IT was with much trepidation that we turned off the Strand into the short lane towards the Savoy’s entrance, the only road in Britain where one drives on the right. It all looked familiar: the landmark Art Deco sign, the shiny Rolls-Royces, the uniformed staff. But as soon as we climbed out of our car, to be greeted by a courteous and seamless virtual check-in, before being whisked through spotless corridors to our suite, we realised that the hotel’s revamp hasn’t been in vain. We were experiencing the best of the old Savoy experience, modernised and upgraded for the twenty-first century, a no-expense spared rebirth of one of the world’s greatest hotels.
As many will know from the TV documentary, the Savoy recently reopened after a three year, £220m renovation. Old favourites like the American bar and the Thames Foyer are back. Yet the atmosphere and character of the hotel have drastically improved: gone are the slightly tatty surroundings and the C-listers. It is a near-miraculous resurrection.
The hotel’s beautifully-appointed 268 rooms and suites are divided into Art Deco corridors and English Edwardian. Most of the suites enjoy delightful river views – the one we stayed in, a one-bedroom Deluxe River Suite, was truly outstanding. On top of all the usual modern luxuries, it boasts an unrivalled river view stretching from Canary Wharf to Vauxhall. It is this unique location which makes the Savoy so special; so go for a river view if you possibly can. If you are truly wealthy, the fifth floor is dedicated to a brand new Royal Suite complete with facilities for your own chef and dining room. The nine new personality suites, named after former regulars such as Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich and Frank Sinatra, are another, slightly more accessible way to experience the Savoy.
The only drawbacks were some traffic noise from the Victoria Embankment – the windows could have been thicker; and while the suites are wonderfully spacious, the rooms we visited were a tad small. However, the Savoy’s decision to reintroduce butlers to all the suites – they had been phased out in the miserable, declinist 1970s – is a masterstroke. Our own wonderful butler helped make our stay truly magical.
Another innovation is the black and gold Art Deco Beaufort Bar, replacing the hotel’s original cabaret stage near the Thames Foyer. The River Restaurant didn’t disappoint with its relaxing Art Deco setting –by summer time, you will be scrambling for a table with a river view. Winston Churchill’s favourite restaurant, the Savoy Grill, is now under the peerless management of Gordon Ramsay. The pool and gym have also been stylishly renovated, as have the ballroom and meeting rooms – ideal for weddings and corporate events. The Savoy is back – and with it, a very special, unforgettable London experience.
Double rooms from £295 per night, suites from £895 and the Royal Suite at £10,000. Reservations 020 7836 4343; www.fairmont.com/savoy.