Arrive at The Savoy and you look up to the 1929-vintage metal canopy above the main entrance. Designed by Sir Howard Robertson, it has the letters SAVOY in ‘Savoy Green’, a protected pantone colour, along with a life-size gold statue of Peter, Earl of Savoy. Time for a bit of history of what is now a 263-room luxury hotel, says the gal. Peter, who was also Earl of Richmond, built a palace on this site in 1245, much later the freehold was bought by Richard D’Oyly Carte, who was to be forever known for staging Gilbert & Sullivan operas – whose profits were used to build the hotel, which opened 1889 under GM César Ritz, with Auguste Escoffier as chef. Later highlights include flooding of the then-entrance’s courtyard for gondolas to float around at a birthday party, and the apparent 1923 murder of a multi-millionaire Egyptian by his wife Marguerite Alibert, allegedly a long-time lover of the Prince of Wales.
They met at lunch at Hôtel de Crillon in Paris and after her he went on to marry Wallis Simpson. Arrive today and you are somehow spirited up to your room, generally without even going into an elegant sitting room, with burning fire and chic hostesses in stunning suits inviting you to sit at a big table desk while necessities are done. As I arrived at suite 622, senior butler Sean miraculously appeared at the door, escorted me straight to my sitting room window to show me the slightly misty view of the Houses of Parliament.
Monet painted this very scene, from two doors along, he said (618 is the Monet suite, though he did not have the London Eye in his perspective). GM Kiaran MacDonald ran this hotel for a full year before it was closed for three years for a spend said to be over £220 million.
Pierre-Yves Rochon worked his magic here, just as I had found he had done at the Hermitage Hotel, Monte-Carlo, a few days earlier. Here I love the soft pink, or the soft cream-green, corridors. Nothing grates. My suite was soft cream, green and gold, with a pair of eight-light gold Murano glass chandeliers. I love the style of solid note cards, with Savoy Green lettering, rather than an icky notepad, and it is so thoughtful to make the minibar free, though I presume you pay for the Champagne selection. It is up to date, with hints of yore. Look at the telephone in the corridor.
Public areas are sensational, especially at the end of the year with extra decoration and frills. From Kaspar, the great-fun seafood brasserie that seems to be packed out, head up three steps to the Winter Garden, where a central gazebo holds a good pianist. Turn to your right and you have the theatre of the Beaufort Bar, an alluring dark navy cavern, with a DJ in residence. This is where four cocktails are being introduced to celebrate The Savoy’s 125th birthday in 2014 – they are named for past guests, Coco Chanel, Charlie Chaplin, Ernest Hemingway and Frank Sinatra. (EH has a bar named after him at de Crillon, which is making this particular story somewhat incestuous, and EH allegedly had the first bloody Mary made for him there, in Paris, named for his wife.)
From the Winter Garden head on up a few more steps, with a Savoy Tea boutique on your left – they have a snazzy display of macaroons and there is a working chocolatier too. Up in the main lobby is a cosy sitting area, with another fire and family-style portraits. You really feel you could put your feet up on one of the sofas but you would not. This is The Savoy, with style. The Christmas tree here has a couple of animal sculptures – I look for Kaspar, but cannot find him here. For the record, back in Kaspar’s there is a two-part steel sculpture, by Jonty Hurwitz 2013. Take a vertical block. Set around it what looks like a crescent of steel, but the inside of this crescent is shaped so that it reflects on to the vertical block as a cat shape (well done, Mr H, absolutely brilliant but impossible to photograph).
I could have gone on to the American Bar, to the east of the main lobby, to try a real martini, personally mixed by bartender Eric Lorincz, but it was time to inspect the night sky from the confines of my temporary home. And then I lay down on the Savoir bed and the rest is history. Next thing I knew it was tomorrow, and time to move on from this unique luxury hotel.