Forbes Travel Guide unveiled its inaugural London Star Awards. Check to see which hotels and spas made the cut here.
Accumulating an impressive guest list of painters, politicians and movie stars who’ve visited since its opening in 1889, The Savoy hotel has long been a hot spot for those looking for London’s top accommodations. Charlie Chaplin, Elizabeth Taylor and Sir Winston Churchill have all graced the grounds of this Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel, and artists Claude Monet and James Whistler both painted views of the city from their guest rooms. With a history all its own, this astounding address is worthy of reminiscence into its colorful past and anticipation of a vibrant future.
After five years of construction, The Savoy, which takes its name from The Savoy Palace that once sat on the same land, opened its doors in 1889. Composer and theatrical impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte built the luxury hotel as a way to accommodate tourists who traveled from all over to see the operas at The Savoy Theatre. D’Oyly Carte recruited famed Swiss hotelier César Ritz as the general manager, who in turn brought in French chef Auguste Escoffier to head up the kitchen. With a team like this, the London hotel was bound for success.
The Savoy has been a leader in the hotel industry from the beginning. It was the first hotel in London to have electric elevators (or “ascending rooms” as they were known then), and the first to be lit by electricity, and to offer most of its rooms with private en suite bathrooms. Guest rooms were once even connected to the valet, maid and floor waiter via speaking tubes — needless to say, hospitality has always been a key feature here. In fact, Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star The Savoy was one of the first to establish its own school to train hotel professionals.
And with this luxury and top-notch service also came the rich and famous clientele. From Claude Monet and Winston Churchill to Frank Sinatra and Katharine Hepburn, The Savoy was a home away from home for many stars — so much so that during the 2010 renovation (more on that in a bit), nine Personality Suites were added to honor these longtime guests. Each suite is furnished with special pieces, artwork and antiques associated with its namesake.
In 2007, The Savoy closed its doors for the first time in its 118-year history to prepare for an unprecedented restoration. Three years and nearly $350 million later, the legendary hotel welcomed its first guests after the major overhaul. And given its history with stars, it’s no surprise that English actor Stephen Fry was the first lucky guest to pull up in The Savoy’s Rolls-Royce Phantom.
But guests return to the luxurious hotel time after time for more than just its glamorous rooms and top-notch service; food and drink has always played an integral role in the allure of The Savoy. Ever since Auguste Escoffier introduced London to his exquisite French cuisine, Londoners and visitors have flocked to the hotel’s various restaurants. The American Bar, which is widely regarded as one of the most iconic cocktail bars in the world, was once led by Harry Craddock (as in the author of the bartender’s bible, The Savoy Cocktail Book), and is now the stomping grounds of top mixologists Daniel Baernreuther, Erik Lorincz and Stefano Cossio.
Of course, the most interesting culinary legend has to do with a sculpture of a black cat that has been a part of The Savoy family since 1926. One fateful evening, South African diamond magnate Woolf Joel held a dinner at the hotel for 14 guests when one canceled at the last minute, leaving the party at an unlucky 13. One superstitious diner announced whoever left dinner first would die. Joel took his chances; but sure enough, he was shot dead a few weeks later. To this day, you won’t find a table of 13 at any restaurant at The Savoy — Kaspar, the black cat sculpture joins the party. Winston Churchill was a big fan of the feline, so much so that Kaspar has attended every gathering of The Other Club, the dining society founded by the late prime minister that still meets at the hotel. The sculpture (and the story) has become such a big part of the hotel’s history that this May, The Savoy will debut its newest restaurant: Kaspar’s Seafood Bar and Grill.
With its 124-year history, we could write a tome about The Savoy; but thanks to the 2010 renovation, much of its story is preserved in the on-site museum. Located just beside The American Bar, the small, treasure-filled museum features priceless memorabilia such as original guest cards, menus and photographs. Cocktail lovers will be in awe at the first edition of The Savoy Cocktail Book, while Hollywood buffs will love checking out Marlene Dietrich’s guest card showing her request that a dozen pink roses and a bottle of Dom Pérignon be in her room upon her arrival.
History buff or not, The Savoy is just as glamorous today as its storied past. And to get a first-hand look, you can enter the London Sweepstakes to win a three-night stay at the Five-Star hotel.
Photos Courtesy of Fairmont Hotels and Resorts