Allan Lynch

Sublime service and high tea that's deliciously decadent.

SavoyDucking into the cavernous backseat of a London black cab I gave my driver the dreamiest of directions, “The Savoy, please.”

Those magical words prompted him to adjust his posture and check his mirror to see if I am a famous face he should know.

Shortly, we turn off the Strand onto Savoy Court, the short, three-limousine-long lane under the Rolls Royce grill-like awning which protects the Baccarat fountain in the hotel’s forecourt.

Most hotels and resorts don’t cost what was spent on the Savoy’s three-year, £220-million renovation, but this was the innovator for modern hotels, everything else is a copy. When the Savoy opened in 1889, it was the first hotel to have electricity, private baths, hot water, “ascending rooms” (elevators), air conditioning, and 24-hour room service.

Inside, the Savoy remains quietly, tastefully opulent. And that spills over to the service, which is not just prompt, but anticipatory. It is as if your thoughts were being read. The staff moves with purpose, but without rushing. Nothing beyond the click of a silver spoon against a china cup disrupts the tranquility.

I took tea in the restored Thames Foyer, which is dominated by a rediscovered stained-glass skylight that provides light for the pianist housed in the lacy gazebo below.

My tea butler, in cutaway tails, having learned I take milk, attentively monitors the proper “stew time” for the Ceylon tea she has paired with my finger sandwiches of lemongrass chicken, smoked and poached salmon with dill mustard, Wiltshire bone ham with honey mustard, egg salad with chives, and Tobiko, cucumber and tomato with basil cream. Lest one starve, scones and Cornish clotted cream, followed by French pastries and cakes complete the repast. Tea is so popular that reservations are required. If it’s for a special occasion, like Mothers Day, the sooner you reserve the better your chance of a table.

For something more substantial the River Restaurant has been replaced by the stylish and casual Kaspar’s Seafood Bar and Grill, while the famous Savoy Grill remains under the direction of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. That other Savoy stalwart, the American Bar, still serves the best cocktails in the empire.

If You Go:
The Savoy, the Strand, London WC2R 0EU. Telephone +44 20 7836 4343 http://www.fairmont.com/savoy-london

Written by Alan Lynch

First published in Cruise and Travel Spring/Summer 2014

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