The front hall of the Savoy hotel just oozes elegance and charm with its mahogany panelled walls and marble pillars with gold leaf cornices. The doorman politely takes hold of my suitcase and leads me across the marble black and white chequered floor where my husband and I meet the perfectly groomed receptionist.
We are staying at the five-star hotel for the weekend and intend to go to the Savoy Theatre to see Legally Blonde.
Although the theatre break is a phrase we all use these days; in a way, it was initiated by impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte, who built the Savoy hotel with the proceeds of his productions of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. He felt theatre-goers couldn’t travel back to their homes in the country after a night out, so he built the luxury hotel in 1889. The Edwardian hotel became such a success, a further block was added in 1904 in the flamboyant art deco style.
Now after a £220m refurbishment, which was completed last October, the Savoy has recreated the opulence of Edwardian and art deco styles in the bars, foyers, restaurants and rooms but tweaked with 21st Century improvements and new decor.
The receptionist clicks her computer keyboard with her manicured nails and says: “You have been upgraded to a suite. We have 64 suites and with all of them you get a butler. We have 25 butlers – the most in London.“ Not being royalty or an A-list celebrity I ask myself: “What does one do with a butler?”
My concern is quickly put at ease when I meet our butler, Hechael from Malta, who is dressed in a well-tailored tailcoat. He charmingly tells me he can do and get anything for us – so long as it is legal. He can fax, book flights, clean shoes, pack and unpack, wash clothes and press them, and go shopping for that present I may have forgotten to buy.
He brings us tea on a tray and we sit back in the squashy sofa to soak in the splendour of the room with its Murano glass chandeliers, silk wallcoverings, bookcase with its large collection of hardbacks and silver framed photographs of Alfred Hitchcock, which is one of the many small attentions to detail I come across in the hotel.
In most rooms and bars there are framed pictures of famous people who had stayed in the hotel for more than one month – Charlie Chaplin, Claude Monet, Oscar Wilde, Marlelene Deitrich, Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor all feature.
The adjoining bedroom is just as grand as the living room with a high double bed made exclusively for the Savoy covered in fine Italian linens, but it is the panoramic view, out of the window, along the Thames from Big Ben and the London Eye to the OXO tower and the National Theatre that makes us to ‘ohh’ and ‘ahh’ in awe. It must rate as one of the best views in London.
Our evening begins with dinner at the Savoy Grill, now under the management of Gordon Ramsay Holdings, it was first built in 1904. It was a favourite haunt of Oscar Wilde, Winston Churchill and Marilyn Monroe, as well as HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.
The large spherical art deco chandeliers glint and glisten against the tortoise shell acrylic marble panelling, which is covered in real gold leaf. The curved booths maintain the original 1920’s-styling emanating elegance and intimacy. I feel as if Hercule Poirot or Oscar Wilde will walk into the restaurant at any moment.
The head chef Andy Cook has created a menu that reflects the Escoffier-inspired grill rooms of its heyday – lobster bisque and Chateaubriand are favourites. I choose Hereford snails and scallops, which are both delicious. The lamb, which my husband has, is cooked to perfection. Although the food is rich, it is not overwhelming. The waiters are friendly, attentive and perfectly polite, and serve in a way that makes you feel as if you are the most important table in the room.
With wines costing from £27 up to £165 for a 2005 Morey St Denis ‘Les Loups’, Domaine Lambrays, the sommelier is helpful and knowledgeable when matching one with the food. Maybe the most perfect part of eating at the Savoy Grill before going to see a play is that the meal is planned around the theatre visit.
After our main course, which is served all in good time to get us to the show, we wander across the forecourt to see Legally Blonde – a vibrant musical where you can’t help but feel good after seeing it.
As the other theatre-goers rush to the Underground or their parked cars after the curtain falls, we casually return to the restaurant for our third course – the dessert.
The evening is still young, some guests head off to the American Bar for one of its famous cocktails, but we decide to go to the opulent black and gold leaf Beauford Bar for a glass of Champagne and sit back listening to a live jazz pianist.
The next day, before we leave our cosseted and luxurious stay at the Savoy, we enjoy our breakfast in the light and airy Thames Foyer with its centrepiece gazebo and round glass ceiling.
Here, of course, the Savoy doesn’t have the garish buffet as most hotels provide, but a choice of Continental, English and healthy options from a menu, and a pot of tea – leaf, of course.
We take our leave of our weekend of splendour at the Savoy Hotel through the revolving doors and face the bustle of The Strand.
The Savoy, Strand. Details: 020 7836 4343, www.fairmont.com/savoy Savoy Grill: Details: www.gordonramsay.com