London's most famous A-list hotel

Step into The Savoy and experience luxury on an unparalleled level.

October 3, 2014

History has it that when the diamond magnate Woolf Joel held a dinner party for 14 guests at London’s sophisticated Savoy hotel in 1898, one of the invited guests cancelled at the last minute. With conversation flowing between the 13 remaining diners, subject of superstition arose with one of the more superstitious guests declaring that death would befall the first person to leave the table.

Being the cocksure man that he was, Joel scoffed at the idea and left the table first. Weeks later he was shot dead. And so began the story of Kaspar – a two-foot-high feline sculpture that was commissioned to act as the 14th guest whenever a dining table at The Savoy hosts the unlucky number 13. At The Savoy, everything has a story.

The famous London hotel – currently celebrating its 125th year – has carved its place in the city’s folklore having played host to the great and the good, from Winston Churchill and Frank Sinatra to Charlie Chaplin.

Opened in 1889, The Savoy was the brainchild of the Gilbert and Sullivan impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte and with its appeal to royalty, writers and Hollywood stars it immediately became one of London’s more glamorous establishments. Kaspar's bar, The Savoy, London. Its imposing location on the north bank of the River Thames and a cobblestone’s throw away from both Covent Garden and the Royal Opera House also made it a prime position for the generations of lux travellers looking to revel in some of that old-style British glamour.

These days, The Savoy still has quite the allure and, following an ambitious AED 1.3 billion refurbishment three years ago, it has been updated with a fresh 21st-century lustre. The beaming doormen – immaculately dressed in three-piece suits and top hats – greet us as we step out of the pre-arranged chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce and walk through the famous wooden revolving doors and into the hotel lobby.

Inside, there is an unmistakable sense of class. The dark wood finishing and black and white chequered marble floor suggest elegance rather than opulence as a stylishly dressed couple stroll past, heading towards the Thames Foyer for their reservation for the hotel’s famous Afternoon Tea. The Savoy Front Hall. While the hotel’s renovation was extensive, the interior still maintains a character-defining combination of Edwardian and Art Deco styles – a task assigned to award-winning French designer Pierre-Yves Rochon and more than 1,000 craftsmen and artists. As we are led to our suite, we are greeted by warm smiles and welcomes from every member of staff we pass – it seems that British manners and sensibility are very much part of the package at the hotel.

We immediately stand up a little straighter and return the greetings. With our room on the fifth floor, we ride up in the hotel’s red and gold-lacquered lift. We’re informed, by the knowledgeable bell boy that it was the first electric elevator to ever be installed in London. You see, every corner tells a story. If we ignore the luxurious, 3,350-square-foot two-bedroom Royal Suites, the hotel’s other 260-odd rooms aren’t deemed grand by Gulf standards, but what they may lack in size, they more than make up for in decor. Royal Suite Sitting Room, The Savoy, London. The interiors are subtle yet chic, contemporary yet traditional and the discreet white wardrobes built into the curved walls are a clever design trick to ensure more living space. In a creative nod to The Savoy’s long list of celebrity clientele, each bedside boasts a photograph of the suite’s prior tenant. In our case, Aretha Franklin.

Walking straight over to the window – it was from Savoy balconies that Claude Monet painted his incandescent riverscapes – we are greeted by the views of the Thames bridges, the London Eye and red double-decker buses crossing over to the embankment: all the city’s familiar sights against a beautiful London summer’s sunset. One of the main USPs of the revamped The Savoy is its bar and dining options.

We opt for a pre-dinner tipple at the busy American Bar, where a tuxedoed pianist croons old jazz standards from the gleaming piano. The Art Deco mirrors and fittings are accompanied by Terry O’Neill monochrome portraits and a slick sense of style – it seems that the only thing missing is Humphrey Bogart in his regular corner seat and Lena Horne leaning against the piano.

Dinner at Kaspar’s Seafood and Grill follows. Named after the aforementioned ceramic cat, it opened its doors in 2013 and has since become a mainstay eaterie. The classy 1920s-style restaurant features a showstopping seafood bar (try the smoked fish menu) and panoramic views of the Thames. American Bar, The Savoy. For anyone sceptical about the quality or innovation of British cuisine, we challenge you to not be impressed by the gourmet offerings at the Gordon Ramsay-managed Savoy Grill, with its specialities of Cornish crab and Dover sole. Winston Churchill’s favourite table is still in the same corner overlooking The Savoy Court.

To round-off the night on a high note, we leave Kaspar’s to take up residence in Beaufort Bar. It does not escape our attention that we have chosen the table next to Tom Jones. The bartender tells us that the legendary singer is a regular at this bar, and with its classy, speakeasy-style atmosphere, it’s not hard to see why.

Another addition to the new Savoy is its private pier. Just a few steps from the riverside entrance where hotel guests have access to a luxury river cruise on the 12-seat Silver Darling. The boat takes us on an early-morning cruise upriver to the nearby Houses of Parliament, before turning around and heading past some of London’s most iconic landmarks: Tower Bridge, The Shard and the Tower of London.

Only on the way back do we realise that even the small boat has its own original Damien Hirst painting. So accustomed had we become to the high-life of Savoy living, that we hardly battered an eye when noticing the stunning film star Catherine Zeta-Jones checking out of the hotel next to us.

It seems even a short stay at The Savoy is enough to add more pages to the hotel’s growing storybook – the only trouble will be picking which ones to tell.

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