The Savoy also contained London’s first electric elevator, and I take the Red Lift, an exact replica of the original red-and-gold lacquered “ascending room,” to suite No. 726. Going straight over to the windows—it was from Savoy balconies that Monet painted his incandescent riverscapes—I am entranced by the views of the Thames bridges, Big Ben, red double-deckers, strollers on the embankment: all the familiar sights of London laid out under sweeping gray skies.
Rochon has transformed the two-thirds of the rooms on the river side with an Edwardian theme, as well as those closer to the Strand, now done up in the Art Deco style introduced to the hotel in the 1920’s. In my suite, the attention to detail is impressive: personalized writing paper; a shelf of books by Oscar Wilde, P. G. Wodehouse, and Evelyn Waugh (all former residents); an exquisite Liberty sewing kit; and a framed 1956 photo of Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe from the hotel archives.
That evening I meet my half sister and her husband for cocktails in the hotel’s American Bar, where a crooner is belting out old standards. All that’s missing is Humphrey Bogart in his favorite corner seat and Lena Horne leaning against the piano. Before going through to dinner, we look in on the new Beaufort Bar, a glitzier affair with subdued lighting and the lure of champagne punch and late-night cabaret on the same velvet-draped stage where Gershwin gave his first British performance of “Rhapsody in Blue.”
At the River Restaurant we drink an excellent Pouilly Fumé with our high-end French food. The restaurant is sophisticated, decked out with sprays of calla lilies and banks of white orchids, with an Art Deco palette of beige and black granite and leopard-print carpet. The more relaxed Savoy Grill pays homage to Escoffier by offering his signature peach Melba, lobster thermidor, and omelette Arnold Bennett, as well as such surefire Brit dishes as dressed Cornish crab and Dover sole. Winston Churchill’s favorite table is still in the same corner overlooking the Savoy Court.
Before checking out of the hotel, I take a quick tour of the Royal Suite, a 3,350-square-foot space that takes up almost the entire riverside fifth floor, with two bedrooms, a drawing room, a study, a dining room, and a full kitchen. As you might expect for $15,500 a night, it’s a bit more ornate than the commoner suites, with acres of marble, lashings of gilt, fluted columns, Murano chandeliers at every turn, even a ventilated closet for your shoes. But I can’t help noticing that the view is not quite as good as the one I had in 726.
The Savoy; The Strand; doubles from $544.
Charles Maclean is a T+L contributing editor.