz instituted the impeccable service, attention to detail and creativity which came to be the hallmark of the hotel.

The Savoy sparkled with glittering parties. One of the most famous was the Gondola dinner, hosted by Champagne millionaire and Wall Street financier George Kessler, in July 1905, when Venice was recreated in the old forecourt, lit by 400 Venetian lamps. The centrepiece was a silk-lined gondola decorated with 12,000 fresh carnations. There was a baby elephant, a five-foot birthday cake and arias sung by the tenor Caruso, who was paid £450.

Royalty patronised The Savoy in such numbers that the special bell heralding their arrival had to be abandoned, and by 1914 The Savoy Grill had established itself as a rendezvous for leading stars, impresarios and critics.

From the end of the First World War into the Thirties, Maharajahs took up residence with glittering retinues, Pavlova danced, and the Archbishop of Canterbury attended the cabaret. Eccentricities were catered for without hesitation, including opera singer’s Luisa Tetrazzini's crocodile!

In 1923 the two Savoy dance bands, The Savoy Orpheans and The Savoy Havana Band, became the first to broadcast regularly from a hotel. The BBC's 'Dance Music from The Savoy Hotel in London' was broadcast to millions world-wide. In the Ballroom Gershwin gave London its first performance of 'Rhapsody in Blue', and Carroll Gibbons played nightly.

Another devoted Savoyard was Sir Winston Churchill. He visited The Savoy every week when he was in London and was present at the great occasion when Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt was the guest of honour of the Pilgrim Society. The restaurant was closed to the public and a thousand guests attended, including the newly-married Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

Since its opening a century ago, The Savoy has catered for generation after generation, always offering the same high standards of service and comfort, still innovating and providing superb banquets, wedding receptions or simply dinners à deux. The Savoy is constantly improving itself to keep up with the ever-changing demands and expectations of its visitors, particularly in the way of the physical appearance of the hotel and the technology that it has to offer.

Laurent Perrier Bar

In 1993 a roof top Fitness Gallery was added, with a Mondrian-style pool, comfortable loungers and an airy atmosphere making it an oasis of calm in a busy city. The Savoy’s bedrooms display an array of styles, reflecting the various trends that have presented themselves throughout the hotel’s history such as the famous art deco style rooms from the 1920s and ‘30s, and all are discreetly combined with the technology of today

Guests can now connect to the virtual world more easily than ever, either in their bedrooms using their TV screens, which offer 24-hour broadband internet access and a choice of international TV and music channels, or by hiring The Savoy’s TeleSuite facility: the world’s most sophisticated virtual conference room.

The hotel’s lobby has been redesigned to include a glamorous Laurent Perrier Champagne Bar, and improvements have also included the renovation of the hotel’s restaurants, establishing The Savoy as the home of some of London’s top chefs and hottest eateries.

In addition to the changes to Banquette (formally ‘Upstairs’) and The Savoy Grill, 2004 will see the completion of a three million pound refurbishment of the Savoy’s famous Thames Foyer, which will become a beautiful and exciting all day dining venue, and the transformation of the River Restaurant into a fabulous setting for parties and events.

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Re: Famous London Hotels - The Savoy

By Carole Martin 01/02/2004, (Rating: 2.9 from 13102 votes)

Thank you for the wonderful article. I had the pleasure of staying at the Savoy many years ago. It was a gift from my Mom when I visited London for the first time on my own. I was 21. The Savoy is magnificent, the service superb. Yes, you get what you pay for, and I will also cherish my time there.

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