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Savoy Hotel

The Savoy, A Fairmont Hotel
Savoy Hotel Front Entrance
Hotel chain Fairmont Hotels and Resorts
General information
Address Strand, London, United Kingdom, WC2R 0EU
Opening August 6, 1889
Owner Al-Waleed bin Talal
Design and construction
Architect Thomas Edward Collcutt
Other information
Number of rooms 268 (including suites)
Number of restaurants 7

The Savoy Hotel is a luxury hotel located in the Strand in the City of Westminster in central London, England. Built by the impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte with profits from his Gilbert and Sullivan opera productions, 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 César Ritz as manager and Auguste Escoffier as chef de cuisine; they established an unprecedented standard of quality in hotel service, entertainment and elegant dining, attracting royalty and other rich and powerful guests and diners.

The hotel became Carte's most successful venture. Its bands, Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne and Noël Coward. Other 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 many others. Winston Churchill often took his cabinet to lunch at the hotel.[1]

The hotel is now managed by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. It has been called "London's most famous hotel".[2] It has 268 rooms and panoramic views of the River Thames across Savoy Place and the Thames Embankment. The hotel is a Grade II listed building.[3]


  • History 1
    • Site 1.1
    • Early years 1.2
    • 1913 to WWII 1.3
    • 1946–2007 1.4
    • 2010 refurbishment to present 1.5
  • Famous guests 2
  • The arts 3
    • Music and fine art 3.1
    • In films and novels 3.2
  • Restaurants and bars 4
    • Restaurants 4.1
    • Bars 4.2
    • The Savoy Cocktail Book 4.3
  • Savoy Court 5
  • See also 6
  • Notes 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9



The House of Savoy was the ruling family of Savoy, descended from Humbert I, Count of Sabaudia (or "Maurienne"), who became count in 1032. The name Sabaudia evolved into "Savoy" (or "Savoie"). Count Peter (or Piers or Piero) of Savoy (d. 1268) was the maternal uncle of Eleanor of Provence, queen-consort of Henry III of England, and came with her to London.

The Savoy Palace

King Henry III made Peter Earl of Richmond and, in 1246, gave him the land between the Strand and the River Thames, where Peter built the Savoy Palace in 1263. Peter gifted the palace and the manor of the Savoy to the Congregation of Canons of the Great Saint Bernard, and the palace became the "Great Hospital of St Bernard de Monte Jovis in Savoy." The manor was subsequently purchased by Queen Eleanor, who gave the site to her second son, Edmund, Earl of Lancaster.[4] Edmund's great-granddaughter, Blanche, inherited the site. Her husband, John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, built a magnificent palace that was burned down by Wat Tyler's followers in the Peasants' Revolt of 1381.[5] King Richard II was still a child, and his uncle John of Gaunt was the power behind the throne, and so a main target of the rebels.

In about 1505, Henry VII planned a great hospital for "pouer, nedie people", leaving money and instructions for it in his will. The hospital was built in the palace ruins and licensed in 1512. Drawings show that it was a magnificent building, with a dormitory, dining hall and three chapels. Henry VII's hospital lasted for two centuries, but suffered from poor management. The sixteenth-century historian Stow noted that the hospital was being misused by "loiterers, vagabonds and strumpets." In 1702, the hospital was dissolved, and the hospital buildings were used for other purposes. Part of the old palace was used as a military prison in the eighteenth century. In the nineteenth century, the old hospital buildings were demolished, and new buildings were erected.[6]

Richard D'Oyly Carte

In 1864, a fire burned everything except the stone walls and the Savoy Chapel, and the property sat empty until the impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte bought it in 1880, to build the Savoy Theatre specifically for the production of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, of which he was the producer.[7]

Early years

Having seen the opulence of American hotels during his many visits to the United States, Carte decided to build the first luxury hotel in Britain, to attract a foreign clientele as well as British visitors to London.[5] Opened in 1889, the hotel was designed by architect Augustus Harris and Fanny Ronalds. His friend, the composer Sir Arthur Sullivan, was a shareholder and sat on the Board of Directors.[8]

The hotel was built on a plot of land, next to the Savoy Theatre, that Carte originally purchased to house an electrical generator for the theatre (built in 1881), which was the first public building in the world to be lit entirely by electricity. The construction of the hotel took five years and was financed by the profits from the Gilbert and Sullivan partnership, particularly from The Mikado.[9] It was the first hotel lit by electric lights and the first with electric lifts.[10] Other innovations included private, marble, en-suite bathrooms in the majority of its 268 rooms; constant hot and cold running water in each room; glazed brickwork designed to prevent London's smoke-laden air from spoiling the external walls; and its own artesian well.[11]

Gondola party, 1905

In 1890, Carte hired the hotel's first famous manager, Prince of Wales. Aristocratic women, hitherto unaccustomed to dining in public, were now "seen in full regalia in the Savoy dining and supper rooms".[12] The hotel became such a financial success that Richard D'Oyly Carte bought other luxury hotels.[13]

At the same time, Ritz continued to manage his own hotels and businesses in Europe. Nellie Melba, among others, noted that Ritz was less focused on the Savoy.[14] In 1897, Ritz and his partners were dismissed from the Savoy. Ritz and Echenard were implicated in the disappearance of over £3,400 (£340,000 as of 2016),[15] of wine and spirits, and Escoffier had been receiving gifts from the Savoy's suppliers.[16] The Savoy group purchased

  • Fairmont website
  • Pathé footage of film stars' cocktail party in 1947
  • article with photosDaily Mail
  • Purr 'n' Fur: Kaspar, of the Savoy

External links

  • Contarini, Paulo. The Savoy Was My Oyster
  • Dorelli, Peter; Craddock, Harry (1999). The Savoy Cocktail Book. ISBN 1-86205-296-4
  • Jackson, Stanley (1964) The Savoy: the Romance of a Great Hotel. New York: LCCN 63-8604
  • Jackson, Stanley (1989). The Savoy: A Century of Taste Frederick Muller
  • MacKenzie, Compton (1953). The Savoy of London. London: George Harrap & Co.
  • Nicol, Jean (1952) Meet me at the Savoy. London: Museum Press


  1. ^ a b c d The Times, obituary of Hugh Wontner, 27 November 1992
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  6. ^ Somerville (1960), p. 89
  7. ^ a b c "Savoy Hotel History", Savoy Hotel, Fairmont Raffles Hotels International, accessed 5 October 2015
  8. ^ Ainger, p. 281
  9. ^ "The Savoy", InsideGuide to London, accessed 5 October 2015
  10. ^ "The Savoy London", Historic Hotels Worldwide, accessed 7 October 2015
  11. ^ Richardson, Tim. "Out of Time", The Telegraph, 26 January 2002, accessed 7 October 2015
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  13. ^ "Richard D'Oyly Carte and the Dynasty He Founded", Gilbert and Sullivan Archive, Boise State University, 30 August 2011, accessed 7 October 2015; see also The Times, 21 July 1896, p. 4; and 20 December 1919, p. 18
  14. ^ Augustin, Andreas. "César Ritz: The Savoy – 1889–1900", The Most Famous Hotels in the World, accessed 4 September 2013
  15. ^ a b UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Gregory Clark (2015), "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)" MeasuringWorth.
  16. ^ Brigid, Allen. "Ritz, César Jean (1850–1918)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, September 2004; online edition, May 2006, accessed 13 October 2015
  17. ^ Daily Mirror, 10 June 1904, p. 16
  18. ^ Jaine, Tom. "Smith, Sir George Reeves- (1863–1941)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 18 Sept 2009
  19. ^ When Claridge's needed a new chef in 1904, Carte secured the services of François Bonnaure, formerly chef at the Élysée Palace in Paris. The press speculated on how much Carte must have paid to persuade Bonnaure to join him, and compared the younger Carte's audacity with his father's coup in securing Paris's most famous maître d'hôtel, M. Joseph, a few years earlier. Daily Mirror, 10 June 1904, p. 16.
  20. ^ Jackson (1998), pp. 34 and 37
  21. ^ a b c d Mather, Victoria. "The Savoy hotel, London, reopens after £220 million restoration". The Telegraph, 8 October 2010
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "The Savoy – One Hundred Firsts", Fairmont Raffles Hotels International, accessed 8 October 2015
  23. ^ Plimmer, Martin. [url= "Pillow Talk: How to Buy a Bed"], The Telegraph, 26 February 2010, accessed 6 May 2014
  24. ^ Jones, Ronald F. Inside the Best Hotels: Grand Hotelier (1997), p. 248, Jones & Jones ISBN 0953273709
  25. ^ Finn, Holly. "FT Weekend: Dream baby", The Financial Times, 4 August 2002
  26. ^ Jones, Carwyn. "Savoir Beds expands to larger works in Treforest", BBC News, 28 June 2012, accessed 6 May 2014
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  28. ^ a b c d "François Latry",, 3 May 2011, accessed 8 October 2015
  29. ^ Rennell, Tony. "The cover-up that saved the Prince of Wales' murderess lover from the gallows", Daily Mail, 15 March 2013, accessed 8 October 2015
  30. ^ Thomson, Basil. The Story of Scotland Yard, pp. 293–97, Kessinger Publishing, 2005 ISBN 1-4191-5451-6
  31. ^ The Times 27 March 1931, p. 22; and 22 April 1932, p. 20
  32. ^ a b Saxon, Wolfgang. "Hugh Walter Kingwell Wontner, Head of Savoy Hotels, Dies at 84", The New York Times, 28 November 1992, accessed 8 October 2015
  33. ^ a b c Baker, Anne Pimlott. "Wontner, Sir Hugh Walter Kingwell (1908–1992)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 16 September 2009
  34. ^ About £10 in 2009 terms: see "Five Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a UK Pound Amount, 1830 to Present"
  35. ^ The Times, 8 November 1947, p. 4
  36. ^ a b Webster, Jenny "Crowning Moment", The Caterer, 29 May 2002, accessed 13 October 2015
  37. ^ The Times obituary notice for Bridget D'Oyly Carte, 3 May 1985, p. 11
  38. ^ "Memorial: D'Oyly Carte armillary sphere", London Remembers, accessed 8 October 2015
  39. ^ £12.60 in decimal terms; £750 in terms of 2008 earnings: see Measuring Worth
  40. ^ "Savoy Coronation Ball", The Times, 25 November 1952, p. 10
  41. ^ Sweeting, Adam. "Man of steel at the Savoy: Obituary, Hugh Wontner", The Guardian, 3 December 1992, p. A14; Giles Shepard The Times obituary, 26 April 2006; and "Giles Shepard", The Scotsman, 28 April 2006, accessed 13 October 2015
  42. ^ Stamford, Janie. "A Minute on the Clock – Ramón Pajares", Caterer and Hotel Keeper, 10 May 2011, accessed 13 October 2015
  43. ^ Kane, Frank. "JET-setting pays dividends in search for information", The National, Abu Dhabi Media Company, 13 October 2015
  44. ^ Walsh, Dominic. "Savoy Group changes name after deal", The Times, 25 January 2005, accessed 13 October 2015
  45. ^ a b Sylt, Christian. "I'll never sell the Savoy, says billionaire Prince Alwaleed", The Times, January 25, 2005, accessed 15 October 2015
  46. ^ a b Sawer, Patrick. "Memorabilia up for sale at Savoy auction", The Telegraph, 15 December 2007, accessed 13 October 2015
  47. ^ Curtis, Nick and Jonathan Prynn. "Major faults delay Savoy’s £100m refit by over a year", London Evening Standard, 5 February 2010
  48. ^ a b Higgins, Kat. "Countdown Begins To The Savoy's Reopening". Sky News Online, 15 July 2010, accessed 9 August 2010
  49. ^ a b Ward, Michelle. "Savoy reopens, claiming title of London’s greenest five-star hotel". GreenWise, The Sixty Mile Publishing Company, 12 October 2010
  50. ^ Lovell, Jeremy. "London's Posh Savoy Hotel Reopens After a Pricey 'Green' Makeover". The New York Times, 18 November 2010
  51. ^ "The Savoy Hotel: Bars, Restaurants, Afternoon Tea and the Ballroom",, 19 August 2010, accessed 13 September 2010
  52. ^ a b Kent, Pam. "Savoy, London Landmark of Luxury, Reopens". The New York Times, 10 October 2010
  53. ^ a b c Shalam, Sally. "The Savoy, The Strand, London",, 6 May 2011, accessed 10 January 2012
  54. ^ Dombek, Carl. "London's Savoy Hotel: Stompin' to Resume in 2010", travelpro, 6 November 2009
  55. ^ a b "Reopening date set for The Savoy". The Independent, 18 June 2010, accessed 9 August 2010
  56. ^ Block, Elinor. "Behind the scenes at the brand-new Savoy hotel". Conde Nast Traveller, 10 September 2010
  57. ^ a b Curtis, Nick and Jonathan Prynn. "Will The Savoy ever regain its long lost glamour?", London Evening Standard, 5 February 2010, accessed 13 October 2015
  58. ^ "The Savoy London Hotel: Meetings & Banquets". The Luxury Hotels & Resorts of the World website, accessed 8 July 2011
  59. ^ "The Savoy", The Handbook, accessed 7 March 2013
  60. ^ a b c Curtis, Nick. "The host of London: the Savoy Hotel", London Evening Standard, 13 August 2014
  61. ^ Lewin, Amy. "Savoy may close as £220m refit fails to drum up trade", The Independent, 13 October 2013
  62. ^ Tucker p. 256"
  63. ^ Atwal, Heidi. "How Monet Helped The Savoy Get Its Groove Back",, 16 December 2011
  64. ^ a b "Turner, Whistler, Monet: Thames Views". The Tate Museum, London, 2005, accessed 3 December 2010
  65. ^ Evans, Peter. "Savoy Sale", New York Social Diary, 2007, accessed 8 February 2010; Hopkirk, Elizabeth. "First glimpse of the Savoy's restoration to Art Deco glory", London Evening Standard, 22 May 2008, accessed 8 February 2010; "Savoy Hotel Auction", View London, 2007, accessed 8 February 2010; and Savoy Hotel, City of Hotels, accessed 8 February 2010
  66. ^ Hollingshead, Iain. "The Savoy reaches out for the stars". The Telegraph, 13 October 2010
  67. ^ a b O'Ceallaigh, John and Lisa Grainger. "Luxury Hotels with Artists in Residence", The Telegraph, 2 April 2013
  68. ^ a b Singh, Anita. "Little-known artist chosen as artist-in-residence at The Savoy, The Telegraph, 19 March 2012
  69. ^ a b c d Faith, Sara. "London's Savoy continues its Artist in Residence Tradition",, 30 September 2013
  70. ^ Grainger, Lisa. "London's Savoy Hotel ready for reopening". The Telegraph, 8 September 2010
  71. ^ The Times 29 March 1924, p. 20
  72. ^
  73. ^ "Whistling in the Dark"Alex Mendham & His Orchestra: , Artist Direct, accessed September 9, 2014
  74. ^ The Times 27 March 1929, p. 23
  75. ^ a b c d Jones, Alice. "A homage to Kaspar the friendly cat checks in at the Savoy's new eatery", The Independent, 2 May 2013, accessed 1 July 2014; "Kaspar’s – The Savoy’s new seafood bar opens with a new Jonty Hurwitz sculpture", The Flaneur, 1 May 2013, accessed 1 July 2014
  76. ^ a b c d e f Watts, Peter. "Perfect 10: Hotline magazine, Virgin Rail, October 2010, pp. 32–33
  77. ^ "Exclusive! Director Jonas Akerlund Talks About Shooting Duran Duran’s New Supermodel-Packed 'Girl Panic!'", Golden Age of Music Video, 9 December 2011, accessed 25 November 2012
  78. ^ The Times, 13 February 1935, p. 14; and 16 February 1935, p. 17
  79. ^ Escoffier, Auguste. A Guide to Modern Cookery, p. 405 (English translation of Le Guide Culinaire, by H. L. Cracknell and R. J. Kaufmann) ISBN 0-471-29016-5
  80. ^ Turner, Sarah. "Savoy Hotel review: Taste the history at Marilyn's old London haunt". Daily Mail, 2 January 2011
  81. ^ The Times, 18 November 1904, p. 7
  82. ^ "Savoy Hotel Dining – Simpson's-in-the-Strand", Savoy Hotel, Fairmont Raffles Hotels International, accessed 8 October 2015
  83. ^ Kaspar's, Kaspar's Seafood Bar & Grill, accessed 8 October 2015
  84. ^ a b c d "Savoy: American Bar", Savoy Hotel, Raffles Hotels International, accessed 10 January 2015
  85. ^ a b c d e f g h i "The American Bar", Savoy Hotel, Raffles Hotels International, accessed 10 January 2015
  86. ^ Details of 105 cocktails with absinthe from The Savoy Cocktail Book.
  87. ^ Ellestad, Erik. "Usage Guide for Savoy Stomp", Savoy Stomp, accessed October 13, 2015


See also

Savoy Court is the only named street in the United Kingdom where vehicles are required to drive on the right.[22] This is said to date from the days of the hackney carriage when a cab driver would reach his arm out of the driver's door window to open the passenger's door (which opened backwards and had the handle at the front), without having to get out of the cab himself. Additionally, the hotel entrance's small roundabout meant that vehicles needed a turning circle of 25 feet (7.6 m) to navigate it. This is still the legally required turning circle for all London cabs.[22]

Traffic Driving on the Right in Savoy Court

Savoy Court

In 1930, the Savoy Hotel first published its cocktail book, The Savoy Cocktail Book, with 750 recipes compiled by Harry Craddock of the American Bar and Art Deco "decorations" by Gilbert Rumbold. The book has remained in print since then and was subsequently republished in 1952, 1965, 1985, 1996, and expanded in 1999 with some new text and a number of new cocktails added by Peter Dorelli.[86][87]

The Savoy Cocktail Book

The Beaufort Bar is a new bar created in the 2010 renovation, specialising in champagne as well as cocktails. Decorated in an Art Deco design of jet-black and gold, it offers a nightly cabaret.[49]

The American Bar is decorated in a warm Art Deco design, with cream and ochre walls, and electric blue and gold chairs. The walls feature the photos of famous guests. A pianist in the bar plays jazz every day on a baby grand piano in the centre of the room with a live pianist seven days a week, playing classic American Jazz.[5][76]

  • Frank Wells, 1893 to 1902.[85]
  • Ada "Coley" Coleman, 1903 to 1924. She concocted the Hanky-Panky cocktail for Sir Charles Hawtrey.[84]
  • Harry Craddock, 1925 to 1939. The American barman fled 1920s Prohibition in the U.S. to head the Savoy's bars; author of The Savoy Cocktail Book and inventor of such cocktails as the "White Lady."[76][84]
  • Eddie Clark, 1939 to 1942. During the Second World War, he created a cocktail for each branch of the armed services: "Eight Bells" for the Navy, "New Contemptible" for the Army, and "Wings" for the R.A.F.[85]
  • Reginald "Johnnie" Johnson, 1942 to 1954. He invented "Wedding Bells" for the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip.[85]
  • Joe Gilmore, 1954 to 1975. Among his many creations was the "Moonwalk" to honour Neil Armstrong's achievement.[22] His hangover cure was two aspirins and a "Corpse Reviver."[85]
  • Harry "Vic" Viccars, 1975 to 1981. His cocktails included "Speedbird," one of three drinks created for the first commercial flight of the Concorde in 1976.[85]
  • Victor Gower, 1981 to 1985.[85]
  • Peter Dorelli, 1985 to 2003. His 1889er celebrated the hotel's centenary in 1989, and together with Salim Khoury, he created the "Millennium" to celebrate the end of the 20th century.[85]
  • Salim Khoury, 2003 to 2010. In 1992, he won the UK Barman of the Year competition by inventing the "Blushing Monarch," inspired by Princess Diana.[85]
  • Erik Lorincz, 2010 to present (see also El Malecon cocktail)[76][84]

The American Bar at the Savoy Hotel was one of the earliest establishments to introduce American-style cocktails to Europe.[76] The term American Bar was used in London to designate the sale of American cocktails from the late 19th century.[84][85] The Head Barmen, in chronological order, have been as follows:


In 2013, the River Restaurant became Kaspar's Seafood Bar & Grill.[75] The menu features oysters, cured and smoked fish. The interior design follows the hotel's 1920s style and its black and green livery, and the room offers views of the Thames and some of London's landmarks. The restaurant is open all day, seven days a week.[83] Reviews for the restaurant have improved since the re-opening: "The smoked and cured fish here is to die for, and a whole roast sea bream for two was simply brilliant."[60]

Since Gordon Ramsay employed his former protégé Marcus Wareing in the less formal Savoy Grill, the restaurant 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."[81] Since November 2010, the chef patron has been Stuart Gillies, with head chef Andy Cook.[57] The Thames Foyer serves breakfast, morning coffee, light lunch and supper, as well as afternoon tea, accompanied by the hotel's resident pianist. Also part of the hotel buildings is Simpson's-in-the-Strand, featuring classic British style cuisine. Its specialties are aged Scottish beef on the bone, potted shrimps, roast saddle of lamb and steak and kidney pie.[82]

New Year's Eve dinner at the Savoy, 1907

Under Ritz and Escoffier, evening dress was required in the restaurant, and Ritz was innovative in hiring popular musicians to play background music during dinner and in printing daily menus.[22] Even today, elegant dining at the Savoy includes formal afternoon tea with choral and other performances at Christmastime. The Savoy has a Sunday brunch, which includes free-flow champagne, and special events, such as New Year's Eve dinner.[75][76] August Laplanche was head chef at the hotel from 1946 to 1965,[36] Silvino Trompetto was maître-chef from 1965 to 1980,[22] and Anton Edelmann was maître chef des cuisines for 21 years, from 1982 to 2003. As part of the 2010 refurbishment, the restaurant was completely redecorated in the Art Deco style, with a leopard print carpet.[21]

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 (formerly known as the River Restaurant, now named Kaspars), on the south side, overlooking the River Thames. The latter has long been famous for its inventive chefs, beginning in 1890, with the 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).[78][79] Another signature dish is the Omelette Arnold Bennett.[80]

Afternoon tea at the Savoy Hotel.


Restaurants and bars

Arnold Bennett wrote the novel Imperial Palace in 1930, based on his research at the hotel. The novel fictionalises the hotel's operations.[22] Michael Morpurgo wrote a children's book fictionalising the hotel's mascot, Kaspar, as an adventurer: Kaspar: Prince of Cats (2008), which was released in the US as Kaspar: The Titanic Cat" (2012).

The hotel has often been used as a film location. For example, the romantic finale to the Notting Hill (1999) is set in the hotel's Lancaster Room, where Anna (Julia Roberts) and William (Hugh Grant) declare their mutual love. In 1921, the hotel was used in the film Kipps, based on the novel by H. G. Wells. It also featured in The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981) and Entrapment (1999), among others. In 2011, the hotel was used as the setting for Duran Duran's music video for their song "Girl Panic!" from their album All You Need Is Now.[77]

In films and novels

In 2013 South African artist Jonty Hurwitz created a chrome and resin anamorphic sculpture of Kaspar, the hotel's cat mascot, titled "The 14th Guest", found at the entrance to the hotel's newest restaurant, Kaspar's Seafood Bar & Grill.[69][75] Kaspar's story begins with the legend of an 1898 dinner at the Savoy given for 14 guests by Woolf Joel, a South African diamond tycoon. One of the diners was unable to attend, leaving the number of guests an unlucky 13, and another diner predicted that whoever first left the table would soon die. The first to leave was Joel, who was shot dead a few weeks later in Johannesburg. After this, the hotel offered to seat a member of its staff at tables of 13 to ward off bad luck. Finally, in 1926, the designer Basil Ionides sculpted a 3-foot high art-deco black cat called Kaspar, which is used as the 14th guest.[75] Kaspar is given a full place setting, a napkin is tied around his neck, and he is served each course.[76] Winston Churchill liked Ionides's Kaspar so much that he insisted that the sculpture join his parties of any size when dining at the Savoy.[69]

In 2012, Stuart McAlpine Miller, as artist-in-residence, painted eight works inspired by celebrity guests of the hotel.[68] The same year, another British artist, David Downes, created a large-scale drawing, delighting guests by working in the lobby of the Savoy.[67] Downes based his work on a drawing of the Thames in the Savoy's collection. The piece, displayed in the hotel's front hall, depicts the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant.[69]

The Savoy Hotel has long been associated with the arts. Monet served as the hotel's first artist-in-residence in 1901,[64] and that program continues.[67][68][69] George Gershwin gave the British premiere of Rhapsody in Blue at the hotel in 1925, simultaneously broadcast by the BBC.[70] The hotel's dance bands of the inter-war years, the Savoy Orpheans and the Savoy Havana Band, were described as "probably the best-known bands in Europe" and broadcast regularly from the hotel.[71] In 2013, the hotel reintroduced its dinner dances, with resident dance band Alex Mendham & His Orchestra playing music from the 1920s and '30s.[72] Erlewine, Stephen Thomas.[73] Rupert D'Oyly Carte engaged Richard Collet to run the cabaret at the Savoy, which opened in April 1929.[74] Lena Horne and others made their British debuts there.[22] Frank Sinatra played the piano and sang there.[46]

Music and fine art

The arts

Whoopi Goldberg and Stephen Fry are just a few of the celebrities who stayed there in recent decades.[65] Richard Harris lived at the hotel for the last several years of his life. While being carried out on a stretcher before he died, he joked, "It was the food."[66]

Numerous famous guests have stayed at the hotel. Nellie Melba, Charlie Chaplin, Al Jolson, Errol Flynn, Fred Astaire, Marlene Dietrich, Lionel Barrymore, Harry Truman, Audrey Hepburn, Judy Garland, Josephine Baker, Cary Grant, Babe Ruth, Ivor Novello and Noël Coward.[7][55] The hotel kept records of its guests' preferences, so that it could provide for them in advance. For Coward, the staff made history by taking the first photographs of a hotel guest's toilet articles so that they could lay them out in his bathroom exactly as he liked them. They made sure to provide a fireproof eiderdown quilt to Barrymore, as he always smoked while reading in bed.[22]

The future king Edward VII was an early guest.

Famous guests

The critic for The Daily Telegraph wrote: "The Savoy is still The Savoy, only better. ... [The rooms] are calm ... you are the personality, not the room. ... [The hotel is] a saviour of The Strand I suspect now. The lobby is bigger and grander, and JUST THE SAME."[21] A review in The Guardian noted that reception "now is sheer sleight of hand. ... In under five minutes I have been expertly drawn into the world of Savoy. [Furniture and furnishings] conspire to enhance my stay".[53] While the same reviewer found the spa disappointing, she gave highest marks to the hotel's personalised service, the Savoy Tea, afternoon tea in the Thames Foyer, and the Beaufort bar, concluding: "The Savoy is back where it belongs – right on top."[53] The Savoy Grill, however, lost its Michelin star and reopened to mixed reviews. Three years after the reopening, the owners announced that business had been disappointing, and the hotel was in jeopardy of closing.[61] The hotel celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2014, at which time it received a glowing review from the London Evening Standard.[60]

The new design features a Thames Foyer with a winter garden gazebo under a stained-glass cupola with natural light, which is the venue for late-night dining and the hotel's famous afternoon tea. The glass dome had been covered since World War II.[51] A new teashop and patisserie is called Savoy Tea, and a glass-enclosed fitness gallery with rooftop swimming pool, gym and spa are located above the Savoy Theatre. The new Beaufort Bar has an Art Deco interior of jet-black and gold and offers nightly cabaret.[52] The River Restaurant (now renamed Kaspar's), facing the Thames, is also decorated in the Art Deco style, but the American Bar is nearly unchanged.[5][53] The rooms are decorated in period styles harmonised with the adjacent hallways, and they retain built-in wardrobes and bedroom cabinets. The decor is Edwardian on the Thames river side and Art Deco on the Strand side.[54][55] Butler service was also reintroduced to the hotel.[56] Gordon Ramsay manages the Savoy Grill with Stuart Gillies as Chef Director and Andy Cook as Head Chef.[57] In a nod to the hotel's origins, six private dining rooms are named after Gilbert and Sullivan operas.[58][59] The hotel contains a small museum next to the American Bar, open to the public, with a revolving exhibition of items from the hotel's archives.[48][52] A motor launch is available to take small parties from the Savoy Pier in front of the hotel for champagne river tours.[60]

In December 2007, the hotel closed for a complete renovation, the cost of which was budgeted at £100 million.[45] The hotel conducted a sale of 3,000 pieces of its famous furnishings and memorabilia.[46] The projected reopening date was delayed more than a year to October 2010, as structural and system problems held up construction. The building's façade required extensive stabilisation,[47] and the cost of the renovations grew to £220 million.[45][48] The new energy-efficient design reduced the hotel's electricity usage by approximately 50% and reuse and recycling increased.[49][50]

2010 refurbishment to present

Bridget D'Oyly Carte died childless in 1985, bringing an end to her family line. In 1998, an American private equity house, The Blackstone Group, purchased the Savoy hotel group. They sold it in 2004 to Quinlan Private, who sold the Savoy Hotel and restaurant Simpson's-In-The-Strand eight months later, for an estimated £250 million, to Al-Waleed bin Talal to be managed by Al-Waleed's affiliate, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts of Canada.[2] Quinlan's group retained the rest of the hotels under the name Maybourne Hotel Group.[44]

Under Wontner's leadership, the Savoy appointed its first British head chef, Silvino Trompetto, who was maître-chef from 1965 to 1980.[22] Giles Shepard (1937–2006), succeeded Wontner as managing director from 1979 to 1994 and helped to defend the Savoy Group against Charles Forte's attempt to take control of the Board in the 1980s. Forte gained a majority of the shares, but was unable to take control due to the company's ownership structure. Shepard also introduced competitive salaries for the staff, increased international marketing of the hotel, and led the Savoy's centenary celebrations.[41] Ramón Pajares was managing director from 1994 to 1999.[42] The Savoy continued to be a popular meeting place. "Le tout London was there it seemed, from film stars to businessmen to politicians, all staying or being entertained at the grand old fun palace on the Strand."[43]

To mark Cecil Beaton and Ninette de Valois. The cabaret was under the direction of Laurence Olivier, Noël Coward and John Mills.[28][40]

Planter in the embankment gardens between the hotel and the river honouring the Carte family and other persons historically important to the hotel (1989)

After World War II, the Savoy Group experienced a strike of its employees in support of a waiter dismissed from the hotel. The matter was judged so serious that the government set up a court of inquiry.[35] Nevertheless, the hotel continued to attract celebrities. In 1946, Wontner set up "The Savoy Management Scheme", a school to train hoteliers, that was maintained for half a century.[22] The last major appointments of Rupert D'Oyly Carte's chairmanship were Wyllie Adolf Hofflin, general manager from 1941 to 1960, and August Laplanche, head chef from 1946 to 1965.[28][36] When Carte died in 1948, his daughter Bridget did not wish to become chairman, accepting instead the vice-chairman position,[37] and the Savoy board elected Wontner, the first person to combine the roles of chairman and managing director since the Savoy's founder, Richard D'Oyly Carte.[1][32][38] Wontner remained managing director until 1979 and chairman until 1984, and he was president thereafter until 1992.[33]


During World War II, Wontner and his staff had to cope with bomb damage, food rationing, manpower shortage and a serious decline in the number of foreign visitors. After the US entered the war, business picked up as the Savoy Hotel became a favourite of American officers, diplomats, journalists and others.[33] The hotel became a meeting place for war leaders: Winston Churchill often took his cabinet to lunch at the hotel, Lord Mountbatten, Charles de Gaulle, Jan Masaryk and General Wavell were among the regular Grill Room diners, and the hotel's air-raid shelters were "the smartest in London".[1] Wontner cooperated fully with the government's wartime restrictions, helping to draw up an order imposing a five-shilling limit on the price of a restaurant meal.[33][34]

Until the 1930s, the Savoy group had not thought it necessary to advertise, but Carte and Reeves-Smith changed their approach. "We are endeavouring by intensive propaganda work to get more customers; this work is going on in the U.S.A., in Canada, in the Argentine and in Europe."[31] In 1938 Hugh Wontner joined the Savoy hotel group as Reeves-Smith's assistant, and he became managing director in 1941.[1][32]

Savoy Hotel letterhead, 1939

After the death of Helen Carte in 1913, Rupert D'Oyly Carte became the controlling stockholder of the hotel group.[27] In 1919, he sold the Grand Hotel, Rome, which his father had acquired in 1894 at the urging of Ritz. For the Savoy, he hired a new chef, François Latry, who served from 1919 to 1942.[28] In the 1920s he ensured that the Savoy continued to attract a fashionable clientele by a continuous programme of modernisation and the introduction of dancing in the large restaurants. It also became the first hotel with air conditioning, steam-heating and soundproofed windows in the rooms, 24-hour room service and telephones in every bathroom. It also manufactured its own mattresses.[22] One famous incident during Rupert's early years was the 1923 shooting, at the hotel, of a wealthy young Egyptian, Prince Fahmy Bey, by his French wife, Marguerite. The widow was acquitted of murder after it was revealed that her husband had treated her with extreme cruelty throughout the six-month marriage and had stated that he was going to kill her.[29][30]

1913 to WWII

When the hotel was expanded, Rupert D'Oyly Carte decided to develop a luxurious, handcrafted bed unique to the Savoy and his other hotels. His Savoy Bed, also called the No. 2 Bed, was covered in a ticking whose design is attributed to his stepmother, Helen Carte.[23] In 1924, the hotel bought James Edwards Limited, the manufacturer of the bed.[24] Later, the Savoy Group sold the company, which became Savoir Beds in 1997.[25] Savoir Beds continues to make the Savoy Bed for the hotel.[26]

After Richard D'Oyly Carte died in 1901, his son Enrico Caruso sang, and a baby elephant brought in a five-foot birthday cake.[22]

Savoy Hotel, Strand entrance, 1911


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