London: The luxury hotel where royal treatment stands the test of time
Short breaks in the UK
Published 08/05/2016 | 02:30
Landmark London hotel The Savoy is still offering the royal treatment - in an unpretentious way, says Dee Finnerty.
Set the mood
Cars madly beep at each other, church bells ring out and men in suits come pushing their way down pavements.
The streets of London can be brash and bustling as we all know, but as the concierge of The Savoy, a Fairmont-managed hotel, holds the door open for me, I'm fully aware that I'm being transported into another world.
The noise disappears, replaced by American accents which dance across the spacious lobby. I'm later made aware that the original hotel was once used as a comfortable base for US visitors who came to London to see the Savoy Operas at the Savoy Theatre.
My bags are whisked away and I'm greeted by a receptionist who leads me to a seat, checks me in and shows me to my room. Service is where The Savoy hotel excels and what makes the five-star experience worth paying for.
Start with afternoon tea, served in the truly unique atmosphere of the Thames Foyer, for a wonderful selection of teas (from £52.50/€65). Later, indulge in Simpon's-in-The-Strand, a dining room worthy of Downton Abbey.
The traditional dishes are hearty and worth bringing an appetite for! If you think you can face it after dinner, The Temptation Wheel in the Thames Foyer (where you'll spin a wheel to choose a cocktail, a chocolate and a dessert) is a novel experience to share with friends.
As are the cocktails themselves - The Pickering Place (£50/€64 left) available in the American Bar, is a designed for two. The Bold, built with whiskey contrasts nicely with the gin base of The Elegant. Ideal for a romantic pre-dinner drink.
Although The Savoy isn't the kind of place you'll want to scrimp and save, some things can be enjoyed for free. The hotel has a small museum full of interesting letters, vintage bottles and other paraphernalia telling stories of the many household names who stayed (see insider intel, below), for example.
The fitness facilities, including a swimming pool, are complimentary, and for an inexpensive lunch, stop off at Melba, the Savoy's gourmet food counter on the Strand. Grab a sandwich and a selection of signature éclairs, straight from the kitchen of pastry chef Ludwig Hely, stroll up to St James' Park and take a bench to admire the unusual variety of birds and ducks.
The Savoy dates from 1889, but this is not a hotel that simply has a historic aesthetic - you feel as though you're staying in a museum.
If you're not engrossed in the entertainment in the Beaufort Bar, where a young Queen Elizabeth once enjoyed nights out, you might find yourself seeking the view from which Monet spent months painting Waterloo Bridge on the Thames, or knocking back a Jack Daniels cocktail inspired by the bottle Frank Sinatra swigged from as he played piano late into the night.
You might also find yourself questioning The Other Club - the enigmatic parliamentary dining club founded by Winston Churchill, which still operates in The Savoy to this day.
The Savoy is famous for its delicious pastries, and a masterclass means you can take home more than just a memory of them. I tried the class in eclairs, but, from cocktails to chocolates and even kids' masterclasses, there's something for everyone.
You'll be hard pushed to find any, but the techies amongst us may notice that the absence of electrical sockets beside the bed means abandoning your phone at the other side of the room should you need to charge it.
Get me there
Flying to London City Airport with CityJet (cityjet.com) or British Airways (ba.com) may be the most direct route. From there, take the DLR to central London and the tube to Temple station - or spoil yourself by taking a cab to the door.
Superior Queen rooms at The Savoy (fairmont.com/london-savoy) start from £450/€575 per night. Masterclasses start from £185/€235 for adults.
A package deal bundling B&B, a three-course set menu dinner on one night, with a minimum of two nights' stay at £480/€610 per room per night runs until March 2017.
See also visitlondon.com.